Revelation is the complement, not the replacement, of reason (Countering Scientism 1)

by May 22, 2014

Suppose your mother makes a magnificent cake as a surprise for you. Suppose also you have a scientistic colleague who claims the capability to answer all questions related to the cake, and therefore summons a battalion of science specialists. For example, dieticians to answer questions about calories and nutritive values of the cake’s ingredients; chemists, about the bonding of those ingredients; mathematicians, about the equations describing the behavior of the involved fundamental particles.

Yet none of them would be able to tell why the cake was made. For that, you would have to ask your mother. Suppose your colleague rejects such an “unscientific” source of knowledge and instead adjudges: “Because science hasn’t found the purpose for which the cake was made, it has no purpose – it just happened.”

How would your mother respond to such dismissal of her labor of love by a “just-happened” hypothesis?

Probably disbelief, dismay, outrage.

Suppose instead that your mother, being a levelheaded lady, dismisses the hypothesis and calmly informs: “Today is the silver jubilee of the day when your first tooth emerged. To commemorate that day, I wanted to make for you something soft and sweet and special – hence this cake.”

The world’s best scientists won’t be able to figure out why your mother made the cake.

Could the world’s best scientists have been able to figure that out?

Unlikely, impossible even.

Does their inability invalidate this information?

Not at all; it still remains valid and valuable.

A similar dynamic applies to the study of the universe. The world’s best scientists working in their specialties may determine what it is made of and how it works. Their intellectual zeal notwithstanding, they won’t be able to answer questions about the purpose of the universe. And this inability is not their fault – it’s the fault of the overzealous proponents of scientism who have unfairly cornered scientists with such out-of-syllabus questions.

To know the universe’s purpose, we need to turn to the maker of the universe: God. He offers answers through revelation in the form of scriptural wisdom.

On encountering such scriptural revelation, skeptics shriek, “By accepting revelation, you will end up rejecting reason – the source of all our scientific knowledge.”

But revelation doesn’t subvert reason – it complements reason. It grants us access to vital information that unaided reason cannot reach. Moreover, it is reason that helps us recognize the need for revelation. And it is reason that helps us comprehend revelation. Going back to your mother’s purpose for making the cake, you would need reason to understand her “revelation.” Your pet dog, lacking the reasoning faculty, wouldn’t understand it.

Thus, reason and revelation can work in tandem to further our quest for knowledge.


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