Will Science Really Solve Your Problems?
“WE can solve our problems . . .” boasted an American science editor last year.
At one time such a statement might have been taken without challenge, for, until recently, the history of science seemed like a shining success story. But the 1960’s and early 1970’s brought a period of disenchantment.
True, science has made some remarkable advances. Nevertheless, in spite of its often sincere attempts to prevent it, hunger gnaws at more bellies than ever. “Scientific” crime-fighting equipment has not cut down lawlessness; rather, it has continued to mushroom and spread from urban ghettos into once-quiet rural areas. Air and water are befouled with pollutants. Science also gets the blame from some for arming missiles with ghastly power and aiming these at the major cities of the world.
So, as 1975 dawns, even those who once promoted science are not so cocksure about its potency for good. They see that it has become a “mixed bag” filled with some blessings but far too many evils. However, these flaws actually revolve around one central or major weakness. And this weakness is not new, only more obvious in the face of today’s earth-wide problems.
This primary fault is identified in the Biblical book of Job, written over 3,400 years ago. Job took note of man’s scientific diligence, including his resourcefulness in mining deep into the earth to ferret out its riches. But what did Job say was missing? We read:
“But wisdom—where can it be found, and where, now, is the place of understanding?”—Job 28:12.
True wisdom—that was, and is, the missing ingredient in science. It needs proper guidance, direction. Or, as Harvard University’s Milton Katz expresses it: “The trouble isn’t the technology. The trouble is the way we’ve used our technology.”
Wisdom, the ability to use in a right way what science has discovered, must come from outside science itself. Do the efforts of scientists to solve man’s problems give evidence that they have found such wisdom? Look at the record and see.
PROBLEM-SOLVING REQUIRES CLEAR THINKING
For one thing, is it not logical to believe that if problems are to be solved, then personal viewpoints and prejudices must be put in a secondary position? Surely. But this requires humility.
It is as the Bible says at Proverbs 11:2: “Has presumptuousness come? Then dishonor will come; but wisdom is with the modest ones.” The Hebrew word here translated “modest ones” carries the idea of ‘hiding oneself,’ that is, in the sense of putting oneself in the background. This does not mean that a modest person ignores problems. No, but he digs out what are real problems. Such a one is not seeking his own prominence or wealth nor is he selfishly trying to cling to some position.
It is to their credit that many scientists earnestly endeavor to be this way. In some cases they have given their lives trying to find the truth. Yet, as one reads scientific literature one cannot help but notice that narrow dogmatism, ambitiously presented with a religious fervor, is often prevalent. Concerning this, Robert K. Merton wrote in the Spring 1969 issue of American Scientist:
“The fact is that almost all of those firmly placed in the pantheon of science—Newton, Descartes, Leibniz, Pascal or Huggins, Lister, Faraday, Laplace, or Davy—were caught up in passionate efforts to achieve priority [that is, to be first with a certain discovery] and to have it publicly registered. . . . Sometimes . . . the desire for recognition is stepped up until it gets out of hand. It becomes a driving lust for acclaim.”
“Modesty” has not marked the history of science. Instead, there has been “presumptuousness,” as the Bible’s proverb refers to it. As a consequence, science has fallen into a certain “dishonor.”
WHERE IS CONCERN FOR OTHERS OR COOPERATION?
Logically, wisdom should also manifest itself in a genuine concern for those who are afflicted. In Proverbs 8:22-31 “Wisdom” is personified and says: “The things I was fond of were with the sons of men.” True wisdom is not oblivious to the needs of others, but takes pleasure in being of assistance.
Has science followed this noble pattern?
The world’s food problems lie primarily in the tropics, but most scientific study is on crops that thrive in temperate zones. In fact, 98 percent of the research and development facilities of the world are located in the developed nations and aimed at solving their problems. Two thirds of the world must “make do” with products designed for another culture.
With what results? British scientist Lord Ritchie-Calder reminds us: “We give backward countries tractors which they don’t know how to use and lack the facilities to maintain. We should concentrate, instead, on technical cooperation. . . . Instead of treating the Eskimos like museum pieces and going into the Arctic with blueprints, we should go into a partnership with the Eskimos.”
An insistence that only one way—perhaps “Western scientific methods”—will solve problems has actually intensified adverse circumstances. A severe famine has seared parts of Africa, particularly the Sahel, in recent years. Many factors have contributed to the problem. Yet has Western science helped? Says an article in Science: “Western science and technology . . . have in fact made a principal contribution to the destruction. . . . In fact, when the Sahelian peoples have been conservative and resisted changes advocated by Western experts, it has often been with reason. . . . few Western interventions in the Sahel, when considered over the long term, have worked in the inhabitants’ favor.”
Lack of real concern for others and cooperation with them has caused science to add to problems in other ways. It has often bypassed warnings about coming disasters such as food, transportation, housing and energy problems. Those very problems have now closed in on the human race at a phenomenal rate.
Of course, that is not to say that any man or group of men can accurately know the details of the future. Yet reasonable precautions in the face of reasonable warnings are always proper. When crises threaten, action is mandatory. But time and again the best that science has been able to muster is an after-the-fact reaction. “A sensible man foresees danger, and hides from it,” says the Bible, and then it adds: “But the simple pass on, and are punished.” (Prov. 22:3, An American Translation) Millions suffer, feel “punished,” because of the lack of sensible foresight and action on the part of the scientific world.
