Certainty and Science

Oct 22nd, 2011 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

Generally, when a 21st century person thinks of science, he/she thinks of certainty, truth or the realm of the absolute.  One of the axioms of modern science that has been declared to be certain and absolute is the speed of light.  And an absolute in Einstein?s theory of relativity is the absolute prohibition of speed faster than light.  Einstein predicted that time slows down and mass increases as one approaches the speed of light?and this axiom has been verified many times.  Thus, as the velocity of a mass increases, that mass approaches infinity and time dilates, making it progressively more difficult to achieve light speed.  That was the certainty, until early this fall.

Scientists at the supercollider at CERN in Geneva [Europe?s main particle-physics laboratory] announced on 23 September 2011 that subatomic particles called neutrinos fired from CERN outside Geneva to Gran Sasso, Italy (450 miles away) took less time (60 nanoseconds [i.e., 60-billionths of a second] less) than light to get there.  In other words, these scientists have discovered a particle that can travel faster than light.  These scientists were so astonished at their discovery that they re-checked the experiment and evaluated every possible error but could find none.  Hence, they immediately requested that other labs around the world replicate this experiment.  In his usual pithy manner, columnist Charles Krauthammer has observed that this ?means that Einstein?s relativity?a theory of uncommon beauty upon which all of physics has been built for 100 years?is wrong.  Not just inaccurate.  Not just flawed.  But deeply, fundamentally, indescribably wrong. . . [If true] then everything changes.  We shall need a new physics.  A new cosmology.  New understandings of past and future, of cause and effect.?

If verified and considered to be in fact true, this discovery will necessitate a complete re-writing of our understanding of the universe.  But as Chuck Colson recently argued, we really do not understand much about the universe.  ?For example, only 17% of the matter of the universe can be accounted for by our ?understanding of the universe.?  We can only infer the existence of the other 83%, known as ?dark matter,? from the speed at which galaxies rotate and the way that they cluster.?  Thus, a significant part of the universe is actually a mystery to us.  That there is so much mystery does not negate or diminish the value of science; it simply means that humility and caution are needed when it comes to theories about how things work and explanations about cause and effect in this world.  In conclusion, it is quite likely that there was a measuring or equipment error at CERN that will explain this faster-than-the-speed-of-light- neutrino.  But perhaps there was no error.  Regardless of what further investigation demonstrates, this we know:  Science is not ultimate authority for truth.  Only God can claim that.

In a class I have taught for many years, I walk my students through an exercise that demonstrates that indeed all truth is God?s truth:

  • Because God is the Author of all that is and the infinite Knower of all that is, then God is the ultimate Author of all truth.
  • God possesses or knows all truth.
  • All truth is unified in the infinite mind of God.
  • Therefore, God is interested in humanity?s pursuit of truth and as humanity thinks correctly about God and His world, it thinks as the Creator does.  In effect, humanity has the inestimable privilege of thinking God?s thoughts after Him.  How marvelous!

See ?Breakpoint? (6 October 2011); The Economist (1 October 2011), pp. 15, 85-86; and Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post (7 October 2011). PRINT PDF

Comments Closed