On a day when leaders from around the world gather to discuss the issue of climate change, the issue of the corruption of science is being discussed by skeptics of global warming. The hacked emails of the CRU at East Anglia University have called into question our ability to rely on science for objective truth. For my own part — as someone who loves science, its perspective, its applicability and its possibilities — I think it is about time we all question science’s ability to determine truth.
When done correctly, science is not interested in truth — it is interested in testing hypotheses. In fact, the scientific method often finds failure far more valuable than success. We learn more about our world and how it functions through failure. The term “scientific law” — such as Newton’s Law of Gravity — is really a misnomer. A law in science is really just an hypothesis that has failed repeatedly and consistently to be proved wrong. Scientific laws are not set in stone — we just haven’t found the technology or situation where they can be proved wrong. Besides which, science asks the wrong questions when it comes to truth.
Science asks How? What? When? Where? and What if? In order to learn the Truth, one must ask the question, Who? Truth isn’t a piece of provable data, Truth is a person. In his Sermon XXIII on the Nativity, St. Leo the Great follows the logic of the Incarnation:
All the riches of Divine goodness are showered on us…by the visible and bodily appearing of the Truth itself.
This, of course, is based on the words of Christ in John 14:6, “I am the Truth.” There is a double meaning to this statement, because “I AM” is the name of God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Christ is claiming not only to be Truth, but to be God — I AM. The riches of Divine goodness that is showered upon us is made possible through the Nativity — God has become a human being.
When married to this reality, science is at its best. Divorced from this reality, science becomes a monster. I have already discussed the consequences of divorcing environmentalism from God, so let’s look at stem cell research for an example. When Truth is understood to be a person, we are forced to look at science and research from the personal perspective. We are not dealing simply with cells, data and results. We are dealing with persons. When faced with the Truth incarnated — the reality that God has not only made us in His image and likeness (Gen 1:26-27), but has also taken on all of our humanity in the person of Jesus Christ — we can no longer glibly sacrifice fetuses in the name of science.
Dr. Timothy Patitsas, Professor of Christian Ethics at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, likes to say that life begins at compassion. The Truth has shown us the way to compassion — God sacrificing Himself willingly and out of love so that we might have eternal life in Him. The Truth is that God values each and every one of us so highly that He was willing to go to the Cross in the person of Jesus Christ. The Truth is compassion personified. When we recognize the Truth in others, especially those that our own government refuses to legally recognize as human, not only does our compassion lead us to treat others as we would have them treat us, but it leads us towards the path of Truth — toward a life in Jesus Christ. We start down the path to become the person we are supposed to be.
At its best, when coupled with a recognition that Truth is a person, science helps us get onto that path where we find the Truth in ourselves. Amen.