I recently ran into some debate between “creationists” and “evolutionists” that gave me cause for pause. Its just odd to me how both sides miss the point so badly. In the first place, its patently absurd for anyone to think that science conflicts with anything. Science is the process for discovering truth.
I know, I know, the way science was taught in school left you thinking that science is a collection of data. But no, science is the reason we collect data, or facts. Science is NOT the facts themselves. In fact, if you’ve been paying attention those “facts” we like to call science have been changing. That’s right! If you learned high school science back in the 80’s you will find that quite a few of the “facts” we were made to memorize are now laughed at. So you have to keep up. You have to keep learning and keep “doing” science or it becomes ‘unscientific’. That is NOT because science is unreliable. It is because science is a PROCESS of discovery. Science is the tool for learning truth.
Change is the real beauty of science. Because change is the very nature of the world. Some things change fast, some things change slowly, some change so slowly that we think they aren’t changing at all. But they are. Change is the one consistent and reliable truth of the universe. So those collections of factoids that we like to teach to the younger generations are fun and interesting, but memorization isn’t really appropriate because they are all subject to change.
If you would actually learn (or teach) science you must learn the process of scientific investigation, also known as “The Scientific Method”. Here’s how it works (simply):
- You have an idea or question about life, the universe, or anything.
- You set up a logical “If…then” proposal to help answer your question.*
- You test out that proposal at least 3 different times. (the more times the better)
- If the results (a.k.a data, or evidence) doesn’t prove your proposal, make a new proposal & keep testing until you find a proposal that proves itself.
*Step 2 is the tricky one because you’re sort of guessing at the answer (your hypothesis). You want to make your best guess, but you don’t want to get so attached to your guess that you start faking (manipulating) the data so you can “win”. You have to remain devoted to the truth & realize that the real “win” is not getting your hypothesis right on the first try, the win is discovering the actual truth!
So a lot of truths are discovered by just messing around to see what happens. You’re not actually proving anything true until you can test it by the scientific method and repeat the test over and over with the same results. For example, when I took fruit fly breeding lab as part of my college genetics course, I’d do “extra” breeding just for fun. Like I’d find the two weirdest looking flies and breed them together to see what happens. Sometimes I’d get a bunch of baby flies with all the weird traits, and sometimes I’d get a bunch of “normal” babies. That was fun but it didn’t tell me any truths until I thought, “Hmmm, I think the reason is XYZ.” and then I did a few more crosses to test out my hypothesis.
You can apply the scientific method to anything, and it doesn’t even have to be science-y. Like when I taught school I discovered I could use the scientific method to determine whether a student was telling me the truth. I might say, “Sam, did you finish your classwork?” Sam says, “Yes.” Me: “Did you really?” Sam: “Uh-huh” Me: “Is it all finished?” So, you see, I asked the same basic question three times, three different ways. The funny thing is, a person usually couldn’t tell the same lie three different times quickly like that. So by the third time they usually broke down and told me the truth, or at least begin to squirm uncomfortably, then I’d ask to see the classwork. As my kids caught on I’d have to ask the question more times. “Is that so?” “Did’ya?” “Huh?” “Huh?” “Huh?” Annoying but effective.
My point, again, is that science is a process for uncovering the truth. Science is NOT the collection of data or truths themselves. The truths may change as the world changes, or the data may support different truths as our technology, testing and measuring ability gets better. But science (the process of proving) doesn’t change because it is perfect. My other point is that science can be used to prove lots of things that don’t seem like science. You can use science to make your relationship better, or to make your faucet stop dripping, or to make a better bundt cake. You might even use science to prove the existence of God.*
Before I go into the existence of God, let me say a word about belief. If you are relying on science to prove or disprove things, then once enough supporting data has been collected you can say that certain things are “true” and other things are “not true”. Belief has no role in the matter once the scientific method has been correctly applied. So “belief” is only accurately applied when there is some supporting evidence but not enough scientifically collected data to call it “true” or “proven”. Belief is for the gray area where hypotheses are held until the actual testing can begin. It is not necessary to claim to “believe” in gravity, as there is ample data to support it as truth. Likewise it is absurd to claim to “believe” in evolution, as it has been well proven AND I can even set up a little demonstration where you can watch evolution happen right before your very eyes (with bacteria, or fruit flies, or any organism with a fast enough reproductive cycle that is likewise small enough to contain and big enough to observe.)
