The Myth of Infallible Science

By GotDesign
I recently started reading Carl Sagan's novel Contact, which was made into a movie starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey in 1997. Sagan is widely known both as a stellar scientist and a faithful atheist (look out, GotDesign is punning amok). I have read Contact before and have found it to be an enjoyable read. However, Sagan takes every opportunity to take jabs at Christianity.

The first chapter of the book is a series of snippets that tell about the childhood of the main character -- Ellie Arroway. During this sequence, Ellie is required to go to a "Bible Class" by her stepfather. She resists this because her birth father had taught her to regard Christianity as mythology and fairy tales. Being an inquisitive young mind, Ellie picks up a Bible and begins reading to see what she has been thrust into. Ellie questions all of the classic "inconsistencies" in the Bible -- where did Cain get his wife, the 3 differing genealogies of Jesus, etc. Ellie dismisses Christianity because of these so-called conflicts. But what strikes me is that, when Ellie was puzzled about the scientific expression of the number Pi (3.1416...), she immediately goes to the local college library and researches Pi and becomes an "expert" on this mathematical expression. Why isn't this youthful exuberance and inquisitiveness applied to her questions about the Bible? She asks her Bible Class teacher (the minister's wife), but is only told to have faith, or be quiet, or something similar. Well, the Christian church in the late 1950s and early 1960s wasn't big on encouraging the questioning of the Bible. Sagan also takes time in the first chapter to talk about how Ellie was often told that inquisitiveness and enthusiasm for science were unbecoming in a little girl or a woman. Sagan continues to take potshots at Christianity throughout the remainder of the novel -- "...Sangre de Christo Mountains...why does Christianity name things after blood...why not some other more worthy bodily organ... maybe the brain." This is where I am thankful for my own tolerance of such pettiness -- it makes the book readable.

However, Sagan does not apply this same skepticism to his own religion -- science. Throughout Contact, Sagan refers to the major scientific theories -- the Big Bang Theory, Theory of Evolution, etc -- as if they were acknowledged facts. At best, these theories are still theoretical. A theory is a supposition. Observations are made to see if facts happen to fit the theory. Theories are discarded if observations point away from the original theory (i.e., the Flat Earth Theory). They are sometimes modified if observations are close enough to the theory. The Big Bang Theory is a poor theory. Supposedly, billions of years ago the universe consisted of a super huge mass of matter and a whole lot of empty space. Something caused the matter to heat, pressure to build, which resulted in an explosion which distributed matter throughout the universe. This matter then coalesced and formed into planets, stars, nebulae, etc. Did anyone see this original matter? No. Did anyone observe the coalescing of matter into planets, etc.? Again, no. Scientists observed a background radiation present in the observable universe and assumed that there must have been some kind of explosion to cause it. But scientists don't really know what caused the radiation -- they're just guessing.

The same goes for the Theory of Evolution. There is no evidence an ongoing process of evolution as scientists describe it. There are microevolutionary changes -- animals changing fur colors over time, or adapting to their environments, etc. But there is no evidence of the macroevolution that scientists use to describe how life came to the planet Earth. Single-celled life becoming multicelled. Multicelled becoming complex systems of biological life. Fish becoming frogs becoming tree-dwellers becoming apes becoming ... Man (insert chuckle here). Scientists cannot explain why we do not see transitional evolutionary forms (critters making the transition between species). Scientists cannot explain how an organism grows systematically more complex despite physical laws that deny that such a process is possible (the law of entropy -- the disorder of a system tends toward maximum). There is no proof. There are no observable facts to support this theory. All is supposition.

So it seems that scientists can chuckle at religion (especially Christianity) but fail to see the obvious holes in their own beliefs -- their own religion. Every single question that Sagan raises through the character of Ellie Arroway can be met with a logical answer. But an honest scientist would have to admit the points I've made here. The theories they often take as "scripture" are merely supposition with fewer facts to support them than Christianity has for the veracity of the Bible.

Anyway, Contact is still a fun novel.

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