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What Science Can and Cannot Do — 17 Comments

  1. It would be good to do an exercise with the members to illustrate this vase fragment idea. Does anyone have anything that could be printed out like a puzzle before I try and come up with something?

  2. Thank you Leonard for your informative article. Much of what you say resonates with me. I am a scientist, even if I did slip off the edge and become a computer scientist later in life. The tension between my faith and science is simply part of my life and I will have to live with it. (Once you have learned to tune pianos, even in the best concert ever, you will still be listening for out-of-tune notes.)

    We need to also recognise that theologically our beliefs are somewhat dynamic. I have lived through arguments on the sanctuary, the nature of Christ, the relationship between grace and works, the Holy Spirit, and so on. I have heard divergent views expressed and various friends, preachers, and theological lecturers have urged that their view on the topic is the most appropriate. Some have even branded me as a heretic for not believing what they thought was correct. I am not a theologian and have to listen carefully and make up my own mind about which is right. One could say that my theological beliefs are based on my own imperfect logic and persuasive people.

    How we come to believe what we believe makes an interesting study. When I was young I believed everything my Father said. Sooner rather than later, I realised that Dad could be wrong. I studied science. Dad left school after a minimal high-school education, so it is only natural that I outstripped him. Fortunately my dad accepted that I had learned more science than he and, while he was supportive of my learning, he was also encouraging my faith. I think that his approach made a big difference to how I ended up. I can question both faith and science without letting one subvert the other. I can live with the tension and with the issues. To give up either my faith or my science is a sacrifice too large to contemplate.

    Science and Theology are not mutually exclusive. Both contribute to our body of knowledge, both have their disciplinary approaches to getting new knowledge and how that knowledge is added to the current structure. The most serious problem we have is that there are many who have implicit trust in one rather than the other. Often such trust/mistrust is based on education and experience. As a scientist I frequently come against people who mistrust scientists. Sometimes it is simply out of ignorance, and sometimes it is out of bad experiences. Much of it is based on misconceptions and that is both regrettable and difficult to counter. I think that theologians are often mistrusted for the same reasons.

    For those of us who are curious, we will continue to explore, challenge and be challenged. It is a great journey and I hope that I will remain curious even in Heaven (whatever it is like!)

    • Maurice, I can agree with you that science and religion are not mutually exclusive but I think that has to do with data rather than the personal philosophy that determines how we interpret the data. The problem I see is when a person is struggling over the issue of creationism vs. evolution where I think it not wise to give them a green light to dig right in especially in the face of very strong evangelical evolutionism as taught in most colleges and high schools that exclude God from all consideration. That becomes particularly so when the majority of Christianity has bought into the evolutionary philosophy of origins that eventually destroys real Christianity.

      To give an example, I used to know a gentleman who was a very good auto mechanic that was obviously scientifically oriented. At the time I initially met him he was in the church along with his parents and believed in the doctrines of the church. He decided to go into paleontology and went to a state university. When he came out he had a master's degree in that field of study and had come to believe in evolution instead of what Christianity teaches. As far as I know he no longer goes to church and the last time I met him it seemed to me that he wasn't the happy individual I met earlier. I my opinion he has essentially become an agnostic and not a very happy one at that.

      Therefore, in my opinion we have an obligation to protect those people who are vulnerable to indoctrination that filters out unwanted parts of the story in order to serve their theory. I believe that we should give the science of both sides of the issue and to present the whole picture not just part of it with both pros and cons and to do so without excluding the possibility of a supreme being. Done in that way the Bible can stand on its own and truth will eventually win.

      I think we have very good arguments in support of creationism and intelligent design and I further believe that evolution is slowly coming apart at the seams which only embolden advocates of the theory to enforce their theory dogmatically and at times with severe prejudice. While I don't believe we should be like the church of the Middle Ages dictating a dogmatic church doctrine neither do I think we should relax our guard against "science so called." For the sake of the flock the shepherds have the responsibility to oversee their spiritual health and that includes, to a degree, a watchman approach with respect to the situation.

  3. I appreciate Dr. Brand's explanation and the SS lessons this quarter soooo much! We need to constantly refocus on creation and the difference between it and evolution. Our students need to have a GOOD background in it before they attend outside universities.

  4. Like the remnant shards of a vase(?), the Bible account of creation is missing some of the pieces that would answer all of the questions that are often raised even by believers in creation as revealed in scripture. God has not made it impossible to question scripture on this and other teachings. Why is that?

    God Himself would be the best one to answer that question, but it seems that if every possible argument was addressed directly, faith would not be required, and many would have to sullenly submit to "truth".(Question: what does sullen submission create?) But we read: "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin", and "But without faith it is impossible to please him...".

