Five Things Science Can’t Explain

Written by Darren Hewer

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Watch now: How to fill the void and find purpose.

Science has contributed innumerable benefits to human life on planet Earth. We should be deeply grateful for the hard work of scientists who dedicate their lives to loyal study of this discipline and the advantages scientific advances grant us.

Due to its success, there is often a tendency to think that science can explain everything. However there are actually many things that science cannot prove. Here are five categories of truth that cannot be proven using the scientific method:

1) Existential Truth: Science cannot prove that you aren’t merely a brain in a jar being manipulated to think this is all actually happening. (Think of something like in “The Matrix”.) It also cannot prove that the world wasn’t created 5 minutes ago with the appearance of age (and with fake memories in your head, and half-digested food in your stomach, etc). However it’s still rational to believe that our memories are true and that the world is real.

2) Moral Truth: Science cannot prove that rape is evil. While it is possible to demonstrate, for example, that there are negative physical or psychological effects of rape, there is no scientific test that can prove it is evil. Science can describe how the natural world is, but moral truth carries an “oughtness” (how things should be) about it that goes beyond what merely is.

3) Logical Truth: Consider the statement “Science is the only way to really know truth.” How could you prove that statement by science? It is actually self-refuting because there is no scientific test you could use to prove that it is true! Science cannot prove logic to be true because it assumes and requires logic in order for it to work.

4) Historical Truth: Science cannot prove that Barack Obama won the 2008 United States presidential election. There is no scientific test we could perform to prove it. We could have an investigation if we wanted to confirm that he did actually win, but the method for proving historical truths is different from testing scientific truths since historical truths are by nature non-repeatable.

5) Experiential Truth: Science cannot prove that your spouse loves you. When asked why so-and-so loves you, you may cite precedent (times when their behavior demonstrates their love for you) but this is a particular type of historical truth. There is no scientific test that can confirm a lifetime of experience of knowing a person.

None of this is meant to criticize science! There’s nothing wrong with the scientific method for testing the kinds of things it was meant to test. However, it would be a mistake to expect it to be able to test everything. There are more intellectual tools available to us than just science, and as the old saying goes, when all you’ve got is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail!

For the kinds of truth listed above, science is not deficient in any way; it’s just not the right way to find those particular kinds of truth. To try to do so would be like trying to ascertain whether a banana is tasty by sticking it in your ear and listening to it; it’s simply the wrong method!

There is one other kind of truth that cannot be proven or disproven by science. That’s because it is comprised of all of the other kinds of truth mentioned above mixed together: Religious truth. It does have a certain amount of overlap with science, when religion makes explicit claims about scientific fact, and when science makes explicit claims about religion. But the overlap tends to be rather small; in any case, true science and true religion, because they both aim to describe reality, can never be in conflict. (Read “Science & Religion: Conflict or Coherence?” for more on this topic.)

Why then does science often seem so straightforward and uncontroversial, whereas religion can be so difficult and contentious?

It may have something to do with a fact hinted at earlier: Religious truth is multifaceted. It is comprised of science, logic, philosophy, history, ethics, and experience, all mixed together. It is, in a sense, a different kind of knowing, not ignorant the other kinds of truths, but requiring that they be studied together carefully.

Rigidly applying the same methodology used for studying mundane things would be deficient when considering divine things. This shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that if God truly does exist, God is in a different category from every created thing that we can grasp and study under a microscope: God, unlike every created thing, is in the “uncreated things” category. Science, and each of the other kinds of truths, will have something to say about God. But none of these individually can tell us everything. All are necessary, but no single approach by itself is sufficient.

If that is the case, where should a person start a serious investigation into religion amidst all the complexity? Where should a person begin?

In his suspenseful novel Five Sacred Crossings author and religious scholar Craig Hazen presents through his narrative five “sacred crossings,” or compelling reasons to consider Christianity first. This is merely an exceedingly short summary of what Hazen explains (and argues for) in much more detail in his book:

1) It is testable. Christianity does not make merely esoteric claims; it makes claims about logic, science, history, philosophy, and ultimately reality itself.

2) It paints a picture of the world that matches reality. It does not force a person to deny that our world is real. Rather it cohesively explains why things are the way they are.

