Science and Miracles

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Some scientists are very humble. They investigate God’s creation and are awed by it. Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest scientist who ever lived, after surveying the intricate design of the planetary system, affirmed that such “could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” Johann Kepler, one of the premier astronomers of history, once said that in his studies he was merely “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” (See Are Science and Faith Compatible?.)

On the other hand, not a few scientists reek of arrogance. Writers like George G. Simpson, Isaac Asimov, and Stephen J. Gould “swagger” on paper. They have egotistically pontificated on matters which lie wholly outside the domain of their expertise—if indeed they have an area of expertise. And I do not say this simply to jab at them.

What I do suggest is this: when one claims to be a “scientist” (which is supposed to deal with knowledge), and yet virtually everything he teaches is wrong (as is the case with those who are saturated with evolutionary ideology), then he can hardly be characterized as a “scientist” in the pure sense of that term.

There are some voices in the scientific arena, however, who are more cautious.

Let us consider, for example, the matter of Jesus’ miracles. According to the teaching of the Bible, miracles are not being utilized by God today. They formed a special function in the divine scheme of things, and when their purpose was realized, the Lord suspended his operations via these supernatural phenomena (see Miracles).

But the issue is: did they occur in the past? This is not a question for science to decide. It is a matter of historical investigation. Is there, therefore, sufficient evidence to determine whether an adequate body of credible people witnessed Jesus doing the signs that are credited to him in the Gospel records? If there is, that settles the matter, and the speculations of “modern science” are wholly irrelevant.

Recently, in doing some collateral reading for a book on which I’m working, I ran across a couple of interesting quotations from prominent science writers of yesteryear. Let me share them with you.

Louis Trenchard More was a professor of physics at the University of Cincinnati and dean of the graduate school there. In 1925 (the same year as the famous Scopes trial), he was invited to Princeton University to deliver a series of lectures on the theory of evolution. Subsequently, these presentations were published in a book, The Dogma of Evolution. Therein, Dr. More, certainly no “fundamentalist,” had some pretty strong things to say about the arrogance of certain scientists:

Those, who would have us believe that science moves forward steadily after each step has been subjected to rigorous criticism, and that men of science are inspired only by so pure a love of truth as to welcome the overthrow of an erroneous theory on which their reputation depends do not present a just picture of science or of any human activity (1925, 352).

Then, after carefully stating that he did not personally believe in the “supernatural events” which are designed to “strength the faith of the credulous,” and which he characterized as “insignificant and puerile,” he nonetheless said, “Science does not embrace all phenomena and it has not, for its use, all the criteria for truth” (354).

That is right. The scientist may subjectively ridicule miracles, but, as a scientist, he cannot speak a word about these matters.

Then consider the testimony of J. N. S. Sullivan. Sullivan was a mathematician, musician, philosopher, and scientist. Upon his death in 1937, he was described by Time magazine as “one of the world’s four or five most brilliant interpreters of physics to the world of common men.” His book, The Limitations of Science (first published in 1933), has sold multiplied thousands of copies. In this volume, Sullivan attacked the assumption of many modern scholars, namely that “science” is virtually the key to all reality. He contended that science give us but a partial glimpse of reality and our religious aspirations and our perceptions of beauty may not be the illusions that many suggest they are. Here are a couple of quotes from his book: “[S]cience is confined to a knowledge of structure”; “[S]cience deals with but a partial aspect of reality”; “[T]here is [not the] slightest reason for supposing that everything science ignores is less real than what it accepts” (1949, 142, 147).

Christians need not be intimidated, therefore, when certain “scientists” utter dogmatic pronouncements which disdain religion. They are heady on their own egotism.

  • More, Louis Trenchard. 1925. The Dogma of Evolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Sullivan, J. N. S. 1949. The Limitations of Science. New York, NY: Mentor Books.