Last semester, I taught a course for Memoria College. Students read works from the great scientists of the past, and we discussed them. It was an excellent course, and I hope to teach it again this spring. After the class was over, they asked me to write an article about why reading scientific works from the past is so important. Here is what I wrote for them:
Climate change alarmists (aka global warming alarmists) are constantly making dire predictions, and over time, those predictions end up being falsified*. This doesn’t stop them from making even more dire predictions, however, since the media rarely point out how wrong they have been in the past. Usually, those dire predictions are found in the popular media, but since climate science has been infected with craziness, such nonsense even makes it into the the scientific literature.
Consider, for example, this 2012 study, which was published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. The authors claim that their study shows coral in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) had been declining for the past 27 years, and then they state:
Without significant changes to the rates of disturbance and coral growth, coral cover in the central and southern regions of the GBR is likely to decline to 5–10% by 2022. The future of the GBR therefore depends on decisive action. Although world governments continue to debate the need to cap greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the local and regional pressures is one way to strengthen the natural resilience of ecosystems.
So governments must act decisively to cut greenhouse gas emissions, or the GBR is going to dwindle to a fraction of its original glory. Well no decisive action was taken, and it’s now 2022, so we might as well see how close to accurate the prediction is.
Notice that for the northern and central regions of the GBR, coral cover is at an all-time high, and more than THREE TIMES the value predicted in the prestigious scientific journal. While coral cover in the Southern region isn’t at an all-time high, it is still more than three times the amount that was predicted.
*NOTE: By “falsified,” I do not mean “altered in order to mislead,” which is the first definition. I am using it in the scientific sense, which means “shown to be false.” Scientific theories must make predictions. If those predictions are verified, the theory gains credibility. If they are falsified, the theory loses credibility. Return to Text
Those who understand the formation of our universe using the Big Bang model are forced to believe that the vast majority of the universe is made up of material about which scientists know absolutely nothing. As shown in the picture, to believe in the Big Bang model today, you must believe that all the matter involved in all the experiments done by all the scientists in history makes up only about 5% of the universe. 72% of the universe is composed of dark energy, a form of energy that was completely unknown until the 1990s and is so far undetectable and not understood at all. The other 23% is made of dark matter, which is matter that we cannot see because of the limitations of our experimental capabilities. Scientists have been trying to detect dark matter for decades, but so far, nothing has been found.
Why must those who are guided by the Big Bang believe that the vast majority of the universe has gone undetected? The Big Bang model predicted that over time, the expansion of the universe should be slowing down, since all matter is gravitationally attracting all other matter. However, data that started being collected in the 1990s indicate that in the past, the expansion of the universe was slower, which implies that the universe’s expansion is actually speeding up. The current amount of dark energy that is supposed to exist is what’s necessary to retrofit the Big Bang model to allow for this increase in expansion rate.
Belief in dark matter, on the other hand, is used to explain around certain observations that are surprising based on currently-accepted physics. For example, the way most galaxies rotate is not what is expected based on Newton’s Universal theory of Gravitation, but assuming a specific distribution of unseen matter, we can “fix” the galaxies so they rotate as expected. In addition, there are ways to indirectly determine the mass of galaxies, and those indirectly-determined masses usually don’t agree with the masses indicated by the matter that we can see in them. Thus, there must be unseen matter there.
On a personal level, I think dark energy exists only in the minds of those who are committed to the Big Bang Model. I see no serious evidence for its existence. Dark matter, on the other hand, has at least some serious evidence behind it. After all, either the physics we currently say we “know” is wrong, dark matter really exists, or something else that hasn’t been theorized exists to explain the discrepancies. Of course, as anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, I am just as likely to believe that the physics we currently “know” is wrong. As a result, I have always been intrigued by an alternate model of gravity called Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND). Its proponents claim that it can not only account for all the effects currently attributed to dark matter, but it has also made predictions which have later been confirmed by new data.
Well, one of its proponents recently wrote an article for The Institute for Art and Ideas. The title is simple and says it all: “Dark Matter Doesn’t Exist.” He goes through experimental evidences that support MOND, and he notes the failures of multiple searches for dark matter. While I am inclined to think that MOND is more likely to be true than dark matter, I am not convinced that it is the way to go. However, I did find this statement in his article very interesting:
We need to scientifically understand why the dark-matter based model, being the most falsified physical theory in the history of humankind, continues to be religiously believed to be true by the vast majority of the modern, highly-educated scientists. This is a problem for the sociological and philosophical sciences and suggests a breakdown of the scientific method.
While I am not sure that the dark matter hypothesis is “the most falsified physical theory in the history of humankind,” I wholeheartedly agree with him on the rest of his point. However, I would broaden his statement to include many other scientific theories, like evolution as a creation myth, the dogmatic belief that the earth is billions of years old, and the Big Bang model. One of the problems that exists in science today is that too many scientists believe these theories with a religious fervor. As a result, they tend to reject all the evidence that questions them. This, of course, holds back science.
While I don’t know if MOND is the correct answer to the question of why certain astrophysical observations are not consistent with currently-accepted physics, I can say that this particular MOND proponent has hit the nail on the head when it comes to a very big problem in today’s scientific enterprise!
A bit more than a week ago, I spoke at an education event focused on those who were considering homeschooling. One of the talks I gave focused on why you should educate your children from a Christian worldview. Afterward, a woman came up to me and asked if I had seen the studies that show that being religious improves a student’s academic performance. I told her I had not, and later on, she graciously sent me some examples. I was amazed that I had not seen this research before, because it conclusively demonstrates that more religious adolescents are simply better students than those who are less religious.