3) It makes a non-compartmentalized life possible. The Christian faith does not require a person to live one way when thinking about “religious” things and a totally different way at all other times.

4) It presents salvation as a free gift. Every other religion in the world presents some sort of works-based way to re-connect with God. But at the heart of the Christian message is grace, not more demands to somehow work our way to God.

5) It has Jesus at the center. Jesus is the most compelling (and controversial) figure in history. Many other religions claim to respect him, but Christianity is founded upon his life, teaching, and identity. Why not begin by getting to know him?

One man who took on such a challenge was Dr Alister McGrath, who earned two doctorates at Oxford University, one in molecular biophysics, the other in theology. He described his spiritual and intellectual journey to the Christian faith in this way:

“At Oxford – to my surprise – I discovered Christianity. It was the intellectually most exhilarating and spiritually stimulating thing I could ever hope to describe – better than chemistry, a wonderful subject that I had thought to be the love of my life and my future career. I went on to gain a doctorate for research in molecular biophysics from Oxford, and found that immensely exciting and satisfying. But I knew I had found something better – like the pearl of great price that Jesus talks about in the Gospel, which is so beautiful and precious that it overshadows everything. It was intellectually satisfying, imaginatively engaging, and aesthetically exciting.” 1

How to find a clear purpose and meaning to life.

Further Reading:

A Scientist’s Search for Truth – Astrophysicist Hugh Ross describes his journey to faith.
The Uniqueness of Jesus – What made Jesus so special anyways?
What Does your Soul Crave? – Destiny? Intimacy? Meaning?
Contact us with Questions – Talk with someone confidentially via email.

1 Alister McGrath, The Future of Atheism: Alister McGrath & Daniel Dennett in Dialogue (London, England: Fortress Press, 2008), 27.

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321 Responses to “Five Things Science Can’t Explain”

  • Donald Darden says:

    There is much more that science cannot explain. I’ve read that the universe will eventually run down when there is a balance of energy everywhere. It is the flow of energy between contrasting high-low level points that results in all manner of changes over time. Once the energy is stablized throughout, the universe dies.

    The long view of the universe is that it is running down gradually, unless a new source of never-ending energy is discovered to revive it and keep it going. There has been no such discovery. although the exact nature of the universe is still under investigation by science and theorists, who often rely on very advanced mathematics to express what they conjecture the universe to be like at its very core.

    The problem is, science is founded on logic, observations, examination of evidence or facts, repeated testing, and the quantification and measurement of change, It has to establish relationships between cause and effects, which are defines as being natural laws or laws of nature.

    God is said or believed to be everywhere. Ergo, how do you observe or quantify God? You cannot separate him out from everything else, and the Holy Bible, which is the Word of God, warns that you cannot test him, and you will only know him by your faith in him. Those who accept science as the answer to their uncertainties need to realize that increasingly, science itself is having to accept on faith what the theorists are saying, because it does not have the means of testing the proposed theories directly. Thus, God, Jesus, even Good and Evil, are unprovable by the rules set forth by science.

    The Shroud of Torin is suppose to be evidence that Jesus existed. Even if science ever proves it did or did not come from the right time and place associated with Jesus’ re[prted death on the cross, that will not prove that Jesus was the body that is imaged on the cloth, that he ever lived, or that he was indeed the beloved Son of God. These are, and will remain, matters of faith alone.

    Want to know how weak science is? Contrary to the decay and eventual death of the universe, life as we know it involves growth of the individual, expansion of the species by breeding, a fight for substance and survival, and even sacrifice to keep the young alive or the whole intact. What is this life force that exists and behaves in this manner? Where did it come from? Science has no answer for these questions, although several branches of science are heavily involved in the study of life in all its shapes and forms. And what of the individual? We aren’t all alike by any means. Even insects have notable differences in terms of their roles and conduct.

    And there is something called interdependency or protocooperation, where two different species live together with interactions that benefit them both. Flowers and bees, or flowers and hummingbirds both do this, as the flowers provide food in exchange for its pollen (seed) being carried to other flowers to establish the next flower generation. The bee or hummingbird gets fed for its efforts.

