Beauty touches something deep within us. It captivates and delights us. It is consoling, stunning, intriguing, inspiring, exhilarating. We recognize it. It arrests our attention.
But beauty is elusive.
We are unable to analyze, categorize or place beauty together with all the other topics that we study. Our attempts to describe it fail miserably; our definitions fall short. The greatest philosophers acknowledge that the best we can do is to recognize it when it is there. Beauty will not be explained or contained. It is real, it is wonderful—but it defies analysis.
Something similar happens with God.
Humans have an innate sense that he is there, but we cannot reduce him to a formula or an equation. We can worship or reject him, but we cannot fully explain him. It is a mistake to ask scientists to prove or disprove his existence. He does not reside within their field of study—and good science recognizes its limitations.
“The secret of beauty lies, not in its chemical analysis, but in another mysterious reality,” writes J. Warner Wallace. Science cannot explain why a certain combination of pigments on a canvas is beautiful. And it is incapable of unraveling the mystery of God. When science finishes explaining everything it will have explained nothing.
Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
Wonder does not exist on the basis of rational explanations. It simply doesn’t work that way. It shows up unexpectedly and gives itself to those who are ready to be astonished. We are not about to figure out beauty and much less God—the source of all beauty—but they demand our attention. To ignore them is to be blind.
And to be fully alive involves responding to the awe-inspiring reality of both.
–J. O. Schulz
The problem, I’m told, with being a hammer is that everything looks like a nail. To the surgeon, the cure must always involve surgery; the insurance salesman has but one solution – more insurance. To the successful scientist, everything belongs in a test tube.
Is science the platform by which we should evaluate every aspect of existence? Science is a tool, and a useful one at that, but still just a tool. Many tools are useful, but no one tool can be used in every situation – we need a complete toolbox. Many scientists would have us believe that their field of study is the Swiss Army Knife of worldview tools; that every possible task and every possible situation can be evaluated with that one tool. But we know better.
The wooden, lifeless approach of science works fine for some matters. But the matters of our inner life, our yearnings, and our eternal importance cannot be evaluated with their tool, no matter how many pliers, blades, or toothpicks it has. We need more than their one tool in our toolbox in order to uncover the mysteries of life.
Why does a rose smell sweet? Science would tell us it is due to the make-up of the petals or some such nonsense. That is not why, it is how. It does nothing to give us the reason for the matter but only provides the mechanics of the matter. That is not a satisfying explanation and our inner self testifies to the fact that there is more to life’s questions than science’s wooden answer.
Science needs a reality check – it does very little to explain anything. While science uses some scientific sounding words to describe almost anything under the sun, really very little can be explained by science. Described, yes; Explained, no. An explanation, you see, is much more than overlaying scientific words onto a mechanic process. We must demand more.
There are big questions science doesn’t answer, such as why is there something rather than nothing? There can’t be a scientific answer to that because it’s the answer that precedes science. There are all sorts of questions like that which at the periphery of scientific inquiry but which wiggle in the mind like worms: the question “what am I, what is this word ‘I’”? Does it refer to anything? If you try to capture the “I”, you don’t capture it, you capture the object, in which case it’s a nothing, but it’s a nothing on which everything depends. But this nothing on which everything depends thinks of itself as free. This is a philosophical question that worries everyone, but you can’t formulate it.
― Roger Scruton,
The Soul of the World
Sometimes people in the faith community are accused of attacking science. To do so would be the height of foolishness. No person of reasonable intelligence would question the value of science. Problems arise, however, when science overreaches itself. What should be requested is for science to remain scientific.
Would it not go against all logic to ask a plumber to check our cholesterol level, or to request that the gardener tune the piano? These people are skilled in a particular field, and they would do well to operate within that field. Likewise, science functions best when it stays within its prescribed domain. Science is equipped to analyze natural phenomenon but is not in a position to address any others, or to pontificate that other causes could not possibly exist.
Science is capable of telling us how things can be done, but it cannot tell us what ought to be done. To expect science to answer philosophical questions is to go to the wrong place for answers. To mix science with philosophy is to confuse them both.
“It is our mistake to ask science to do something it can’t,” admitted Iain McGilchrist. “It’s like expecting your iPod to tell you whether you are in love.”
Christianity is not at odds with science. It has trouble with science that has become religious and has ceased to be aware of its limitations. Science answers a lot of questions, but to expect it to answer them all is not only an impossibility, it is also an absurdity.
–J. O. Schulz
Science is great, but only when we respect its limits to explain our universe. There are really three disciplines of study necessary to understand life: Science, Philosophy, and Theology. Just like a three-legged stool, the rejection of any one of these disciplines leads to imbalance. Unfortunately, we live in times when far too many think that Science is the ruler of all truth and many schools have dismissed the study these other disciplines…
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