Why study science


Christianity makes every Christian a theologian. We can't help it, we are fascinated by God's every quality. Power, wisdom and knowledge are his, as are holiness, invariance, and righteousness. In him are reconciled the irreconcilable properties of justice beyond the ken of man and mercy beyond conception, the demand for absolute and invariant perfection in a people who are utterly fallen. There is nothing untrue in him and there is no failure in his undertakings. All this robed in consummate and everlasting glory. These things are so great and so alien that we want to know them; we think about what he has said, what he has done and what he will do one day soon, we want to understand his ways, we imitate what he does as children might imitate their fathers. We'd like to hang out with him if only we were not men of unclean lips living in a people of unclean lips. We would give ourselves up to the fire for him; as C.S. Lewis put it in Perelandra, we would rejoice in walking on our heads for him if he asked. We want to know about the most fascinating and fulfilling thing in all the universe, and so we study him.
We are theologians. Why should we want to know about science? Hah, I don't have that answer. But I have a few thoughts:
Romans 1:20 reads in part "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made." The creation may not teach us about God's holiness or mercy, but it most surely evidences his power, subtlety and wisdom.
I intended a quick example. As I considered the subject, I became overwhelmed with what God has done, so it won't be as quick as intended.
Consider embryology. Human infants are composed of somewhere around one U.S. trillion (one million million) cells. Some simple math shows that starting from a single fertilised egg, the embryo adds on average more than 50,000 new cells every second – cells of the correct type, cells built in specific order, cells that often migrate through the body to reach a proper destination (with neither eyes nor ears, in the pitch dark). In this nine months, a single progenitor cell forms into all the bones, muscles, ligaments, cartilage and neurons, the organs, glands and systems that the body requires to sustain life. All these things form with the right size and configuration, in the right place, with the proper connections between them for correct operation. The paristaltic movement of the esophagus and the gut run in the right directions, the arch of the foot curves properly, the body temperature, carbon dioxide and glucose levels are exquisitely controlled, the muscles used for breathing are properly coordinated, blood pressure is accurately controlled, etc.
For the stomach (a simple example), the progenitor cell produces chief cells, which produce enzymes that both help protect the stomach and which break down proteins, the parietal cells, which produce the acid of the stomach, and the goblet cells, which produce mucous to protect the stomach from itself; also layers of muscles, connective tissue, arteries, veins, capillaries, lymphatic vessels. In the eye, it produces the lens cells, almost unique in being clear and in living apart from an immediate blood supply; the rods and cones for vision, organized into the fovea for high-acuity color vison and the rest of the retina, more sensitive to light and movement, and the blood supply to the retina, running in front of the retina (and providing in proper lighting an amusing view of one's own red blood cells). For the immune system, it produces the mast cells which are critical to the innate immune response, neutrophils which expend all their energy in a single burst of oxidizing reaction, the millions of variations of B cells, long-lived immune cells, each producing a specific antibody as needed; natual killer cells, macrophages, helper T cells, cytoxic T cells, regulatory T cells (keeping us from autoimmune diseases), and so on.
The list is much longer, but this is representative. Consider: the liver can detoxify just about anything. The motile cilia (hairs) in the lungs sweep mucous out and their loss leads to smoker's cough, while the non-motile cilia of the semicircular canals of the inner ear provide balance; osteoclasts and osteoblasts constantly dissolve and rebuild our bones; we have a variety of neurons in our brains and spine and skin and running through our organs, and glial cells to support them and make them run properly; sweat glands, olfactory nerve endings, capillaries, toenail-forming cells, melanocytes to tan and protect our sking, respiratory tissue, stem cells, glandular cells, nephronic kidney cells, and on and on.
An astonishing thing, the specialization of cells from a single progenitor, and the building of a complete and functional body from a single cell. How much it takes to build our bodies, how much it takes to run the things, and how marvellously they work! Even our advanced medicine is usually designed to help the cells do what they are supposed to do.
But more astonishing is this: the programming of these cells, a long but straightforward set of molecules called DNA that form the 23 chromosome pairs, about three U.S. billion "base pairs" long. In your body, they have been copied from cell to cell so that the complete programming for your body – from how to make it to how to run every function – is tied up in every cell that has a nucleus (a few don't).
Eternal power and divine nature. You'd better believe it. The subtlety, the wisdom, the power and glory of it goes on and on to depths that humans cannot even imagine.
Science pursues truth. For an institution devised by man, it's about as honest as it could be. It is designed to test every theory and assertion, to not be a respector of men. Its process assumes people are honest, but even Hwang Woo-Suk, the disgraced South Korean stem cell researcher, was eventually caught in his fabrications. And its pursuit of truth is effective: science fertilizes the world's crops with nitrogen pulled from the air, it has eliminated smallpox and is heading towards the elimination of polio and maybe even malaria. For those who use Logos software, the Libronix digital library is made possible in part by modern science.
We should not be ignorant. If I hear one more creationist say that evolution is impossible due to the second law of thermodynamics, I may go berserk. (Okay, not really). You would not correct a mathematician's proof of the Poincare theorem unless you were a mathematician and you would not reprove your neurologist on his brain surgery technique unless you were a brain surgeon. So don't correct your biologist because you heard somewhere that the second law of thermodynamics makes evolution impossible. You will merely look like a dork. There are ways of addressing the issue of evolution from a creationist standpoint, but you must understand science and what it is about if you are going to address the issue.
And there are worse things than ignorance. Consider the pharisees:

Jesus answered them, "I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?" And they discussed it among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?" But if we say, 'From man," we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." (Mt 21:24-27, ESV)

The pharisees did not care whence John's baptism came. They did not care about the truth. They only cared about winning. They saw the miracles, they would even see the resurrection of Lazarus, they heard Christ's words and knew them to be true to the scripture, and yet that was not a concern. The pharisees chose ignorance. If we care only about winning against science, even on an issue about which we are correct, then we too choose ignorance. Truth is still truth even if you don't believe it. To ignore truth is to accept untruth.

Thoughts

I speak highly of science. I have a good opinion of its ideals. But science is neither god nor panacea. The same science that cleans our sewage gives us nuclear waste that will not go away. The same science that protects us with pasteurization gives us new and better abortifacients. Science is not inherently immoral, but it is clearly amoral. And while it can give sight to the blind, make the lame walk, cleanse the lepers and make the deaf to hear, while it may even resuscitate the dead, it has no good news for the poor and will not change the spiritual state of man.