In response to my latest column (www.adventistreview.org/an-errant-journey), yours truly was attacked as a “science denier,” the implication being that when science—the ultimate and final arbiter of all truth—makes a claim or “proves” a theory, then to challenge or question that theory is to display, at best, naive unsophistication or, at worst, intellectual irresponsibility.
I confess. I am a science denier, but many Seventh-day Darwinians who accuse me of being a science denier are science deniers as well.
Take the scientific claim by someone universally celebrated as one of the world’s greatest scientists, the late Stephen Hawking, who held the same chair at Cambridge once held by Isaac Newton. In his book The Grand Design, Hawking writes: “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. . . . Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
Who am I, who flunked chemistry in high school (even while cheating), to challenge someone like Stephen Hawking, especially in his field of expertise, theoretical physics? Yet, I reject his theory of the origins of the universe. Am I a science denier, or what?
Renowned chemist Peter Atkins wrote: “If we are to be honest, then we have to accept that science will be able to claim complete success only it if achieves what many might think impossible: accounting for the emergence of everything from absolutely nothing. Not almost nothing, not subatomic dust-like speck, but absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. Not even empty space.”1
Of course, even Seventh-day Darwinians believe that God, the God depicted in the Bible, created the universe, right? (You can never be sure anymore, though.) If so—then they dare to challenge, even deny, the science of these well-known and highly respected scientists? However good scientists our Seventh-day Darwinians might be, none is a Stephen Hawking—and yet surely none believes his science, which theorized that gravity, not God, created the universe out of “absolutely nothing.”
In other words, they are science deniers.
Meanwhile, the scientific consensus is that life on earth started with air, water, and rock, and did so through the same laws of chemistry and physics that exist today; and, also, to invoke, in any way and at any stage, the agency of God or of intelligent design or of anything not naturalistic is no longer to do science but to do superstition, religion, or pseudo-scientific voodoo instead. But surely, even the theistic evolutionists among us don’t believe that God had nothing to do with the creation of life on earth, which means that they, like me, are science deniers.
And what about the end of all things? Again, the scientific consensus is well-established: sooner or later the universe will be unsuitable for life. Whether the Big Freeze, when everything in the universe reaches absolute zero; or the Big Rip, when everything disintegrates into elementary particles; or the Big Crunch, when the universe will collapse back on itself into the size of the infinitely small, infinitely dense singularity science now proposes it started with—long-term, things are not good for life. According to science, then, the idea of “a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13),2 becomes as false as the idea of God creating them to begin with. So, unless the ones who label me a science denier reject the idea of eternal life in Christ, then they are science deniers as much as I am.
Science itself is filled with science deniers. Let’s go back to the science regarding life’s origins. Not long after scientists proposed that life arose in a shallow pool, some denied the science, claiming that life arose in deep thermal vents instead. Others, denying that science, theorized that life arose in clay; others denying that science, proposed that life originated in molten rock. And some, denying the science behind all those theories, argued that life first came from outer space, perhaps hitching a ride on comets from another solar system.
One of the most influential philosophers of science in the last century, Karl Popper, argued that the best way to distinguish science from pseudo-science is by what he called “falsification.” For something to be real science, he said, it must be able to be falsified, shown false; that is, it must be deniable. If one accepts Popper’s notions, once quite popular, then the potential deniability of science is, in fact, what makes it science. So then, what’s the problem with being a science denier?
The problem isn’t science denial but the science you deny. The science I deny is the science that theorizes, for example, that the grapefruit—its color, texture, nutrients, skin, and seeds (each one containing a potentially infinite number of grapefruit trees)—arose without forethought or planning or the clear intention to give us something tasty and healthful to eat. I don’t care how many peer-reviewed scientific papers in prestigious scientific journals, citing other peer-reviewed papers in other prestigious scientific journals, claim that the grapefruit (or any other fruit, vegetable, or herb, for that matter) arose without any design or forethought or planning but by random mutation and natural selection. I deny the science. If that makes me a science denier, fine—I’m a science denier. But those who label me as a science denier are too.
They just deny different science, that’s all.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book is Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity.
1Peter Atkins, “The Limitless Power of Science,” Nature’s Imagination: The Frontiers of Scientific Vision, ed. John Cornwall(Oxford University Press, 1995). p. 131.
2Bible texts are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright ã 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.