Belief can also be correctly applied to things that cannot be tested scientifically. So while I could PROVE that you would smack me if I asked “Huh?” repeatedly, I cannot hope to prove that roses are prettier than carnations. I may BELIEVE that roses are prettier than carnations. I might BELIEVE that my mother’s bunt cake is better than your mother’s. These things can never be proven or dis-proven, so they must be held forever in the limbo of “belief”. I might actually be able to prove (or dis-prove) that people prefer roses to carnations, but I couldn’t prove they were prettier because pretty is subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is value that cannot be measured.
So if anyone asks you if you believe in evolution, the answer is, “Belief is not necessary. Evolution is true.” The same is true of science. If someone claims that they do not believe in science, you can reply, “Science doesn’t require your belief, science is proof.”
Now lets look at things from the other side. Let’s look at God and spirituality and all that. It may just be that the existence of God has already been proven. Wouldn’t that be fun? And what if we could prove that God is real, and God really created all this stuff called “the universe”? That would certainly make both science AND religion more interesting, don’t you think? But, “Wait”, you say, “Didn’t you just state that evolution is a proven FACT, Tolley?” Yep, hold on to your hats folks, cause this is where I really make my point.
Take a look at that little story in Genesis, the one about creation. God starts by dividing light from darkness, then land from water, then makes swimy things in the water. Next there’s creepy crawly things on land, things that fly, then “beasts” (or mammals) and then humans. Now, if you step back for a minute and stop all your arguing, you’ll see what I’ve been seeing all along. Someone told the story of evolution to the person who wrote Genesis. They told it like you might tell a bedtime story to children, but its the same basic story. And, after all Genesis was written a very long time ago and that person was probably a simple nomad who might have grown bored or confused by a detailed description of DNA, genetics, random mutations, environmental pressures, fruit flies, and all that. Why, I even know some modern people who get bored with that.
Now we can’t actually apply the scientific method here, but we can apply reason and logic. And logically, the possibility that evolution and creation are actually the same exact thing makes a lot of sense. Especially if you’ve seen my demo with the fruit flies and tasted my really excellent bundt cake, all created by the diligent application of science.
Now if we dig a little deeper and hold on ever so lightly to our dogma, this next bit is even more fun. Remember when we were taught in school that all matter in the entire universe was made of atoms? And remember how we learned that all atoms were made of only three things: protons, neutrons, and electrons. Well, now science has proven that its not true. String Theory, as well as the Wave-Particle Duality of Quantum Mechanics, actually teaches us that those 3 things that make up every atom are really only ONE thing, vibrating at different frequencies. And of course Albert Einstein already told us that all matter is actually energy just very highly concentrated. Then we went on to prove Einstein’s theory that Energy does in fact equal Mass (i.e. matter) by splitting open some atoms and blowing some hideous big energy out. (Also, that’s pretty much what the Wave-Partical Duality is telling us: subatomic particles are both energy (waves) and matter (particles) at more-or-less the same time.
To summarize, science has now proven that ALL things are ONE THING.
Now, until we can test the hypothesis it might be tempting to believe that that ONE THING that makes up EVERYTHING in the whole universe, is God. That belief might be entirely appropriate especially if you have other forms of supporting data (like your prayers being answered). At the very least, it would be appropriate to suspend disbelief and gather more data. I mean, if you were God and you were all alone & the only thing existing in the big empty universe was you, what would you use to make the world? I guess you would have to use your own body, or your own soul, especially if those two things were really ONE thing, as the data seems to suggest.
We could say, then that God is the Matrix. God is the substrate. If that’s the case, then that thing about God being both IN us, with us and all around us might start to make a different kind of sense. Also, the bit about the first human being made from the very soil of Earth, is maybe, not so crazy after all, if, you know, the soil is not just matter but also the very soul of God. If you got enough particles of anything together for long enough, you could end up creating a soul from the matter, just saying.
So, if you’re still following the logic, the only thing that really DOESN’T make sense is why we argue. Or why we don’t treat the environment with the same respect and dignity that we treat our own bodies, or the bodies of our dear departed who have come from the soil and now gone back into it? And why on Earth don’t we treat ourselves with the same respect and dignity we reserve for God? And why don’t we treat each other as both God, and as ourselves?
We have a bunch of religions and spiritual practices telling us this same basic thing in different ways. Now we have science proving it true. Even if we could listen with no more sophistication than a simple nomadic sheep herder in a semi-desert thousands of years ago, we might hear enough truth to believe it. Or at least write it down as a hypothesis, suspend disbelief and gather data.
I love bunt cake.