    The flora in any mammal’s digestive track is another example of this interdependency. Eat something and the sheltered flora in the body breaks whatever is eatened down into nourishment for the body. Without the flora being present, the body would starve. Science can recognize such cases, but it could not anticipate them, nor can it explain how such cases came to be in the first place.

    If you don;t see the connection yet, here is a different situation. I saw this on a nature channel decades ago, so I don’t remember the names used, but I still have the details in mind, which is enough: A certain type of plant was often infested by a certain species of caterpillar, ehich would leave yellow spots on leaves where it left an egg to hatch and eat. The caterpillar would leave one egg per leaf, as the leaf would be consumed later by the hatchling. The plant would defend itself by creating similar yellow spots on its own leaves, which the caterpillar detected as it crawled about. If a leaf was already spotted (and emitted the right kind of chemical signature I assume), the caterpillar would pass it by and look for another leaf. Now run this through your mind for a minute: If you were a plant, would you think of doing that? Plants don’t think at all, right? So if this isn’t thinking, what is it? I realized that if much of this nappens in nature, then there is more to nature than I ever realized, It must be wrapped up somehow in whatever the life force is. And there are many such cases, as one species seeks dominance over another. Adaptability is a fundamental survival tactic, but that doesn’t explain where it comes from. To say it is all just part of the concept od “survival of the fittest” misses the point entirely. The plant had to work out somehow that faking a caterpillar egg was key to its survival, and that can’t be attributed to mere chance.

    I have to believe that there is a divine Creative Intelligence at the root of the life force, It’s more than coincidence or chance that we find all these things in nature. Look at yourself: Aren’t we all the assembly of billions of cells, none of which as an inkling or vision of ourselves as a whole? But we are each so much more than the sum of our separate parts. We have minds, we have feelings, we have involvements. We think, we learn, we act, we relate to others. If we can see that a cell to us is perhaps what we are with respect to God, then God could easily be the most supreme and mighty being possible. To me, God is all that, and more.

    Science is not the answer in terms of spiritual matters. For that you need God in your life. But we are too contemptable, too mired in our low sinful natures to meet God head on. We need Jesus as our way to salvation and forgiveness of our sins so that we become acceptable in God’s eyes.

    What is sin? It’s evil doing or evil thoughts. It’s disobedience to God’s commandments. It’s indifference to others, or a failure to act as God expects of the Righteous. Righteousness in God’s eyes is not simply right-doing as in the eyes of man. Man makes laws and rules for his convenience. To be righteous, you have to put God before everything else. I can’t manage to do that, because I am in no ways perfect. But God is a forgiving God, if you confess and repent of your sins, and ask forgiveness for those sins as well.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    I am glad you haven’t misunderstood my intentions Scott. There is one thing I would encourage you to consider: there is a dark side to knowledge. I don’t know if you are a Star Wars fan but just like there was a dark side to the force, knowledge can also be evil. Let your search for knowledge begin with seeking God; knowing Him, having a relationship with Him where He can guide you will lead to a pure and noble knowledge. Turning the order around, seeking knowledge so you can know God, could lead you down the wrong path.

  • Scott Wade says:

    Don’t take what I say so seriously. I don’t use emotions very much ,but shock is something I usually express. lol doctor thought I was bi-polar too. I think that makes me like Isaac Newton. He’s my favorite genius because we act a lot a like. However, I don’t think people like you would actually like spending time with a person like him.

    God compelled me to say one last thing.

    That’s is in regards to knowledge. It never suggested to use the bible.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Again, I am sorry Scott if it appears that I am being disingenuous with my comments. If there are specific issues that you would like to talk about I am open to that. Let me know what topics you would like to interact on.

    I will not be surprised at all that you will be talking with God. God does not hide Himself and is abundantly generous with His communication with us. So if you desire to hear from God and speak with Him I know He will be there to connect with you.

  • Scott Wade says:

    “how can it be a possible explanation” Sorry, I fixing to to rant about that for the next week to myself. Probably saying something like this “and that comes from a bunch of people that would say it comes from God”.

    No, you are cherry picking your comments and what comment you reply to. I will not have no more. When I’m genuinely trying to help you help me. That’s what it is all about.

