Brian Cox: Four Things We Need To Know About Science

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In a recent BBC Radio Four interview, Professor Brian Cox, who is best known for his science programs on the BBC and is seen as the natural replacement for David Attenborough, said there are four things that everyone should understand about science:

  • That the universe began in a big bang
  • That everything is made of atoms
  • That we share a common ancestor (Darwin’s Theory of Evolution)
  • The theory of gravity

Cox says the fact we know that the universe began in a big bang 13.82 billion years ago, or that we’ve measured the age of the Earth (4.54bn years) are "culturally important statements.” “We know the story of the origin and evolution of the universe and the origin and evolution of life on Earth,” he continued.

While we need to know about atoms and gravity, why do we need to know about the big bang and Darwinian evolution? What do they have to do with science? Nothing! There has not been one technological or medical advancement that could not have come about without a belief in evolution.

Professor Cox even boldly asserted that “we know” that the big bang occurred 13.82 billion years ago and that “we know” the origin and evolution of life on Earth. Yet even non-Christian scientists have questioned the big bang, arguing that it “relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed—inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples.” Moreover, when it comes to the origin of life on Earth, evolutionary Professor Paul Davies admitted, “Nobody knows how a mixture of lifeless chemicals spontaneously organized themselves into the first living cell.”*

There are, however, two things that everyone should know when it comes to science: 1) science is interpreted through a worldview, and 2) the difference between observational and historical science.

A worldview is a basic set of beliefs that we use to interpret the world around us. What many people may not realise is that Professor Cox is an atheist, and as an atheist the big bang and Darwinian evolution are an essential part of his worldview.

Modern science, however, came about through the working out of a particular worldview and that worldview was Christianity.** For example, you need to believe there is law and order in the world before you go out there looking for it. In fact, the universe needs to be orderly in order for science to work. Yet why should the universe be orderly if it is just a cosmic accident? The universe obeys certain laws and is orderly because God is a lawgiver and a God of order.

Secondly, Cox confuses the difference between observational (atoms, gravity) and historical science (big bang, evolution).*** For instance, historical science has to do with one’s beliefs about distinct, non-observable events that happened in the past. On the other hand, observational science encompasses finding out about how things in the present world operate and being able to repeat, observe and test those findings. When it comes to the debate over creation and evolution, we must understand that the big bang and Darwinian evolution are part of historical science and not observational science. Rejecting the big bang and Darwinian evolution is not rejecting science but an ideology.

The debate over creation and evolution is not a battle between science and the Bible, but between two different worldviews: naturalism and biblical theism, and how science is to be interpreted in light of them.

* Paul Davies, Australian Centre for Astrobiology, Sydney, New Scientist 179, no. 2403 (2003): 32.

** Professor of Social Sciences Rodney Stark states that “it was not the “wisdom of the east” that gave rise to science, nor did Zen meditation turn people’s hearts against slavery . . . science was not the work of Western secularists or even deists; it was entirely the work of devout believers in an active, conscious, creator God.” Rodney Stark, For The Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery (Princeton University Press: Princeton, New Jersey, 2003), 376.

*** Even evolutionary scientists recognize this distinction, as Harvard Professor E.O. Wilson pointed out: “If a moving automobile were an organism, functional biology would explain how it is constructed and operates, while evolutionary biology would reconstruct its origin and history—how it came to be made and its journey thus far.” E.O. Wilson, From So Simply a Beginning (New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2006), 12.

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