When Science Speaks—How Do You Listen?
NEW diseases as well as reemerging old ones are a challenge to science. People desperate for a cure listen when science speaks. Fear of dying makes many eager to try the latest miracle drug, and often there is little thought of long-term consequences.
In many instances science has helped sufferers to enjoy a better quality of life. Outstanding are surgical procedures that eliminate the use of blood transfusions, which are risky. Science and technology have given mankind the power to do things that stagger the imagination. What was once science fiction is now everyday reality. Yet, not all science is altruistic, driven by humanity’s desperate needs.
Who Is Speaking?
Much of science is dollar-driven and supported by powerful lobbies, as noted earlier. Therefore, before drawing conclusions or getting excited about some new scientific discovery, ask yourself, ‘Who is really speaking?’ Learn to recognize the hidden agendas. It is no secret that the news media thrive on sensationalism. Some of the press will stop short of nothing to sell their newspapers. And even some more respectable journals allow a degree of sensationalism at times.
It often happens that science and the news media experience a love-hate relationship. The media can make science look good, but, on the other hand, “often scientists try to control press coverage by refusing interviews unless they can review and correct the copy prior to publication. Reporters, fearing censorship by vested interests, are usually reluctant to show their articles to sources, though they often confirm the accuracy of details with them.” So writes Dorothy Nelkin, in her book Selling Science.
She then cites examples to prove her point: “Press reports about new scientific advances tend to raise the hopes of desperate people. . . . Patients come to their doctors’ offices brandishing the latest copy [of a popular magazine] and demanding the latest cure.” Then, there is the example, quoted by Dorothy Nelkin, of a reporter who asked the chairman of the International Task Force on World Health and Manpower “whether he thought witch doctors can effectively administer medication in Africa.” He replied that they “probably could because of their high credibility in the population.” But what of the news headline the following day? It read: “U.N. Expert Calls for More Witch Doctors”!
Unfortunately, it seems that a modern trend is for more and more people to rely on newspapers and magazines to inform them about current science, says Nelkin. And for many, who are less willing or perhaps less able to read, television becomes the main source of information.
Keeping a Balanced View of Science
Notwithstanding triumphs of science that benefit humanity, we must bear in mind that scientists are only human. They are not beyond temptation and corruption. Their motives are not always noble. Truly, science has its proper place in society, but it is not an infallible guiding light in an ever-darkening world.
The journal Speculations in Science and Technology observes: “The history of science shows that however majestic the leaders of science . . . appear, they are still fallible.” Actually, some are more than fallible.
For the reasons given in these articles, it would be unwise for Christians to get involved in scientific controversies or to promote unproven scientific theories. For example, some may become obsessed with fear of electromagnetism. Then, with the best of intentions, they could begin to encourage others to dispose of their microwave ovens, electric blankets, and the like. Of course, everyone is free to make a choice, without criticism from others. But those who choose a different option should be able to expect the same consideration. So, it is wise to avoid spreading sensationalism. Whether many unusual claims are true or not has yet to be proved. If some of these claims eventually prove unfounded or even wrong, then those championing such claims not only look foolish but may have unintentionally caused harm to others.
Need for Prudence
How should a Christian react to scientific reports sensationalized in the media? First, examine the bias. What is the motive for the article or news item? Second, read the entire article. The sensational headline may not match details in the article itself. Third, and most important, check the track record of those speaking. Do they speak the truth? Do they have a hidden agenda?—Romans 3:4.
It can be said that if scientists are viewed with skepticism by some, the situation is of their own making. The credibility of some scientists as neutral seekers of truth has become badly tarnished. Science has opened up exciting vistas of knowledge of our world and the universe. However, some predictions of a better new world based on science inspire fear and concern rather than hope.
Some experts are sounding ominous warnings about possible future disasters. Nobel Peace Prize winner British physicist Joseph Rotblat expressed his concerns this way: “My worry is that other advances in science may result in other means of mass destruction, maybe more readily available even than nuclear weapons. Genetic engineering is quite a possible area, because of these dreadful developments that are taking place there.” Australian National University Professor Ben Selinger spoke of the problems he can foresee: “In my view, the next crisis is most likely to happen in the area of genetic engineering, but I don’t know what, or how, or when.”
On the other hand, the Bible, the Word of God, is a sure and reliable ‘light to our roadway’ to a secure future of peace, good health, and world unity, on a cleansed earth under the rule of God’s Kingdom.—Psalm 119:105; Revelation 11:18; 21:1-4.
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“The Overriding Supremacy of the Myth”
In recent years some scientists have raised serious doubts about the viability of the theory of evolution as expressed by Charles Darwin. This is especially true of molecular biologists.
In his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Michael Denton, a researcher in biology, wrote: “The raising of the status of Darwinian theory to a self-evident axiom has had the consequence that the very real problems and objections with which Darwin so painfully laboured in the Origin have become entirely invisible. Crucial problems such as the absence of connecting links or the difficulty of envisaging intermediate forms are virtually never discussed and the creation of even the most complex of adaptations is put down to natural selection without a ripple of doubt.”
He continues: “The overriding supremacy of the myth has created a widespread illusion that the theory of evolution was all but proved one hundred years ago . . . Nothing could be further from the truth.”—Page 77.
“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”—Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, page 154.
“As the number of unexplained, irreducibly complex biological systems increases,* our confidence that Darwin’s criterion of failure has been met skyrockets toward the maximum that science allows.” (Darwin’s Black Box—The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Michael J. Behe, pages 39-40) In other words, recent findings in the field of molecular biology raise serious doubts about Darwin’s theory.
“The result of [the] cumulative efforts to investigate the cell—to investigate life at the molecular level—is a loud, clear, piercing cry of ‘design!’ The result is so unambiguous and so significant that it must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science. The discovery rivals those of Newton and Einstein, Lavoisier and Schrödinger, Pasteur, and Darwin. The observation of the intelligent design of life is as momentous as the observation that the earth goes around the sun.”—Darwin’s Black Box, pages 232-3.
For a detailed consideration of evolution and molecular biology, see Awake!, May 8, 1997, pages 3-17, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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Christians wisely avoid controversy over possible life on other planets or the supposed effects of electromagnetism