Beyond the Reach of Science
“THERE is danger in the intense emphasis upon science today, . . . to deny that there is any validity beyond the findings of science is absurd.” These warning words by Vannevar Bush, sometimes called the father of the modern computer, are timely. Science does not have all the answers. There are essential truths beyond the reach of science. What are they?
Science and God
A long-time biochemist at New York’s Columbia University, Erwin Chargaff, once said that “natural science is not an instrument to investigate the unfathomable; [nor is] its job to decide on the existence or nonexistence of God.” Is that true?
Well, Albert Einstein, the best-known scientific theorist of this century, was led to speak of “a spirit [that] is manifest in the laws of the Universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man.” And more recently Fred Hoyle, the brilliant British astronomer, was reportedly converted from disbelief to belief in the existence of a creative power when he calculated that it was mathematically impossible for life to appear in the universe by chance.
These examples illustrate to some extent the truth of the Bible’s statement: “His [God’s] invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made.” (Romans 1:20) However, Chargaff was correct insofar as there are limits to what science can teach us about God. Neither Einstein nor Hoyle was able to discern from science more than the fact that an organizing God must exist. We have to go to the Bible to learn who that God is and what his purposes are. All such knowledge is truth beyond the reach of science.
Science and the Future
Also, science cannot foresee the future. It cannot even foresee the results of its own discoveries. When DDT was developed, for example, it was hoped that this new weapon would forever solve the problem of insect pests. It would provide protection for plants and keep in check those insects that spread diseases such as malaria. However, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said that this “blessing for mankind . . . an undreamed-of achievement for chemistry” later became “a rather questionable blessing. . . . DDT’s victory march through Germany is over.” And not only in Germany but also in many other countries where its use has been banned. Science failed to foresee the negative effects it would have on other forms of life, including man.
Remember, too, Alfred Nobel, after whom the Nobel peace prize is named. He was a man of peace, yet he invented dynamite. Why? He wrote to a friend: “I should like to invent a substance or machine with such terrible power of mass destruction that war would thereby be made impossible for ever.” Two world wars since Nobel’s death have proved that his invention failed to have the effect he hoped for.
Albert Einstein also hoped that the development of the atom bomb, based largely upon his theories, would eliminate forever the danger of war. Yet bitter wars are still being fought, and civilization finds itself sitting on a nuclear powder keg, terrified that someone will light the fuse. Shortly before he died, Einstein is reported to have said: “If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith.”
It is sadly ironic that science, which has improved the lives of so many millions, has also provided the means by which man can destroy himself. If only scientists could foretell the future! They cannot, of course, but the Bible does.
The Bible and the Future
Consider just a few examples from the past where the Bible has accurately foretold what was going to happen. In the book of Daniel, a part of the Bible written during the time of the Babylonian Empire in the sixth century BCE, a prophecy was recorded foretelling that Persia and then Greece would follow Babylon as world powers. It then foretold that the great Greek Empire would be divided into four smaller powers, and it convincingly described the ironlike empire of Rome that would come next. (Daniel 7:1-8; 8:3-8, 20-22) Everything happened as prophesied.
An interesting foreview of the future had to do with the city of Tyre, to the north of Israel. Ezekiel prophesied that Tyre would be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and gave these details about its ultimate fate: “I will scrape her dust away from her and make her a shining, bare surface of a crag. . . . And your stones and your woodwork and your dust they will place in the very midst of the water. . . . The vast waters will have covered you.” (Ezekiel 26:4, 12, 19) Did this happen?
Yes, it did. Sometime after he destroyed Jerusalem, King Nebuchadnezzar came against Tyre and overpowered it. However, the city did not totally disappear. Its inhabitants fled to an offshore island, which they fortified. Then, almost three hundred years later, Alexander the Great besieged what by then had become the island city of Tyre. So that his army could attack the island, he took the ruins of the ancient mainland city and threw them into the sea to make a causeway out to the island city. Hence, in remarkably literal detail, the prophecy was fulfilled. The dust of the ancient city of Tyre was scraped away, and the stones, the woodwork and the very dust were thrown into the water.
Even more remarkable are the prophecies relating to Jesus Christ. The Bible foretold not only the time of his appearance as Messiah but also the things he would do, and even the death he would die. Jesus’ whole life course was in fulfillment of prophecies written hundreds of years in advance.—Daniel 9:24-27; Isaiah 53:3-9; 61:1, 2.
Even today, Bible students can see remarkable fulfillments of prophecy in the present political developments. (See, for example, Matthew 24:7-15 and Luke 21:25-28.) And when they read Paul’s words in Second Timothy chapter three, verses one to five, they see a very accurate description of this world’s deteriorating moral climate. Moreover, the Bible prophesies things for our future too.
It foretells a startling solution to the world’s present political crisis. Speaking of today’s competing world rulers, it says: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:44.
There are many reasons why we can believe that promise, not the least being that, up to now, all the prophecies in the Bible have come true. But just consider the implications. This means that God’s kingdom will soon provide just one government for the whole earth, replacing the nationalistic, warring governments of today. What a difference this will make!
For one thing, scientific advances will no more be used by politicians to destructive ends. Also, this kingdom will do the same kind of powerful works that Jesus did while on earth. Science can remove cataracts, but it cannot restore the sight of someone born blind. Jesus did. (John 9:1-12) Science can make artificial limbs, but it cannot restore a withered hand or foot. Jesus did. (Matthew 12:10-13) Science has made great progress in improving strains of crops and increasing the yield. But Jesus fed more than five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fishes. (Matthew 14:15-21) Science, too, can restore life to a drowning man or a heart-attack victim—if they catch him in time. But Jesus brought back to life a man who had been dead for four days!—John 11:39, 43, 44.
Perhaps even more remarkable, though, was the effect Jesus’ teachings had on people. The violent persecutor Saul became the long-suffering apostle Paul. The impulsive fisherman Peter became a mature, responsible apostle. Immoral people became moral. Families became more loving. Individual members of enemy nations became brothers in the faith. Such changes are far beyond the ability of science.
Hence, while science can make life pleasanter in many ways, much more can be done by the power of God. And under God’s kingdom the full effect of that power will be experienced. The Bible promises: “He [God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Revelation 21:4.
No, man will not return to a prescientific age. Rather, unfettered by the harmful tendencies that science has been unable to remove—but that God will remove—man will be able to employ, to his lasting benefit, all the worthwhile scientific knowledge of the past, present and future. We are grateful for what science has revealed to mankind. But we are even more grateful that there is truth beyond the reach of science that God has made available, bringing everlasting benefits to those who seek for it.
[Blurb on page 10]
Regarding his share in developing the atom bomb, Einstein reportedly said: “If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith”
[Box on page 11]
Here are some questions that are beyond the reach of science:
● Who is God and what is he like?
● What are God’s purposes?
● What does the future hold?
● What is the best way to deal with our neighbors?
● What kind of personality traits is it best to have?
● How can we develop them?
Happily, the Bible answers such questions, which ultimately are more important than the questions science answers, such as “What is matter made of?” and “How far away is the sun?”