The Limits of Science

In the news recently was a report that the great mystery of how the first flowering plants evolved has still not been solved. Apparently this puzzled Charles Darwin right to the end of his life, so much so that he called it the “abominable mystery”.

Plants that produce flowers and bear their seeds in fruits make up the vast majority of all known living plants and they fill the earth with their wide variety of colours, shapes and form. The mystery was, and still is, that according to the fossil record, this huge diversity of flowering plants apparently appeared instantaneously on planet earth. It is almost as if they might have been created on one day. Of course, this defies a fundamental assumption of evolution (Darwinian and neo-Darwinian) that requires gradual change over a very long period of time, and at present there is no evolutionary explanation for this amazing phenomenon. Not that anyone in the scientific community these days finds this at all disturbing or undermining; it is just one of those mysteries that science will one day explain. Or not.

This news was reported the same week that the venerable Brian Cox, professor of physics and astronomy and presenter of popular level science, declared that there is no scientific basis for the existence of the human soul. He is a well-known atheist who never misses an opportunity to try to dispel belief in God. His recent utterances were on the Joe Rogan podcast, saying “there is no observable force - the soul - that interacts with the human body at the subatomic level”. The claim itself is hardly new; what is interesting is that it might be considered newsworthy. That there is no material explanation for an immaterial soul seems to be rather obvious. If it was made of something physical it wouldn’t be the soul but part of the body. The Christian doctrine of the soul has never had a physical basis, even at the “sub-atomic” level so you wouldn’t expect it to be measurable.

Consideration of the soul opens up another unexplained mystery: Even more baffling than flowering plants is the existence of immaterial consciousness. Some scientist now accept that consciousness cannot be physically observed and yet it seems to exist as a separate entity to the body and brain; as yet this cannot be explained.

As Christians we do not need science to prove our faith but it is always good to enjoy those moments when the limitations of scientific materialism are exposed and we see evidences for a creator in the kaleidoscopic array of flowering plants and the deep mystery of the human soul. 

Graham Nicholls is Director of Affinity


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