Thursday, November 12, 2015

Keeping an Open Mind Regarding Scientific Theories

Last Sunday, a Facebook friend of mine posted a video of an interview with Carl Sagan shortly before his death seventeen years ago.  Carl Sagan was a world-renowned astronomer (think the “Cosmos” series, and “billions and billions and billions of galaxies”).  He is also famous for his agnosticism.  The gist of the interview is that seventeen years ago, Sagan believed that humankind was in big trouble because no one in authority understands science and technology.  My Facebook friend especially drew my attention to the Sagan quote:  “This combustible mix of ignorance and power will soon blow up in our faces.”  He (my Facebook friend) then wrote:  “Seventeen years ago, Carl Sagan looked into the future and saw Ben Carson.” 

I had a knee-jerk reaction and commented with my immediate thought about this:  “Ben Carson??? It's strange that you would pick him out of this pot that is currently being stirred! And Carl Sagan??? He hardly embodies the all-knowing and all-perfect expert that I would trust judging the destiny of humankind.”  My friend, himself a PhD scientist, almost placed my tail uncomfortably between my legs with his next comment:  “John we clearly have a different view of science. But you are right in one respect: a medical doctor whose profession is based on biology & who denies evolution should not be mentioned in a same post with the great Sagan.”  I googled Ben Carson on evolution.  It turns out that Carson does indeed deny evolution.  I did not know this about him before.

Now I don’t know yet for whom I will vote in the Republican Primary.  But this “new” knowledge about Ben Carson does not cause me to disqualify him.  Not that I deny evolution.  Rather, I believe, as I do with many other scientific theories, that our thinking may change as our research continues.  How many times has our view of some scientific “fact” taken a 180 degree turn due to a new discovery?  Global warming is one recent example.  NASA has published findings that the Antarctica ice shelf is actually growing!  Another example is the use of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) for identifying complex organic compounds.  New research shows that it may not be as reliable as once thought due to the newly-discovered decomposition of compounds taking place in the thermal ion source.  (Sorry for the technical language.)

As far as evolution is concerned, once missing links are found, or not found, an alternate theory may need to be examined.  So, yes, my Facebook friend and I may indeed have a different view of science, but I will not put my tail between my legs and run away.  I prefer to keep an open mind about most “facts” of science. Perhaps this is the “view of science” that sets me apart from that of my Facebook friend.

But let’s get back to Carl Sagan, specifically his agnosticism.  In my mind, Carl Sagan is not a reliable authority on the destiny of humankind.  A scientist denying evolution is one thing.  But a scientist doubting the existence of God is quite another.  God, the Creator of this incredible universe from its billions and billions of galaxies to the complexity of the human brain … He alone decides when the mix of ignorance and power will reach the flash point.  Now it is important for scientists to keep battling to discover when action on our part is required.   It is the will of God for man to do what he must to protect his earthly home, but please don’t leave God out of the equation.  Whom we elect is also important, yes.  But we need to also keep in mind that our heavenly home is in our future.  So pray!  And, we can put the word “great” in front of Sagan’s name.  I have no problem with that when discussing his knowledge and accomplishments where the cosmos is concerned.  But such dire predictions about our future?  I prefer the predictions of someone who has a sound grasp of science but also believes firmly in God.

My prayer for today:  Lord, please help us to face our future together, You with your divine power and us as we grope our way out of our ignorance.  

The picture is one I took on my recent trip to the moon.  LOL!

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