The scientist’s song


These things did Thomas count as real:
  The warmth of blood, the chill of steel,
  The grain of wood, the heft of stone,
  The last frail twitch of flesh and bone.

The vision of his skeptic mind
  Was keen enough to make him blind
  To any unexpected act
  Too large for his small world of fact.

His reasoned certainties denied
  That one could live when one had died,
  Until his fingers read like Braille
  The markings of the spear and nail.

(Thomas Troeger)

We sang this hymn Sunday, and I think it’s going to be a favorite of mine – not simply because of the tactile first verse, but also because it describes the plight of the scientist so very well: Science can only study what it can see, and those who only study what they can see tend to believe that’s all there is. We are thankful for the consistency and predictability of the universe, but we become lulled into thinking that this is how it must always operate.

And of course, skepticism is a good thing. There are many claims, but few are true. Everything must be tested, and again the scientist thinks that the only way to test is through reproducibility and measurability. But there are things that are not reproducible and there are things that are not measurable. These may only be measured through indirection or witnesses.

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)