Science and SocietyBy Dan Vis
September 05, 2022
This month, we're doing a special focus on science and religion, and I have what I think are going to be several interesting articles planned and a brand new live class hopefully coming out later this month. To kick off the month, I've pulled this fascinating article from the archives. Enjoy!
This weekend I had an opportunity to preach in one of the area churches near where I live and I decided to talk about a topic that has interested me for years. You see, when I was in graduate school I did a fair bit of research into the history of science--in fact, at one point I had decided to get my PhD in this somewhat specialized field. What drew me was the fascinating interplay between science and society, and how that impacted Christianity.
It wasn't just those theories that seem to directly contradict the Bible, like evolution. That has been debunked by believers for decades, and is increasingly coming under attack by non-believers as an indefensible hypothesis. More on that another time.
What caught my attention instead, was how scientific theories tended to shape culture in ways that were completely unwarranted: that were neither logical nor scientific. Few seemed to notice the pattern, and yet thousands, millions actually, have been drawn away from the Gospel over the centuries by these subtle influences.
So I decided to expose them. In my sermon, I gave four examples:
Isaac NewtonIsaac Newton was a 17th century mathematician and physicist who developed a remarkably simple formula to describe gravity that was able to successfully account for a wide range of astronomical and terrestrial phenomenon. His book, the Principia Mathematica was such a masterpiece, many historians consider it the starting point of modern science.
But it had an unintended consequence, Newton never expected. It led to a kind of hyper rationalism in his day, that led many to conclude science could solve all the problems of humanity. The entire universe was perceived as mathematical--like a giant complex clock, constructed by a master clockmaker. It led to a period known today as the Enlightenment. And the effort to solve all problems through human reason became know as social humanism.
The problem is, not everything can be reduced to mathematics, and not every problem can be solved by science. Technology is powerful indeed, but it certainly hasn't solved all our problems today. There is still poverty, addiction, depression, injustice and more.
The point is, taking what Newton did with gravity and superimposing it upon society at large, didn't really work. Mathematics may describe gravity exceptionally well, but that's hardly a guarantee every problem can be boiled down to numbers.
Charles DarwinThe 1800's was marked by another massively impactful scientific theory. A young biologist by the name of Charles Darwin speculated that the various species we know today came into existence through a process he called evolution. The inevitable survival of the fittest would cause certain traits in the gene pool to be passed down to the next generation. And over time, this process would result in entirely new features. Or so his theory went.
We know today, this theory is not supported by the basic laws of genetics. Each organism inherits a mixture of traits from their parents, and over time some traits can become more prominent. But no new traits are introduced. It's like drawing a hand from a deck of cards. You can draw a different hand each time, but you will never draw a card that's not already in the deck.
Regardless, what was primarily a biological theory soon had a huge impact on society. Social Darwinism was the belief the marketplace should be allowed to interact with no interference, allowing the survival of the fittest to rise to prosperity, and allowing the rest to die out. It promoted an unfettered capitalism.
It was a powerful driver for the industrial revolution, but it encouraged a harsh cut-throat economic jungle that resulted in dark times for the common worker. It left little room for compassion, altruism, or social services. And it took a major economic depression to correct some of those excesses.
Again, the point that strikes me is how a theory about biology came to influence views on economics, though logically there is little connection between the two disciplines. It was an irrational but powerful influence. Somehow science bled over into culture.
Albert EinsteinPerhaps the most influential scientist of the next century was Albert Einstein. He developed what has come to be known as the theory of relativity. It largely consisted of some innovative ideas about how light works in our universe.
Some of the implications were that the speed at which an object moves is not absolute, but relative to the speed and position of the viewer. Time and space were no longer fixed but expanded and shrunk based on various factors like speed and mass. There was no absolute framework for measurement. Everything was dependent on perspective.
While Einstein was only attempting to explain various physical phenomenon, it wasn't long before his ideas percolated over into culture once again. This time, in the area of morality and ethics. The idea of an absolute right and wrong became replaced with the belief everything was situational, dependent on circumstances and perspective. And it led to decades of massive social upheaval.
