In recent times, a number of books setting out the views of the so-called new atheists have come into circulation. These publications have caught the attention of many and have brought about no little discussion and debate. Regarding this, neuroscientist David Eagleman wrote: “Some readers walk away . . . with the impression that scientists think they have the big picture solved.” Then he added: “But good science is always open-minded, and the history of science is one of surprises.”
Down through the ages, talented scientists have indeed made surprising breakthroughs in their search for answers to puzzling questions about nature. Some, however, have also made serious errors in the process. Isaac Newton was one of the greatest scientists of all time. He showed how the force of gravitation binds the planets, stars, and galaxies into one universe. He invented calculus, a branch of mathematics used in computer design, space travel, and nuclear physics. However, Newton also pursued alchemy, a pseudoscience that used astrology and magical formulas in attempts to turn lead and other metals into gold.
Over 1,500 years before Newton, the Greek astronomer Ptolemy explored the heavens with his eyes alone. He tracked the planets across the night sky and was skilled as a mapmaker. But he believed that the earth was the center of everything. Astrophysicist Carl Sagan wrote of Ptolemy: “His Earth-centered universe held sway for 1,500 years, a reminder that intellectual capacity is no guarantee against being dead wrong.”
Today scientists face similar challenges in their pursuits. Will they ever find a complete explanation of the universe? While it is proper to acknowledge the progress science has made and the benefits it has brought us, it is also essential to bear in mind its limitations. Physicist Paul Davies observed: “The search for a closed logical scheme that provides a complete and self-consistent explanation for everything is doomed to failure.” Those words state an undeniable truth: Humans cannot completely understand the natural world. So when assertions are made about the potential of science to provide an explanation of everything that exists, it is only reasonable to take such assertions with reservations.
Clearly the Bible fills our needs in ways that science cannot
The Bible speaks of the wonders of nature in these words: “Look! These are just the fringes of [God’s] ways; only a faint whisper has been heard of him!” (Job 26:14) There remains a vast store of knowledge that is beyond human perception and understanding. Admittedly, the words of the apostle Paul, written nearly 2,000 years ago, still hold true: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and beyond tracing out his ways are!”