    I’m not coming to church when I can bypass the middleman and talk with it directly. You all have faith and so do I. In fact my faith is so strong that I can indeed ” cast mountains” giving that if I am wrong I am going to hell. In retrospect you all aren’t putting nothing on the line. So, I say I have more faith than you so don’t be surprised when I’m talking with God.

    Cheers

    This will be my last comment. Feel free to message my Facebook account if you feel compelled to talk to me.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Scott, I am not trying to shame you, and I am sorry if my comments came across that way. I just wanted to point out that your statement that the Bible “comes from the people that invented the first written language and the reason for inventing written language was to write done the bible” does not reflect the evidence we have for the history of written languages nor does it reflect the evidence we have for the authorship and collection of the biblical documents. If you have evidence to the contrary I would be interested in seeing it.

    Your message seems to indicate that at one time you considered yourself a Christian. What changed that for you?

  • Scott Wade says:

    I am not sure how that can be a possible explanation of where the Bible comes from Scott, because it was written over a span of 1500 years. Some of the documents in the Bible were written as late as 90 AD.

    Really!? “how can it be a possible explanation”. I see you stopped using your brain for a second or it’s just a simple mistake but knowing I’m dealing with people that are partial to their own cause I know it’s not a mistake.

    You spend to much time in the Bible. Because anybody that has learned how to patent their own Idea will tell you I’m making a good guess in regards to my education on the subject (patent/inventing). You can either work with me or against me.

    I know myself enough to know that when people like you think it some sort of competition and go to try to shame me I tend to blow the !%*% up and thrash everything you let come out of your mouth. I’m not here for that so before I waste any more knowledge with closed minded people I’ll continue going about it the way I want to.

  • Scott Wade says:

    Well, Jamie that’s exactly why I pointed that out about the Bible. I can tell you this it’s better to say that than telling people it came from God which just makes you and everybody else look foolish for saying it. I know when I was a christian that’s what came to mind when I heard it.

    My goal is not to discredit you or your faith. My goal is the same as yours. I don’t expect people just to roll over and except what I am saying. In fact I expect the opposite. Oddly Christians have talked better to me than the atheist that claim to believe in science.

    I do at least thank you for at least not resorting to fighting like children by calling people names.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Moody, your question is an important one. The more we are understanding about our universe the more likely it appears to be fined tuned by a super intelligence. The values of the 4 main forces governing the structure of the universe (Gravity, Electromagnetic, Strong Nuclear and Weak Nuclear forces) to have been set within the first one millionth of a second. In order for the universe as we know it to exist, those forces could not deviate from what they are by a staggeringly small degree. The odds of those forces hitting that unbelievable sweet spot by mere chance is statistically impossible. More and more experts are recognizing that a super intelligence was active in the designing of our universe. Men like Fred Hoyle (the guy who coined the phrase “Big Bang”) said, “My atheism was greatly shaken by these developments” (quoted by Gregg Easterbrook) Theoretical Physicist Paul Davies wrote, “There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all….It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe….The impression of design is overwhelming” (

      Cosmic Blueprint

    , p.203)

    The existence of life in our universe is also being revealed as more of an anomaly then we had previously presumed. Currently experts have identified over 200 factors vital for life to exist on a planet. If any one of those were missing, life on that planet would be impossible. The statical analysis of the known universe based on that understanding suggests that life in the universe is rare indeed. Peter Schenkel, a member of the Interplanetary Society, wrote, “In light of new findings and insights, we should quietly admit that the early estimates [of the number of planets capable of supporting life] may no longer be tenable.” (SETI Requires a Skeptical Reappraisal)

    So the fact that the universe exists, and that our planet is uniquely positioned for intelligent life, is pointing more and more people to the conclusion that an Almighty God has created us for a purpose. What conclusions would you draw from that evidence Moody?

  • Sean says:

    If one practices a belief or disbelief, it is all done due to one being located at a distance from the truth, at that moment.

    Now, if one is located at a distance from the truth, this also means that one is located within the zone of less than truth. Therefore, if one sticks to one’s beliefs, this means that one has chosen to remain at a distance from the truth, and thus will forever remain within the zone of less than truth.