For example, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth performed in 1997 collected a “…nationally representative sample of 8,984 men and women born during the years 1980 through 1984.” It collected “…extensive information on respondents’ labor market behavior and educational experiences.” Analysis of those data indicated that the more frequently a student attended religious services, the better his or her GPA:
While these data are a bit old, a review article published just last year surveyed 42 studies that have been published from 1990 to 2020. They all show that the more religious a student is, the better his or her academic achievement.
Now, of course, correlation doesn’t mean causation, so it is possible that religion doesn’t directly affect academic achievement. However, the first conclusion drawn by the review article is:
First, research has advanced from correlational studies to methodologically rigorous designs suggesting religion can play a causal role in academic success.
Why does being religious produce better grades? One study suggests that going to religious services broadens the students’ social network, giving them better access to adults other than their parents, peers who also share similar views, and extracurricular activities that are education focused. Others suggest that religion encourages students to be cooperative and conscientious, and such traits are positively correlated with academic achievement.
While those reasons might help explain the well-known fact that religious students have higher academic achievement, I think I can offer at least a couple of other suggestions. As a Christian, I have been taught that God gave me certain gifts, and it is my duty to Him to develop those gifts as much as possible. Most of my motivation for doing well in college and getting my Ph.D. was because I knew God had given me gifts in science and teaching, and it would be an affront to Him had I not concentrated on honing those gifts to the best of my ability. While not everyone has God-given gifts in academic subjects, it is clear that a good education (especially through high school) helps you develop any gift better.
However, there is another reason. It was given by the father of the Scientific Method, Roger Bacon, nearly 800 years ago. He wrote:
For the grace of faith illuminates greatly, as also do divine inspirations, not only in things spiritual, but in things corporeal and in the sciences of philosophy
(The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon, Robert Belle Burke (trans.), Russel & Russell, Inc. 1962, p. 585)
Faith illuminates all areas of life, including academics.
So, in addition to the reasons I gave in my talk about why you should educate from a Christian worldview, I must add this:
A Christian Worldview Produces Greater Academic Success.
NOTE: According to a historian I respect a great deal, the beginning of this article (in brackets and italics) is not correct. Apparently, the first mention of the message “But if not” seems to be from sources that occur in the 1990s. Thus, the phrase “But if not” as it relates to Dunkirk is almost certainly an urban legend that fooled me. I am keeping the post up, because I do think the last four paragraphs are important. However, I have also added this to the Christian Myths category so that people might find out that this oft-repeated story is not verifiable.
[You are a high-ranking officer in an army that is at war. You receive a three-word message from a large contingent of your soldiers who you know are about to face the enemy:
But if not
Would that mean anything to you? Fortunately, it meant something to British commanders in World War II. In 1940, more than 350,000 Allied soldiers were trapped at Dunkirk, and the German forces were on their way. The soldiers stood no chance of defeating the enemy, and an officer wanted to communicate the situation to his superiors in London. However, he didn’t want to give away any vital information. As a result, he sent those three words. They spoke volumes…to anyone who knows the Bible well.
They are the first words of Daniel 3:18, which contains the response Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego gave to King Nebuchadnezzar when the King threatened to throw them in the furnace if they didn’t worship the golden image that he had constructed in Babylon:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:16-18, KJV)
Those three words became a rallying cry that caused a rag-tag group of fishermen, pleasure boaters, merchant mariners, and yacht racers to sail to the shores of Dunkirk and evacuate the trapped soldiers. In the end, they saved more than 338,000 of the soldiers in what is commonly known as The Miracle of Dunkirk. A 2017 film tells the story, albeit without the three words that inspired the entire event.
Now think about that for a moment. The officer who sent the message knew the Bible well enough to recall the passage, and he expected the commanders in London to know the Bible well enough to recognize the passage and realize what it meant. Fortunately, they did.] Do you think they would today? Almost certainly not, because most Christians today don’t really know the Bible.
I recall sitting at a lunch with a well-known politician, a group of Christian homeschooled seniors, and their parents. One senior was telling the politician that he wasn’t concerned about attending a secular university, because he knew the Lord would protect him. The politician smiled and said, “The paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, huh?” All the seniors and all their parents looked at the politician with blank stares. There was an uncomfortable silence, and I had to tell them what he meant. It’s a quote from 1 Samuel 17:37, in which David tells Saul that he is not afraid of Goliath: “The Lord who saved me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, He will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” (NASB)
I am sure the parents of these seniors spent a lot of time discussing the Bible in their homeschools. They probably even read books on having a “Biblical Worldview.” Nevertheless, none of them recognized what I would consider to be a very important passage from the Old Testament. Why? I can’t give you a definitive answer, but I can at least say this: Far too many Christian homeschools study books about having a “Biblical Worldview” but don’t spend enough time studying the Bible itself. In my opinion, there is only one way to have a Biblical Worldview, and that is to know the Bible so well that you can quote large sections of it from memory and recognize phrases like “But if not” and “the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear.”
After all, having a Biblical worldview means evaluating everything you encounter through the lens of the Bible. If you don’t know what the Bible says, you won’t be able to use it as a lens! So if you want a Biblical worldview, don’t read books that tell you how to have one. Don’t attend talks that tell you what it is. Spend that time studying the Bible so well that you know it backward and forward. That’s the first step in developing a Biblical worldview.