    Jesus could have provided irrefutable proof on every doctrine that is challenged by infidels and professed followers of Christ alike, but we also read that "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." So we must conclude that there is sufficient evidence in scripture for faith, which leads to acceptance of all that proceeds from God in His Word. Lead people to Christ and they will accept the creation account. Lead them to Christ and they will accept the true Sabbath Rest, the state of the dead...etc.

    The creation/evolution debate will be settled "not by might nor by power", but by the conviction of the Holy Spirit who is received by faith in God's promise to give that Gift to all who ask for it. But for this to happen we must meet the conditions of that promise, which is repentance and hunger for righteousness.

    I must admit I'm a little disappointed to see this alternative theory given the place it has in our lessons this quarter. It is nothing. Jesus never dwelt on the false, but uplifted the truth. To acknowledge an error is to give it credibility in the minds of many. Like the sins of our past lives, we are not to focus on them or even speak of them openly for the negative effect it will have on many who hear it. We should speak always in the affirmative and give no place to evil. Jesus didn't argue with false ideas, but answered "It is written" or "What saith the scriptures?"...etc.

    What is Jesus' best answer for this question concerning creation vs. evolution? "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." Why to Him? "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." He also happens to be the Creator.

    Lift Him up, the risen Savior, and all who will accept Him will be saved, and by faith they will know the truth on all that God has revealed to men. In this case we lift Him up by speaking of creation as Jesus did, with authority as a matter of fact and without giving place for any doubts.

    Most will still reject the truth, but our commission is not to convict every soul, but to seek the lost and preach the Gospel to every creature. Those who believe will be saved. But we will remain here until all have at least heard the everlasting Gospel.

    • I think there are several other reasons why there isn't extensive discussion over the details of creation in Scripture. One of them is John's statement concerning his Gospel, "And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (Jn. 21:25 NKJV). Besides the Bible is not about science, it is about theology and is our guidebook that points the way to eternal life. That said I do believe that what we believe has to be based on faith but our faith is an evidence based faith (Heb 11:1) which is the reason why John used the word "sign" or "signs" 20 times in his Gospel. It is also the reason why we point to the historic Jesus in our witness and bring out fulfilled prophesy as proof of our faith (1 Pet 3:15).

      As for bringing up the other side of the debate neither Jesus nor Paul was quiet about the positions their adversaries were promoting. Yet I do agree that we should focus on Christ rather than the devil that if a person wants to know how to detect the counterfeit he should study the genuine. We just need to understand that we can't defend against what we don't know. A good general is always aware of his enemy and knows what he has to face. So we also must be aware of the wiles of the devil which is the reason why Jesus spent so much time on the signs of His coming and why he used the word "beware" some ten times in the Gospels.

      When Paul said, "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2 NKJV) he was referring to what happened at Athens, that philosophy and logic are usually not the way to win souls. Besides, our job is not to convict but to witness to the facts and to teach what Jesus has said. The Holy Spirit is the one that does the convicting (Jn 16:8).

      • Tyler, I would say the bible is about the true science of creation as God would have us understand it. Without scripture, science can mislead and has often been in error. If the science of the Bible had always been followed, many of the great plagues would have been avoided and many of the deaths suffered annually in many parts of the world today would not be. God has given us the science that is relevant to a world of sinners for salvation of body, mind and spirit. This is true science and the world is still behind in their "scientific" reasoning.

        I would also ask about the many times Jesus would answer a question as if He had never even heard it. Notice how He responded to Nicodemus, the woman at the well and those who questioned how He had crossed the sea when having never entered a boat. In Gospel Workers (1915) there is wise counsel on how to deal with false ideas that are presented as arguments against the truth. I do not need to study evolution to see it's obvious flaws in the light of Truth. It reveals it's own errors simply by being presented, just as a counterfeit $20 bill does, if one knows what the genuine looks like.

        In the counsel to "study to show thyself approved unto God", I don't think the error often supported by many is to be our study. In all the armor we are to put on, none of it includes the false claims of the enemy. Gideon did not study the Midianites and their allies, but followed the instructions of God with faith. God knows the enemy and has promised: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye."

    • Your contribution is very interesting and thoughtful.
      I'd like to know what you mean by [Brand's] "alternate theory". Please provide some insights.

      You say that "Jesus could have provided irrefutable proof on every doctrine that is challenged by infidels and professed followers of Christ alike, but we also read that “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” So we must conclude that there is sufficient evidence in Scripture for faith, which leads to acceptance of all that proceeds from God in His Word."

