APPLYING THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD (C. 1958)

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Excerpted from The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, edited by John Clover Monsma. New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1958

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By Walter Oscar Lundberg, Physiologist and Biochemist

Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University. Successively Physical Chemist, U.S. Steel Corporation; Professor of physiological chemistry, University of Minnesota; Professor of agricultural biochemistry, University of Minn.; Resident Director, The Hormel Institute, University of Minn. Presently, since 1949, Executive Director, The Hormel Institute. Member and past chairman and director of various national food and chemical associations. Editor of Vols. I, II, and III of “Progress in the Chemistry of Fats and Other Lipids,” and author of numer­ous scientific articles.

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The professional scientist has one special advantage over others, if he will but use it, in understanding the reality of God. The fundamental principles on which the methodol­ogy of his profession is based, are, in essence, an expression of God’s existence. Many scientists who do not recognize this point are successful as scientists, and this should not be regarded as anomalous. Success in science depends primarily on an application of accepted methodology, and does not re­quire any searching appreciation of its fundamental prin­ciples.

The failure of some scientists to understand and accept the theistic significance of the underlying principles stems from various factors, only two of which will be mentioned.

First, a denial of the existence of God is sometimes an arbitrarily established policy of influential social groups or organizations, or of the state. Fear of social consequences, or even physical consequences where atheism is a state creed, discourages any active espousal by the individual of the revelation of God found in Nature.

Again, even when the minds of men are essentially free from fear, they may not be free from other predisposing prejudices. All too frequently, in organized Christianity, there is instilled deeply in young people a concept of God created in the image of man, rather than of man created in the image of God. When such minds are later trained in science, this reversed and limiting anthropomorphic concept gradually becomes more and more incompatible with the rational, inductive attitude of science. Ultimately, when all attempts at reconciliation fail (as they frequently do because they involve rationalization processes that are in themselves inconsistent with the scientific method), the concept of God may be abandoned entirely. The accompanying disillusion­ment and other psychological consequences discourage any thought of embracing a new concept.

What is the scientific method, and what are the underlying principles that reveal the existence of God? In brief and oversimplified terms, the following steps will serve the pur­pose of this discussion:

First, the scientist observes and records selected natural phenomena. This may be done without exerting any controls over the phenomena, as in studies of stellar matter and inter-stellar space, or it may be done with partial controls, as in laboratory experiments.

Second, he combines his observations with observations and relationships provided by other scientists before him, and draws conclusions or develops working hypotheses. This involves inductive, rather than deductive, mental processes, inasmuch as the conclusions or hypotheses contain more than was actually observed; in essence, they are predictions.

Finally, if he wishes to test or validate his conclusions, he conducts additional and new observations, and determines if these agree with his predictions.

In short, the scientific method is founded on orderliness and predictability in natural phenomena. It is precisely this orderliness and predictability that constitute a revelation of God in Nature. Order and predictability in the framework of non-existence of God, that is, absence of rationality, is a meaningless contradiction.

The Solar System
Image Credit: NASA

The ability of man to appreciate orderliness and predict­ability in Nature does not necessarily follow as a consequence of the existence of God. But it is a consequence of the cre­ation of man in God’s image. When man abandons the con­cept of a God created in his image, and accepts Nature’s revelations as evidence of man’s creation in God’s image, he has reached a threshold where he may begin to perceive God’s majesty.

Man is but at the beginning of knowledge. In terms of his own physical dimensions, he has some awareness that stellar matter and interstellar space are extraordinarily vast, that the basic units of matter and energy are incompre­hensibly minute, and that his own life span is but an infini­tesimal fraction of a second in the timelessness of the on-going universe. He conceives dimly of the possibility of new forms and dimensions of energy, space and time, and of other such concepts as yet wholly unknown. He recognizes life as an entity but has no scientific understanding of its nature. Nevertheless, his limited understanding permits him to realize that great vistas of unexplored knowledge lie before him, based on orderliness and predictability. Therein he has a glimpse of the majesty of God.

Because man’s understanding of God as revealed in natural phenomena is as yet very limited, it is in the nature of man that his belief in God should also have a spiritual basis, a basis in faith Belief in a personal God on the basis of faith is important to personal happiness in the lives of many men. But for the scientist who believes in God there is an added satisfaction that comes with each new scientific discovery, for each discovery gives added meaning and significance to his concept of God.

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