What Do You "Believe In?"

Recently, Howard Dean was being interviewed, and gave the following quote about the Republican Party that sparked my interest:

“One of the most disturbing things about the Republican Party over the last couple of decades is that they just don’t believe in science any more. And that is not an approach that is likely to generate any kind of creative thinking…People who use snowstorms as an example of why global warming doesn’t exist don’t understand the science and they don’t care.”

Actually, what sparked my interest was Fred Thompson’s retort: “Does that mean tooth-fairy skeptics don’t believe in dentistry?” That’s just a hoot, from one of my favorite acting politicians (he gives one of my all-time favorite movie quotes in The Hunt For Red October, but that’s a tale for a different blog).

But seriously, even though I’m definitely not a Republican or a Democrat or a Tea Party member or a partisan in any American political faction (I’m probably a small-l libertarian if I’m anything politically recognizable), I really think Dean said a mouthful there – he just doesn’t know it.

I don’t believe in science. Not just because of the corruption that has recently become apparent at the core of the AGW/CC scientific community, because all communities struggle with corruption. And not just because science has given us Hiroshima and Nagasaki and lots of other bad things — it has been a means of great blessing to many, many people! I have no desire to return to pre-modern dentistry!

But I don’t believe in science. You see, believing in something means accepting its explanation of how the world works, what makes up reality. Science tells a story of a closed system (my friend JA Turner calls it an unbreakably-sealed terrarium) where (edited after MAJ Kimball’s timely reminder below) either:

  • with enough observation and education, everything can be understood, explained, and eventually predicted. Everything that occurs is completely determined by past events. OR;
  • the level of complexity and interaction between elements in the system prohibits any chance at confident prediction of events. No one can tell why anything actually happens.

I’ve loaned out my copy of The God I Don’t Understand by Christopher JH Wright, so I don’t have the quote handy, but he says something in a paragraph about Satan that relates to believing. He says that when people ask him whether or not he really believes in the devil, he says, “No. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe against the devil.” Believing in something doesn’t just mean you accept its existence, or even its value. I stand in a long line of men and women who believe science is a tremendous and beautiful gift of grace from the One True God. I don’t believe in science. I believe in the God who makes science work, and without whom Science becomes a life-devouring tyrant. Google W A Plecker or Parliament of Population or Degeneracy Theory sometime, and see what science can become when it replaces the One True God as the center and sustainer of reality.


About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 16 February, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Nick, a powerful piece. I must take issue with one comment, though:

    “Science tells a story of a closed system (my friend JA Turner calls it an unbreakably-sealed terrarium) where with enough observation and education, everything can be understood, explained, and eventually predicted. Everything that occurs is completely determined by past events.”

    This may have been true of classical science, but it has not been a predominant theme of many of the leading sciences since 1945. Quantum theory, string physics, chaos theory, etc. all posit a world that is inherently unpredictable, where even the smallest inputs can have second- and third-order effects way out of proportion to the original action.

    I think this actually strenghens your argument. But you know that the guy who suffered through Yearling Physucks alongside you just couldn’t let that stand… 🙂

    • Oh wow — flashbacks! searing pain in my cerebral cortex! ohwait – that was Prob&Stats. Physics was kinda fun!

      And I’ll grant you that the physics department posits an inherently unpredictable world, but the other science departments seem to just look at them funny when they start talking.

      But as long as the terrarium is sealed shut, both ends are going to struggle. Whether it’s the classical side’s drive for the GUT or the quantum side’s rejection of predictability – neither side tells a story that fits the evidence. Like Heschel wrote, “The God of the philosopher is a concept derived from abstract ideas; the God of the prophets is derived from acts and events.” Both sides tend to reject the possibility of an open system with a loving and reasonable Other.

      Thank you for pointing out my blind spot! Can’t believe, as many times as I’ve read Hawking, that I left that out.

    • is it troubling, though, that even though they posit an unpredictable universe, they still plan and launch spacecraft according to highly precise predictions of where things will be?

      • That’s the difference between classical and quantum physics. Spacecraft work in the Newtonian realm – now, if we can ever get those suckers up to lightspeed, it’s a whole new ballgame…

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