Absolute truth was replaced with moral relativism, the idea right and wrong hinged on personal perspective and opinion only. Few questioned whether a physics theory about the speed of light should have the impact on ethics it did. The connection was illogical. But once again, the science strangely and imperceptibly permeated the thinking of multitudes.
Neils BohrIf I were to identify the scientific theory that seems to be shaping our day, I'd have to go with the collective work of Neils Bohr and various other scientists who laid the foundation for modern quantum physics.
Quantum physics (also called Quantum Mechanics) is that really strange world of subatomic physics, where normal physical laws seem to break down. Google described it this way:
Quantum mechanics is the body of scientific laws that describe the wacky behavior of photons, electrons and the other particles that make up the universe.
Here are a couple examples to show how wacky it can be. Quantum entanglement is the strange phenomenon where two particles become linked in some way, so that any change in one particle results in an instantaneous change in the other--even if they are separated by vast distances. Yet no one can really explain just how they are connected.
Another strange phenomenon is called superposition, where particles can be shown to have two opposite states at the same time (top and down, positive and negative, clockwise and counterclockwise), and they only "collapse" down to one state or the other when observed. Again, no one quite knows what is happening.
Strange as they are, these points have been verified in countless experiments, and they are leading to all kinds of major technological developments in communication, cryptography, and computing to name just a few areas.
In many ways, this parallels what is happening in the world of politics today. We're seeing an endless barrage of strange, almost wacky headlines. Well established rules of civil discourse are breaking down. Our world is strangely entangled such that events in every distant corner of the globe instantly shows up in our newsfeed. Political parties are completely superimposed, having fully separate worldviews, all at the same time, but as soon as a person steps into one worldview or the other, everything collapses down so completely they see nothing but that which reinforces their own perspective.
The parallels between contemporary politics and quantum physics is pretty striking. And it's leading to bizarre headlines, a fully entangled globe, and severely myopic perspectives. The erosion of empathy and understanding, leading to the bitter anger and vitriol we see so all too often today, can be traced back directly to a breakdown in people's grip on reality.
But the connection between quantum physics and politics is no more rational, than the connection between the speed of light and moral relativism, biology and economics, gravity and social humanism. It's just one more example of how important scientific theories shape society. They seep into our thinking without us even realizing it. They affect our thinking subconsciously.
ImplicationsNow the problem is not really the science. Generally speaking, bad scientific theories only need one repeatable experiment to contradict them and they quickly fall into disrepute. Apart from evolution, which hangs on only because the alternative (creation) is inadmissible in the minds of many secular thinkers, each of these theories has led to powerful technological breakthroughs and developments.
The cultural influence of these theories, however, has proven much more problematic. And that's where we should be paying more attention!
Here's the pattern I note: In each of these cases, the scientific theories were hijacked, and used to lead society away from God! Newton's mathematical description of gravity resulted in a widespread shift from a personal God, to an absent, impersonal God. Darwin's theory about the origin of species led to a shift away from a creator God. Einstein's theory of relativity, led society away from an absolute God, and an absolute standard of right and wrong. And now the work of Neils Bohr and the rest are leading us away from a real world God of love, and communication.
It's a powerful, big picture, progression. And it seems clear to me, the enemy is behind it. He's used every major scientific theory to steadily lead people further and further away from God!
And it's a huge challenge for us as believers, because reaching people requires us to understand their thinking. And society in general is being swept farther and farther away from the Gospel by these massive currents. It's time we learn to identify these patterns and seek new ways to reach a lost and dying world.
Perhaps this is what Paul referred to in his warning to Timothy:
I Timothy 6:20-2120 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: 21 Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith.
We need a personal God. Nothing else will satisfy the soul. We need a creator God. Our hearts must be fashioned anew. We need an absolute God. Our inner moral compass is broken. And we need a loving, communicating God that reaches through to us. For there's noting in man that reaches out to Him.
This is the God we need to introduce to a world that has largely lost sight of Him...