      I liked that very much. Think of this:
      Jesus came to earth and a bunch of wise men came from afar to worship him, even Herod, a half-pagan, noticed the relevance, which the enlightenment of the time (pharisees, scribes, Sadducees) didn't. He spent three years on earth healing the sick, the blind, the lame, the devil-possessed; he fed many thousands (twice), he calmed storms, and multiplied bread and wine, he resurrected children and adults, and taught things that were quite profound. And almost nobody believed him. All left him when he was arrested, and one one person stood at the cross when he was crucified (his mother), although later other ladies and John showed up. Even two of his closest followers denied him. Hey, what else is needed in order to believe? Miracles (science) don't do it. Words don't do it. One of the apostles later writes that in order to come to Jesus (believe in him) one has to believe that he is. That means that in order to believe one has to... believe. It's faith. It's acceptance.

      • Raul, the "alternate theory" I referred to is the theory of evolution that seems to be a secondary focus of the lessons this quarter. Sometimes it seems as if we are trying to prove it is in error when there is nothing to prove. It condemns itself simply by being considered. It's an absurd notion that many entertain for reasons that seem unreasonable. Nothing in nature supports it, although many have made effort to find support through their observations of nature and "scientific" interpretations of it. I was not aware of any theory forwarded by Dr. Brand. In general I thought his article was sound and insightful, showing that science is not adequate in itself.

        You shared some comments regarding the ministry of Jesus being so convicting, and in fact it was. There were none that were left without understanding, and yet most rejected the clear convincing proof of who He was. Pride is the most devious of delusions, and sits as the root of all sin. When conviction is rejected, then the perfect light becomes perfect darkness and unbelief is a choice, not an unfortunate accident. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit; "will convict the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment;" (John 16:8,YLT) This means that every soul understands what is right, what is wrong and that they will be accountable. None of those in Jesus' day were exempt from this precious Gift of Heaven for sinners. God is seeking to save and He is the perfect Seeker. None will escape His efforts to redeem them that they might find perfect Peace in His presence. But many are deceived that this will cost them too much, and they turn away sorrowful.

        Jesus' life was the perfect Example and evidence of Truth, which the vast majority willfully rejected, declining to accept His offer of reconciliation with God. None are without excuse.

        Yes Raul, without faith it is impossible to please Him.

        • Robert Whiteman has posted some very thoughtful and insightful comments. I agree that faith is a crucial aspect of our religious life and our understanding of creation. God has given us an outline, however brief, of the creation week, and we do not need to have all our questions answered in order to choose whether or not we will accept the biblical record.
          As for an "alternate" theory, the lesson does not intend to introduce any alternative theories. Yet it is undeniable that many of our members are being confronted with the theory that, although God is the Creator, He used the process of evolution to create. For the benefit of those who have encountered this idea, the lessons occasionally point out specific ways in which it conflicts with Scripture. I agree this should not be a major feature of the lessons. The lessons are intended to be a Bible study on the topic. But I think there is a place for us to identify the pitfalls we may face. It is good that we remind ourselves why we should retain the biblical story and not follow the common culture into another theory that may be claimed to be only a little different, but in fact leads to a different destination.

  5. Jim, I appreciate your comments on the need to rescuing truth from it's companionship with error. How to do that effectively is the real question perhaps. My thoughts are led by such verses as Philippians 4:8, 2 Timothy 2:23, Psalm 119: 97-104, Proverbs 2:1-5 & 3:1-8, etc. Also there is some wise counsel given in "Evangelism", pp. 623, 624, which seems to apply to this subject.

    If I have misunderstood these things I would like to know. Perhaps I don't see this as I ought to just yet and I pray I will if that is the case.

    I realize the intentions of the SS Quarterly, but in the light of the above references, how should this be done? The church is made "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing" by God's Word. (Eph 5:25-27) We don't know the disposition or experience of every reader of the SS quarterly, and any thought that might plant the seed of error should be prayerfully considered before placing it in print. My desire is to see the greatest caution taken with such subjects, in light of the counsel given to us.

    God has given us all we need and our best course is to follow His infinitely wise counsel. (Prov 22:20, 21 KJV) When His truth takes root in us, we will be most effective as His Witnesses.

    I am open to any further light on this matter and appreciate the many thoughts shared in this discussion.

    • Dear Robert,

      I'm not sure I understand you correctly. Leonard Brant's post, under which you replied, explained what science can do and what science cannot do. I believe this post to be extremely important, because it keeps us from reaching wrong conclusions, based on trusting science too much or too little.

      Did you find anything objectionable in this post?

      As Christians, do you believe that we should or should or should not study science?

      I'm a bit puzzled at what connection you see between the bible texts you quoted and this article or even the lesson. The texts demonstrate a love for the law of God, and if we have accepted Jesus as Lord, we will love His law. But does that mean that we will not appreciate or study His creation? What connection do you make between the texts and this article or the lesson studies?

