Question: What are the limitations of science?
What Are The Limitations Of Science?
Answer: Science struggles to provide answers for the big important questions in life. Humanity desperately wants to know the answers to these questions.
Science can do and has done much. Carrying out repeatable controlled experiments (scientific method) has given us antibiotics, helped put man on the moon, given us the computer and electricity.
Erwin Schrodinger (one of the great modern scientists) illustrated the limitations of science when he said; “Science puts everything in a consistent order but is ghastly silent about everything that really matters to us: beauty, color, taste, pain or delight, origins, God and eternity." 1
QUESTIONS THAT SCIENCE STRUGGLES TO PROVIDE ANSWERS FOR
1. Are my actions good or bad?
2. What is the point of living?
3. “Does God exist?
4. Did Jesus rise from the dead?
Question 1: Are my actions good or evil?
Science struggles to answer this most important question as you can’t do a repeatable controlled experiment to find out if a person’s actions are good or evil.
Erwin Schrodinger said; “The scientific picture of the world around me is very deficient … It knows nothing of ... good or bad ...”. 2
The effects of an atomic bomb can be analysed by the scientific method but science struggles to give us the answer to the question; “Should we drop a nuclear bomb on a city?” This is a moral question.
Einstein puts it well about the limitations of science to help us decide if something is good or evil. “You are right to speak of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn around and speak of the scientific foundations of morality.” and “every attempt to reduce ethnics to scientific formulae must fail” 3
Question 2: What is the point of living?
Science struggles to answer this most important question as you can’t do a repeatable controlled experiment to find out what a person’s ultimate purpose for being is.
Sir Peter Medawar in his book ‘Advice to a Young Scientist’ says;
"There is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit upon himself and upon his profession than roundly to declare - particularly when no declaration of any kind is called for - that science knows, or soon will know, the answers to all questions worth asking, and that questions which do not admit a scientific answer are in some way non-questions or 'pseudo-questions' that only simpletons ask and only the gullible profess to be able to answer ... The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike elementary questions having to do with first and last things - questions such as 'How did everything begin?'; 'What are we all here for?'; 'What is the point of living?'" 2
As the Oxford University Mathematics professor John Lennox points out; a physicist can analyse (Aunt Matilda’s) cake but the physicists will clearly not be able to tell you why (Aunt Matilda) made it. (From John Lennox's video Limitations of Science)
Man is a spiritual being and the history of mankind has been in reality a spiritual search ... a search to answer the three basic and very important questions; “Where did we come from?”; “What is our purpose for being here?” and “Where do we go when we die?” Humanity desperately seeks and needs answers to these questions.
Although science struggles to answer these three basic questions, satisfying answers to these questions have been found by millions of people by reading the Bible and acting on what it says to do ... put your faith and trust in the historical Jesus.
(See a list of people at the bottom of the page.)
Question 3: “Does God exist?
Science struggles to answer this most important question as you can’t do a repeatable controlled experiment to find out if God exists.
“The scientific picture of the world around me is very deficient … It knows nothing of beauty and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously. Science is reticent too when it is a question of the great Unity of which we somehow form a part, to which we belong. The most popular name for it in our time is God, with a capital “G”. 4
God is outside the scientific method. The God of the Bible is a person and He has a will. God is the Creator and is not subject to His Creation. God is outside space and time and is not affected by gravity or the Second Law of Thermodynamics etc. Because God is outside His Creation we must go to what He says about Himself. This can be found in the Bible.
Trying to use the scientific method to prove the existence of God will not be successful. As a sceptic I used to say to people; “Prove scientifically God exists and I’ll believe”. Now people could not answer my question. The reason is not because there is no evidence that God exists but that I was trying to force them to use the wrong method (the scientific method) to prove God’s existence. It is like telling a person to paint your house and you only allow them some paint and a calculator (instead of a paint brush). (Read my story)
The answer to the question; “What happens when we die?” is a very important question to ask as we will all leave this earth some time. Again a repeatable controlled experiment is the wrong tool to try and find the answer. Read the answer to the question: What happens when we die?
Read our answer to the question: Is there evidence that God exists?
Question 4: Did Jesus rise from the dead?
Science struggles to answer this most important question as you can’t do a repeatable controlled experiment to repeat any past event. All past events (whether it is the resurrection of Jesus of the assassination of Julius Caesar) are one-off and unique. ‘Science’ cannot go back in time of the Romans, replicate Pontius Pilate to sentence Jesus to death and see what happens when Jesus was placed in the grave!
The strength of the scientific method is it can repeat something over and over thus prove it is a fact. But we cannot repeat any historical event in the laboratory as the event is one-off and unique.
The question; “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” is essentially a historical question not a scientific question. The accuracy of the Bible which talks about the resurrection of the Jesus CAN be tested by the standard historical tests and the Bible passes these tests with flying colours.
Read the answer to our question: Is the New Testament a reliable historical document?
Read about the book “More Than A Carpenter” By Josh McDowell.
The scientific method is the right method when trying to develop an antibiotic. But science has limitations. We must know when we should use science or when it is of very limited use or of no use at all.
Science struggles with the big and very important questions of life ... questions that man longs to find the answers for. Questions like “What is good and what is evil?”; “Is there a God?”; “What is the point of living?” and historical questions like; “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” We urge you to read the Bible as it supplies answers to these questions.
Some people who have found answers to the purpose of life
5. Abuse, drugs, alcohol, violence, prison and divorce (Amazing book by Darin Carroll)
7. Sexual Abuse
8. Depression and sexual abuse (Amazing book by Kaylee Tucker)
10. Binge Drinking
13. Eating disorder
14. Lacking purpose
15. Low Self Esteem
1 Moore, Walter John. 1990. Schrödinger: Life and Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2 As quoted in ‘There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind’ written by Antony Flew (with Roy Abraham Varghese), Harper One Publications, New York, 2007.
3 Einstein and Religion, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1999, p69.
4 Sir Peter Medawar Advice to a Young Scientist, London, Harper and Row, 1979, p 31