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Berlinski on the limits of science

Attempts at Honesty - Reflections on the interplay of the Bible and Culture

Berlinski on the limits of scienceIn the introduction of David Berlinski’s book entitled, The Devil’s Delusion, he writes the following:

“We know better than we did what we do not know and have not grasped. We do not know how the universe began. We do not know why it is there. Charles Darwin talked speculatively of life emerging from a “warm little pond.” The pond is gone. We have little idea how life emerged, and cannot with assurance say that it did. We cannot reconcile our understanding of the human mind with any trivial theory about the manner in which the brain functions. Beyond the trivial, we have no other theories. We can say nothing of interest about the human soul. We do not know what impels us to right conduct or where the form of the good is found.”

It would be good to keep in mind that Mr. Berlinski introduces himself as a secular Jew and not someone who embraces a religion as a part of his life.

The point I take away from this is that while Science has done a lot to help us better understand the world in which we live, it is limited to observing how the universe works.

I am grateful for the advances that have been made that increase the comfort of our existence. But, science is limited to observations of what is. Science is also limited in what it can say in response to the four important questions that man needs to answer. Ravi Zacharias was the first person I heard list these four:

  1. Origin – How did this all begin?
  2. Meaning – How do I find meaning in life?
  3. Morality – By what standard do I make moral judgments?
  4. Destiny – What happens when I die?

Berlinski goes on to write:

“No Scientific theory touches on the mysteries that the religious tradition addresses. A man asking why his days are short and full of suffering is not disposed to turn to algebraic quantum field theory for the answer. The answers that prominent scientific figures have offered are remarkable in their shallowness. The hypothesis that we are nothing more than cosmic accidents has been widely accepted by the scientific community. Figures as diverse as Bertrand Russell, Jacques Monod, Steven Weinberg, and Richard Dawkins have said it is so. It is an article of their faith, one advanced with the confidence of men convinced that nature has equipped them to face realities the rest of us cannot bear to contemplate. There is not the slightest reason to think this so.”

Speaking about religious teaching he concludes:

“I do not know whether any of this is true. I am certain that the scientific community does not know that it is false.

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Berlinski on the limits of science


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