CommentsWhat do you think of the strange connection between science and society? Can you see the enemy's had at work? What can we do as believers to help call people back to a true knowledge of God?
|Posted by Dan Vis on 09/13/22|
|Yes, that's what I thought of too Valerie, the class on The BOX. It's really all the same sin problem, just different words, different manifestations.
That's a good takeaway Barbara, that we need to beware all the "propaganda" floating around and learn to think for ourselves. These are dangerous times. And the lesson from Noah is that virtually everyone is going to be deceived. If we think we are smart enough to escape the manipulation of societal forces, we taking a great risk. I Corinthians 10:12Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
|Posted by John Gilmore on 09/12/22|
|Thanks, Dan, for the invitation, but I've no idea where that paper is, or even if I have it still.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 09/12/22|
|Those are good points John, slightly different. Namely that our assumptions do often control our conclusions--and for the reason you mentioned: cognitive dissonance. We address this head on Monkey Business, of course, but it applies in all areas of life.
In fact, in some ways this issue lies at the heart of the sin problem. Sin leads to self-deception, every time. I go into this in even more detail in our class on The Box, with an emphasis on relationships. But really, this concept permeates all of life, doesn't it?
It would be interesting to read that college paper some day if you still have it! Maybe a Monday Memo for the future! :)
|Posted by Dan Vis on 06/29/21|
|Nice Qing: "all of creation has to abide by God's laws, because we are the creatures, He is the Creator." That's worth repeating too!|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 06/23/21|
|Thanks Barbara! I'm thinking of developing a book on science and faith issues. I'll take this as another vote to move forward on this.|
|Posted by Barbara E. LaRose on 06/23/21|
|A very interesting study! Satan is always trying to destroy minds with his sophistry and lead us away from God and his creation. Thank you for this study would like to see more of it.|
|Posted by David Jeffrey Grabe on 06/12/21|
|Greetings, Pastor Dan & all FASTland Community, and a Blessed Sabbath to all, in the
TRUE Scientific, Specific, & Salvific Name of Jesus Christ our Lord & Saviour!
Thank you, Pastor Dan, for this brilliant exposition on the the interconnected elements of "Science & Society" I will be reading it again & again! It was so illuminating to me!
I decided to-after your post inspired me to-read on the subject, and found a connection with Elijah & the Mt. Carmel showdown. Those two altars erected there (as we all know)represent the Altar to Jehovah GOD & the altar of Baal(altar against God)
Each of the ones you mentioned(evolution, quantum physics, superposition, relativism, etc.) all have their altars erected in society, culture-as well as in the mind-whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not...II Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them..
And the altars are endless:
Scientism-only objective means to explain our existence
Pluralism-multiple beliefs to a better existence
Humanism-man can use his intelligence to show him the way
Relativism-knowledge, truth, morality coexist in relation to culture, society, hist. context
Hedonism-Pleasure is the most important thing
Absolutism-rulers/government have unlimited power... to name a few.
As modern day "Elijahs", we are called to invite others to find in the "only TRUE God, and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent, eternal life...
may the Lord guide us into a path of service that will win the attention & intention of others and become all things to all men, that by all means , we may save some!
|Posted by Dan Vis on 06/09/21|
|Glad you worked through all that Carla, in your own mind. We'll be reviewing that subject more in our Monkey Business class. Of course this reading is not really so much about the science in these various fields as it is about how new theories sometimes percolate through society in really unusual and unexpected ways. I find that fact so curious...|
|Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 06/07/21|
|I loved all the connections and history in this article. It was an eye opener to really see how an innocent leap in scientific knowledge could be used so generally in society and commerce and ultimately blind eyes to the God who is behind all scientific knowledge. It makes me think of Romans 1:21-2221 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,. People who did not want to keep God in their knowledge found ways to idolize something else and changed the truth of God into a lie.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 06/07/21|
|That's a good work Lenroy. These theories by and large have been hijacked. That is the problem is not so much in the theory as it is in the misapplication of them to other areas of life. (With evolution being an exception to that). And I agree that we cannot afford to "shy away from learning the truth about science". The fact is, true science never disagrees with the Bible. So if there's an apparent conflict, the problem is always either poor theology or poor science. Getting to the bottom of things (the truth) always sets us free.
