Saturday, November 27, 2010

What Science Knows, and How It Knows It

By James Franklin, 283 pages, Encounter Books.

Franklin shows that, more than ever, science and the Church need each other. Both scientists and theologians are fighting against the current lack of confidence in the existence of truth. Atheists batter the Church's teaching on the existence of God and the need for absolute moral truths, and many people batter the scientist's ability to build our understanding of physical reality.

Franklin discusses the extent to which some current thinkers, including American feminists, French philosophers, and many other academics, question even the mathematical truth of 3*2=2*3. These philosophers try to distort mathematical truth and scientific hypotheses regarding such discoveries as New Zealand being comprised of 2 major islands.

What Science Knows criticizes this kind of skepticism. Franklin notes that many thinkers have set up their own arguments against the truth in such a way that it's no use even arguing with them. No matter what you say in favor of the truth, they will accuse you of being overly-situated in your culture.

Certain sociologists, in other words, have argued that truth is only relative to the culture and sociological situation in which someone lives. The argument goes like this: Pre-industrial, pre-scientific people living near a volcano who believe that the gods live in the volcano, are every bit as truthful as scientists are about the nature of the volcano - and no one has the right to challenge this traditional theology.

Thus we have ended up in our culture with the fuzzy idea that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and that no one opinion is more correct than another. (This becomes problematic when we think of a neo-Nazi's views on Jews or Slavic people.)

What Science Knows takes the very strong position that truth does indeed exist. However, the author does not look to science for all answers. Refreshingly for a scientist, Franklin argues that ethical and religious truths also exist, and that science cannot always investigate these 2 exhaustively.

He is a humble scientist, who avoids the scientific arrogance which says that science will eventually know everything. He points to the problem of human consciousness, and how after more than a century of science and billions of dollars in research grants, we are no closer to scientifically understanding this basic human condition than we were 100 years ago.

Thus Franklin believes that the truth exists, but that more than science is needed to understand it. The greatest part of this book, however, is taken up with refuting the feminist and sociological attacks against the scientific method itself, and explaining how the method works.

What Science Knows argues that science is not so far-fetched and not unattainable to the common person: "Science agrees in large part with common sense on the role of space and time." As Franklin notes, it is the professional skeptics who knock every teaching on the truth, including ethical, religious, and scientific, who lack common sense.

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