    In turn, a gap is maintained, between you, and the truth.

    Religion is designed such that the entire world can be, and will be, deceived.

    With religious people sticking to their beliefs, they all in turn keep themselves at a distance from the truth, and thus they all remain within their own specific corners, with there own specific religions. None of them are interested in proceeding towards the truth. Instead, the all remain stationery.

    Thus a huge gap is maintained between religious people and the truth, and this gap provides a Satan or Devil character with enormous room to work within, to deceive the whole world. This is a no fail system.

    As far as the truth goes, you can use your head to find it. Today’s physicists have chosen not to do that. Today’s physicists have chosen to keep science and religion separate, thus the outside of the universe, a.k.a. the religious afterlife side, is currently excluded from science. Thus today’s physicists can not understand things such as Particle/Wave duality, or action at a distance, or entangled pairs, etc. Yet all of these are simple to understand if you include the laws of physics of the outside of the universe, rather than just accept the laws of physics present on the inside.

    But like I said, as far as the truth goes, you can use your head to find it. For instance, anyone can discover what is known as Einstein’s Special theory of Relativity. If you passed grade 9, then you can do it. You just have to look at the truth concerning “motion”, and presto bingo, you soon independently derive all of the Special theory of Relativity equations, including the Lorentz Transformation equations. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKAwpEetJ-Q&list=PL3zkZRUI2IyBFAowlUivFbeBh-Mq7HdoQ

  • Moody says:

    Hi Jamie,

    I noticed that origin of the universe was mentioned in this series of comments. You brought up that “we can deduce that the universe has a beginning” and it is an observation that has been supposed by multiple discipline of science. But how did you go from this scientific observation that the universe has a beginning to the concept of a anthropocentric creator? That what I would like to know.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    I am not sure how that can be a possible explanation of where the Bible comes from Scott, because it was written over a span of 1500 years. Some of the documents in the Bible were written as late as 90 AD. Obviously there were other written works before this, so your explanation doesn’t seem to fit the evidence we have. Even the oldest documents in the Bible were written by Moses who lived around 1400-1500 BC. Some Egyptian hieroglyphics predate that by hundreds of years.

    I think the Bible is a perennial ‘Best Seller’ more because of its content then the fact that it is so old. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself; it tells us who He is and how we can have a relationship with Him. Since we were created to know God and enjoy Him fully, it makes sense that such a book would garner so much interest.

    Have you had opportunity to discover what God says about Himself in the Bible?

  • Scott Wade says:

    And will say this one last thing for now. There has been nothing I have learned throughout my life that haven’t used to figure out God.

  • Scott Wade says:

    Since you like thinking about the subject as much as I do. You want to know were the Bible comes comes from? It comes from the people that invented the first written language and the reason for inventing written language was to write done the bible.

    It’s logical but I could show a lot of connections throughout history that can back that up. Why do you think it’s the all time world history best seller? Because it was the first book to be written. That’s pretty witty and I came to that realization from learning how to patent ideas. You start seeing the implication of someone having a monopoly on something like that and it makes total sense.

  • Scott Wade says:

    Are you suggesting that the Creator/Energy is not bound by the Laws of nature?

    No, I would say that it or they dictate themselves. Personally I’m not going to get into saying what the creator is about or if it can be talked to but I know its important enough to me to at least try. The reason I will not say what it’s about is because in order to do so we would need to be the creator. I will not speak on someone else’s behalf unless they ask.

    People are always saying that there is a code of some sort in the bible. If you think “God” is going to let you decrypt it with a computer, that’s sound laughable to me. I think I am onto something myself whether it’s kosher or not with tradition. What I’m trying to do is bring your faith and science together. So, far I think I’m doing pretty good job.

    That would mean he/she is not the Energy we see in our universe. That would also mean the observable properties of the energy we know in our universe cannot be applied to a Supernatural Energy. So how do know that Energy exists? How can you know anything about that Energy?

    There’s a good answer for every good question. You are going in a different direction than me. That’s obviously since you didn’t come up with the idea. If you want to know about all that stuff you have questions about then figure it out and I would suggest using science.