Thanks Jeshurun! Glad this was helpful. Of course the problem is not true science but science that has been "hijacked" (as Lenroy put it). Of in the examples you gave of pseudo-science. Things that clothe themselves with a scientific appearance but do not actually follow the scientific method in any kind of credible way. I'll be talking more about that in Monkey Business once that class goes live. The enemy is definitely using every means to lead men astray. And if he can twist science to that purpose, he will definitely try...
Thanks Colette! Yes, you can definitely see influences from Einstein in that kind of think. The curious thing, these examples of a philosophy that assumes God does not exist, are using the work of a scientist who professed to believe in God! :)
Praise God, you found your way out Linda. It's not always easy--as evolution is often taught as if it were somehow proven conclusively. In other disciplines scientists are welcome to, and even encouraged to point out flaws in each other's work. Yet the flaws in evolution are far more serious than many of these other debates. This is another topic we'll be exploring in Monkey Business. Thanks for sharing your powerful testimony!
|Posted by Colette Guthrie on 06/07/21|
|Great article Dan. I see the theory of relativity by Einstein playing out in the "no absolutes", "no rules", "anything goes", "do what thou wilt" philosophy. The latter is evident in the Satanist church and in the music of several very popular singers. This takes us very far away from Ecclesiastes 12:13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man..
I like what Lenroy said, we can get educated on these points to meet people who are there in their thinking.
|Posted by Jeshurun Michael Nedd on 06/07/21|
|Powerful article Dan! So true,sçience is really going above and beyònd to pull our attention away from a personal God. Within the last week terms that speak of "the force" , communicating with future civilizations and parapsychology I've encountered. Additionally on Ann Mary's mother has shown advancement of control of the mind, spiritualism ànd wrong use of technology.
Surely the devil is making a valiant last ditch effort to keep society distracted from God and a personal relationship with hìm for just a little while longer. May we all continue to be strong, focused and steadfast as we look to Jesus the author and finìsher òf our faith. And not get distracted by the things of the world, science and in the end be lòst forever.
Philippians 3:18-1918 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) KJV
(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:  Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
|Posted by Qing Ling on 05/03/20|
|Great article Dan, taking us up for an 🦅 eye view of how society has been moulded over large expanses of time. Exposes the deceptions.
As they say, there can be many counterfeits but only one genuine article. Using the Bible, we can call ppl back to a true knowledge of God, :)
Psalms 119:18Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
|Posted by John Gilmore on 11/23/18|
|Reading this, I'm reminded of pendulums and ditches. Too often we humans stray from the truth, swinging to one extreme or the other. Thinking of Newton's mathematics, on the good side, his work countered the misunderstanding of God as One who works capriciously. But as you said, some took the principles of reason way too far in the other direction.
Eistein worked in an age when mankind's understanding of the universe showed exponential increase. We are still learning. I see your point that relativity cannot fully fit into morality. Yet God, from His perspective of omniscience, judges based on what we know or don't know of His law (Acts 17:30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:). I also appreciate that his theory may have helped to counter another extreme as we sometimes are myopically judgmental of others (Proverbs 21:2Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.).
I suspect that the contributions of Darwin and Bohr similarly, if rightly understood, may counter some previously held errors, just as they provided supposed justification for other wanderings from truth. The effects of science on other parts of life are certainly complex. Similarly, to the degree that we know God and His truth, that knowledge corrects our world view, finances, social interactions, and every other part of life.
|Posted by Dan Vis on 11/09/18|
|Glad you found this helpful Dinah. Having a correct concept of God is so vital! :)|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 11/06/18|
|So true Colleen . We don't want to over focus on what he does, but it is important to expose some of his strategies every once in a while! Looking forward to sharing part 2 next week. :)|
|Posted by Colleen Assavapisitkul on 11/06/18|
|Facinating article! Satan will use everything he can to draw people away from the truth.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 11/05/18|
|Thanks Ann, Carole. We do need the Holy Spirit to guide our words, and we do need the Scriptures to guide our thoughts. Great points both!|
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