Clearly, science has not solved man’s problems; it lacks true wisdom to do so of itself. But is this saying that a God-fearing person should be “anti-science”?
BALANCED VIEW OF SCIENCE
A Christian appreciates true learning and scientific discovery. However, he has the benefit of real wisdom to direct his thinking. This proper guidance does not come from any man. The upright man, Job, referred to at the start of this article, acknowledged this fact. After admitting that even scientific men do not have wisdom, Job, inspired by God, raised the question:
“But wisdom—where can it be found?” His answer:
“Look! The fear of Jehovah—that is wisdom, and to turn away from bad is understanding.”—Job 28:1-28.
What are the results of looking to God in guiding one’s thinking about matters of a scientific nature? Very favorable; the problems of life get solved.
This can be illustrated by an ancient event. A king of Babylon ordered that young captives, Jews, be brought in before him for special training. Which ones? According to Daniel 1:4 in the King James Version, it was those “skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science.” But “science” in this verse does not mean the foolish astrological and magical sciences based on the philosophical and religious views of that day. The ancient Jews were not ignorant of basic astronomy, chemistry, and so forth, but neither were they deceived by the pseudoscience of Babylon.
Instead they were particularly noted for the wisdom and morality expressed in their literature, their architecture, natural history, agriculture and other practical sciences. “In many of these respects,” notes commentator Albert Barnes with reference to the Jews, “they were, doubtless, far in advance of the Chaldeans [Babylonians], and it was probably the purpose of the Chaldean monarch to avail himself of what they knew.”
So also today, true Christians have a balanced view toward scientific knowledge, and this brings good results. They are not misled by “scientific” ideas that are often more personal opinion than established fact. Karl Popper, the philosopher of science, confesses: “Science is not a system of certain, or well-established statements; . . . we do not know: we can only guess. And our guesses are guided by the unscientific, the metaphysical . . .” What the Christian apostle wisely told Timothy is appropriate even today; he counseled him to turn “away from the empty speeches that violate what is holy and from the contradictions of the falsely called ‘knowledge.’”—1 Tim. 6:20.
Godly wisdom, found in the Bible, assists true Christians in appraising the value of any scientific material. Thus, for example, when a scientist speaks of remaking this present worldwide system of things “for the better,” a true Christian is not deceived. He knows that, according to the Bible, “the world is passing away,” and the evidence indicates that its exit is near at hand. A new system—one designed by God—will follow in which all knowledge, including scientific learning, will be used for the good of man and to the glory of God.—2 Pet. 3:7-13; 1 John 2:15-17.
Actually, it is quite reasonable to look to God for assistance in solving mankind’s problems: Why do we say this? Well, are not most of the big problems that science faces outside its control? Definitely. Science, for one thing, is tied into the modern political and economic systems. Thus even when science spawns a “green revolution” people still go hungry. Why? Because political bureaucrats or others interested only in personal gain keep the food from ever reaching starving people. Yes, science is inevitably crippled by the system in which it is found.
Another thing: science’s knowledge, even when accurate, is usually incomplete. For instance, science recently cut the death rate due to disease in some countries by using wonder drugs and DDT; but science has not prevented those same people from starving to death because of food shortages. Egypt’s Aswan Dam was engineered to provide such things as electric power and irrigation. But it has also contributed to the swifter spread of the dreaded schistosomiasis. So one seeming scientific advance often offsets another. What is needed is a knowledge of man’s whole environment. Who has this?
The One who created the universe surely has the knowledge of earth’s ecology and the power to control it. Since he originally designed the earth’s intricate food-producing systems, certainly he is in the best position to undo the harm that man, in his ignorance of the interrelationships of the systems of life, has caused and thus to make these arrangements function for the good of mankind. His promises, recorded in the Bible, to end such things as hunger and pollution are therefore reliable.
We can believe God when he says: “Jehovah of armies will certainly make for all the peoples . . . a banquet of well-oiled dishes, a banquet of wine kept on the dregs.” (Isa. 25:6) Similarly, we can accept with full confidence his promise to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Rev. 11:18.
There is yet another reason to look to God—not human science—to solve man’s problems.
SCIENCE CANNOT CHANGE PEOPLE—GOD CAN
At the root of many of man’s problems is man himself. Science cannot really change people—their motives. As a case in point, consider the crime problem. Experts may devise special equipment to try to prevent the spread of crime, but they cannot root out wrong desire in people who, if clever enough, simply find ways to baffle any new gadget. But God made the human heart. Is he not in the best position to know who must, if necessary, be removed from human society in order for others to live without molestation?
So it is for this reason that He can positively assure us that when this present system of things is gone and His new one arrives it will not be plagued by crime: “They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain.”—Isa. 11:9.
Wisdom that comes from God can show men how to use their learning and science aright. With a study of the Bible you will find that it shows you how to solve or better cope with the real problems that you face every day. Too, it offers you a dependable hope for the future. Are these not the things that you want? Surely. Consult Jehovah’s witnesses; they will gladly help you to learn more about this true godly wisdom.
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THOUGH AMAZING THINGS HAVE BEEN DONE WITH TECHNOLOGY—THE BIBLE REMINDS MEN: “Look! The fear of Jehovah—that is wisdom, and to turn away from bad is understanding.”—Job 28:28.