    I don’t like posting stuff like this out but it’s important that you understand I’m what people call a genius. Had a doctor run a test on me not that I was aware of it happening. I was talking to her because I was having trouble fitting in.

    Really, if I was trying to pull a fast one on someone for money or something of the like I would just write a book. Ha Ha Ha

    Let’s talk about spiritual awareness for a second. The difference between animals and spirits like us from what we understand would be to recognize ourselves in the mirror. Well 3 other “animals” can recognize themselves in the mirror too. A cat or a dog would think there’s another animal on the other side of it. Science proved that and you may not like that it doesn’t exactly fit in with your view, but it does prove we have a spirit.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    You are right Scott, everything within Nature must have a beginning. The laws of nature require that energy has a beginning. That means that something (I would suggest Someone) Created the energy of our universe, and is outside of the Laws of Nature and has no beginning. Are you suggesting that the Creator/Energy is not bound by the Laws of nature? That would mean he/she is not the Energy we see in our universe. That would also mean the observable properties of the energy we know in our universe cannot be applied to a Supernatural Energy. So how do know that Energy exists? How can you know anything about that Energy?

  • Scott Wade says:

    Jamie one mistake you are making is thinking it’s a he. The creator has no need for a gender. I see you’re trying to undermine what I am saying by suggesting that there is some thing that created energy like your God. Think about for a second it implies that your God had a source that it came from as well. The concept “beginning” is just that a concept that really can’t explain what we are really talking about.

    Although I do suspect that the second substance is what we humans think of as a gender. Energy being the male and the other substance being the female giving birth to everything or vice versa.

    When you express your desire to talk to our Creator via science, what are you envisioning?
    A conversation like this full of questions.

    I post my web address to my last message and I’m not seeing it so I’m thinking my web address is the reasons I’m not seeing it so I’m reiterating it again without the address.

    Thank you for your conversion Jamie I have truly enjoyed it.

  • Scott Wade says:

    First mistake you’re making is thinking it is a he. The creator has no need for a gender although I do suspect that the second substances might actually be what we human think of as a gender. Energy being the male and the other substance being female. And perhaps that is the source you’re referring to.

    When you express your desire to talk to our Creator via science, what are you envisioning?
    A conversation like this full of questions. My website is https://www.facebook.com/GodthruScience

    I could use a member with a open mind like yours

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Scott, it is an interesting idea you have. Would you say that the Creator is energy or is he source of energy? If He is energy then He is actually an it, an impersonal force that has no will of its own but just is. If He is the source of energy then He is someone that you can talk to and have a relationship with.

    I suppose if we are talking about the Laws of thermodynamics, it is probably more correct to say that in a “closed system” energy is not created or destroyed. But that doesn’t address where the closed system originated. The other component of thermodynamics that must also be taken into consideration is that while energy is not created or destroyed, it will always deteriorate or dissipates toward equilibrium. That means energy will eventually become inert over time. That is one of the reasons that we know the universe had a beginning. If the universe was eternal all the stars would have burnt out, and the temperature across the entire universe would be absolute zero and there would be no movement. Obviously that is not the case, so we can deduce that our universe had a beginning.

    When you express your desire to talk to our Creator via science, what are you envisioning? If you are saying that by studying the universe you get to know God, you are in good company. Johannes Kepler described science as, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” and Louis Pasteur is quoted, “The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.”

  • Scott Wade says:

    Well, I’m hoping to find a way to talk to God through science to find God where religion failed. God is the creator of all things and the creator is energy. Anybody with a bible can verify what I’m about to say. In regards to the Alpha and Omega the beginning and end of the bible better known as God there is actually one (maybe two) substance in science that has the same God like properties which is energy because like the Alpha and Omega energy can neither be created or destroyed which means it was the beginning and it will be the end. This implies were are talking about the very same thing. I guess that’s not really science. More or less logic but I’m trying to use science in order to talk with our creator.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Thanks for your participation in the conversation here. It is great to have someone with such a wealth of knowledge and experience. What science have you been involved in for 60+ years?

    Over your years of study/research/practice has your scientific mind directed your moral and ethical thinking? Or vice versa? How?

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