      And I am further puzzled by your reference to what Ellen White said about the dangers of pantheism and spiritualism. How do you see these quotes as being applicable to Dr Brant's post or to the lesson?

      I would appreciate your taking the time to explain, because you probably express the concerns of other Sabbath School students.

      • Dear Inge,

        I find no objection with Dr. Brands thoughts and as I recall from reading, agreed as far as I understood.
        My initial post was addressing some responses and my mounting concerns as I saw them, from the last couple weeks of discussions. I might be seeing something others do not. (meaning, I might be the one lacking proper understanding)

        Nothing wrong with science when viewed in the proper light that God has given us as a guide. What is often seen from science is the attempt to fill in details we simply don't have. Evolution is one result of this when God's revelations are left out of our reckoning while we interpret with our finite understanding. True science is a worthy study if we acknowledge our limitations and are content with what we can understand from what we know for fact.

        I am seeing that I have probably misunderstood and reacted to several thoughts expressed recently in the discussions I have read here and other places, and my response was that guessing has no place in our search for answers, but what God's words alone reveals. My thoughts probably don't fit in this discussion as directly as I at first imagined. I seem to have been thinking of several other thoughts not found in this discussion specifically. A pitfall (for me) of reading a variety of posts in a short time.

        The reference from Evangelism to me gives a principle that would keep us focused on elevating truth and not focusing on or giving place to erroneous ideas, including evolution. Again, nothing to do with Dr. Brands post, and therefore irrelevant as presented. I'm not sure why it seemed relevant to me at the time, without going back over what I had read prior to responding. Yes, leaves me a little concerned as to what I was responding to. It's just not fresh in my memory right now.

        Thank you for helping me reevaluate my thoughts and the reasons for giving them Inge. I seem to have lost my bearings. Even as I look back over the previous lessons, I'm wondering what I saw or where I saw it. Time to clear the mind and take a deep breath. I will reevaluate further at a more favorable hour.

        I apologize for the confusion I must have caused.

      • After more thought to your questions Inge,

        When reading your questions Friday evening concerning my post last week on Dr. Brand's thoughts, I simply could not recall my thoughts behind them and decided after some sleep I might be able to give a better reply.

        Waking later that night it all seemed to come back with greater clarity and I remembered better my thoughts.

        Dr. Brand presented a good illustration of the inability of speculation in the field of science to arrive at any reliable “truth” while there was missing information. Due to a number of comments I had read previously in some other posts his illustration seemed to me to apply also to the Bible and it's often missing details. God simply does not give us every specific, yet we can be assured of Truth on any topic found in His Word. There have been a few speculative ideas shared on the subject of creation where there is no detail and I thought to address these using Dr. Brand's model.

        It had also been suggested that we need to know the enemy and to be intelligent with their arguments and ideas in order to successfully combat them. My thoughts were given to show my beliefs that this is not our need as I feel we have been counseled. The quote from Evangelism was not the one I remembered but was all I could find in the time I had, and in principle said what I was thinking to relate. The texts from Proverbs and Psalms have been to me a sure guide in where my focus should be and were also shared. Philippians 4:8 is a golden thought for all who would know truth, which alone exposes error effectively. Arguments, even if based on scientific facts, will hardly convince those who are set against the knowledge of God. My personal feelings are that a Godly life will present the greatest argument in favor of truth regardless of the subject in question.

        That should sum up in brief my thoughts and purpose behind my posts, which were addressed to those in the discussion who had stated some of the thoughts I wished to address, though some were in other posts read by me earlier. I can't recall specifically as I would have to go back and read many of them again.

        If I have misunderstood anyone, I apologize for any confusion that may have come from my replies.

        I appreciate the thoughts expressed by all as we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

    • Some very insightful comments on this weeks lesson study. I agree with Roberts comments in regard to the direction of this quarters Sabbath School Lesson. I study the lesson with my wife who is fairly a new believer and I must say I spent more time redirecting her thoughts on some of the comments in the lesson. I suppose the lesson is not created for those who are still considered babes in Christ, but it introduces a bit of doubt and skepticism. I feel there so much more to glean from studying the truth than viewing what errors are being accepted as truth. I viewed some of the points in the lesson as items to use in a debate. Gods word is not to be debated but should be presented in Love and allow the Spirit Of God to complete the rest.

  6. What I understand is that in the beginning was God (Genesis 1:1) and all came after his command. Even science never existed before the creation. There are things which science of course can do, eg transplanting an organ of the body. But nothing it can do as far as the creation is concerned. That is God's area.


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