We live in a world where sound bites and quick visual images replace in-depth discussion. Slogans and bumper stickers replace learned discourse. Indeed, bumper stickers may make us feel like we are making a difference, but, in fact, they do little to change the world.
Recently I saw a bumper sticker, “Science is Real.” Interesting. At first glance, this sounds plausible. But what is the sticker actually saying? Why would someone desecrate the paint on their vehicle to display such a message? Who claims that science is not real, but a fiction?
My initial guess, either this is about evolution or climate change. Of course, it could be about Covid vaccinations or mask wearing. All of these are controversial topics in which both sides of the argument quote scientific journals and principles.
What is science, anyway? Is it a statement of absolute truth, or is it a model which fits the observed data? Does science cause action, or is science merely an observation which can be used to predict future events?
“Science is Real” suggests the driver believes that science causes events. “Science is Real” suggests that scientists believe that their hypotheses are proven with absolute certainty. “Science is Real” suggests that the person who placed the bumper sticker does not understand science.
One of the hardest concepts to grasp, so it seems, while studying research for a doctorate, you can never prove anything true. You can only disprove a hypotheses. There is no way to account for every possible data point. You suggest a model, an idea that reflects reality, and then look for those cases which disprove the model. If you can’t find cases to disprove the model, if you can’t find data that doesn’t fit the model, then you use the model to predict future events.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the French scientist, Pierre-Simon marquis de Laplace, developed a model which explained how the universe was formed. When he described the model to Napoleon, the emperor asked, “But where is the Creator in this model?” Laplace replied, “I had no need for that hypothesis.”
For modern man, the science is real. There is no need for God as the creator of heaven and earth. For almost a century, the Laplace model of the formation of the solar system was the accepted explanation. The Laplace model suggested an eternal universe without a beginning. Unfortunately, in 1964 Arlo Penzias, a researcher at Bell Labortories who was working on microwaves, discovered a background radiation which suggested the universe had a beginning. Yes, the work of Penzias suggests a “big bang,” an event which started the universe.
Now “real science” is seeking an answer to the question, “What caused the beginning of the universe?” Unfortunately for those who relied on the Laplace theory, it looks like the Bible may be correct. The simplest explanation is “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Of more interest, the scientific theories now reinforce the idea that God can transcend our space and time. There is more to the universe, more dimensions, than meets the eyes.
Let’s not let the “Science is Real” bumper sticker cause us to reject God, as did Laplace. Rather, let the “Science is Real” bumper sticker urge us to discover the laws of nature, the principles by which our Lord continues to allow this world to run with predictability. Let the “heavens declare the glory of God” as we use real science to better understand His immense power and majesty.
Keep your eyes open for more “bumper sticker theology.”