MODERN SCIENCE


An account has been given in the preceding notes of those anti-religionist arguments which are generally put forward in order to prove that modernity leaves no room for religion.

Let us first examine the argument which is based on research carried out in the field of the physical sciences, i.e. that studies of the universe have shown that whatever events take place do so in accordance with specific laws of nature. This argument would have it that there is no necessity to assume the existence of an unknown God in order to explain these events, since known laws already exist to explain them. The best answer to this argument is the one given by a Christian theologian: ‘Nature is a fact, not an explanation’.

Physicists, of course, are right in saying that they have discovered the laws of nature, but what they have discovered is not, in essence, the answer to the problems for whose solution religion has come into existence. It is religion, which points towards the real causes of the creation of the universe, whereas the findings of physicists are confined to determining the outward structure of this universe, as it appears to exist before us. What modern science tells us is only an elaboration upon, rather than an explanation of reality. The entire body of modern scientific enquiry is concerned only with the question: ‘What is it that exists?’ The question:

‘Why does it exist?’ is far beyond its purview. Yet it is upon this second issue that we should be seeking enlightenment.

To illustrate this point, let us consider how a chick comes into this world. The embryo develops inside the smooth, hard shell of an egg, then the chick emerges when the shell breaks up. How does it come about that the shell breaks up at the right moment and the fledgling, which is no more than a small lump of flesh find its way into the outer world? In the past, the obvious answer was: ‘It is the hand of God.’ But now, microscopic studies have shown that on the completion of twenty-one days, when the chick is ready to emerge, there appears on its beak a small hard horn with which this ‘lump of flesh’ is able to break through the walls of its shell. The horn, having done its job, falls off a few days later. This observation, from the point of view of the anti-religionists, contradicts the old concept that it is God who brings the chick out of the shell, because the microscope has clearly shown that a 21-day law exists which is responsible for creating conditions which make it possible for the chick to emerge from the shell. This is a mere fallacy. What modern observation has done is to add a few more links to the chain of factors which lead up to an event. It does not tell us the real cause of the occurrence. It has just shifted the problem of the breaking up of the shell to the development of the horn. The breaking of the shell by the chick is simply an intermediate stage in the occurrence rather than its cause. Will the cause of the event be understood only when we learn what made the horn appear on the chick’s beak? In other words, when we have traced the event back to its primary cause, the cause which ‘knew’ that the chick required some hard instrument to break through the shell and, therefore, in exactly twenty-one days, compelled a hard substance to appear on the beak in the form of a horn and to fall off after having discharged its function?

‘How does the shell break?’ was the question that faced man previously. Now, in the light of recent observations, instead of an answer, we have another question: ‘How does the horn develop?’ In the context of perceived phenomena there is no difference in the nature of these two questions. At the most, questions of the type that lead us from one link to another in the chain of cause and effect, demand an extension of the observation of facts, if they are to be answered at all. On this basis, they do not elicit any valid explanation. The American biologist, Cecil Boyce Hamann, has this to say:

Where the mysteries of digestion and assimilation were seen as evidence of Divine intervention, they now are explained in terms of chemical reactions, each reaction under the control of an enzyme. But does it rule God out of His universe? Who determined that these reactions should take place, and that they should be so exactly controlled by the enzymes? One glance at a present-day chart of the various cyclic reactions and their interaction with each other rules out the possibility that this was just a chance relationship that happened to work. Perhaps here, more than any place else, man is learning that God works by principles that He established with the creation of life.

From this, one can understand the actual value of modern discoveries. Science and technology having vastly increased the practicability and precision of human observation, it has been possible to deduce the natural laws that bind the universe and according to which it functions to perfection. For instance, in ancient times, man simply knew that drops of water fell out of the clouds on to the earth.

But now the whole process of rainfall is widely understood, from the evaporation of sea-water to the precipitation of rain and the final journeying of the fresh water back to the sea. But the kind of understanding brought by these discoveries is nothing but the possession of more highly detailed information, which does not tell us ultimately why these physical processes take place. Science does not tell us how or why the laws of nature came into being, how or why they continue to exist or why they cause the earth and the heavens to function with such unfailing precision that, simply by observing of them, it was possible to establish immutable scientific laws. The claim that by learning the laws of nature one could arrive at an explanation of the universe was a mere delusion. It provided an answer to the question, but it was an irrelevant one in that it accepted the intermediary physical links in the chain as primary causes. As Cecil Boyce Hamann so aptly says, ‘Nature does not explain, she is herself in need of an explanation’.

To be continued, Insha Allah…

Previous notes:

UNDERSTANDING ATHEISM
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