Scientific By-ends

“Scientists will often portray the Big Bang as if it were known fact, but it isn’t,” says Brian Clegg, a Cambridge-educated science writer. “It’s a theory within a very speculative field of science, cosmology, which is about as speculative as it gets. I’m not saying the Big Bang theory isn’t true, but it’s a work in progress.”[1]

Time magazine asked Clegg, “What are some of the theory’s major flaws?” Clegg answered, “There’s an expectation that the Big Bang should have produced a rippling effect, almost like an aftershock, where we could see subtle variations in gravity that have carried on ever since then. A lot of money has been spent on experiments to try and detect these gravity waves and they literally have never, ever found anything.”

Commenting on Clegg’s recent book, Before the Big Bang, the Time interviewer admitted, “I was disturbed to read that many scientists refuse to question the Big Bang theory because they’d built their careers on it.”

Clegg explained, “The fact is science is like any other social network. It’s a lot easier to go along with the crowd. Every now and then there’s a revolution in science, a paradigm shift, like when Einstein came along, but it’s so easy to lock people into a particular way of thinking, of trying to build on the ideas that are in vogue. In the end, there is almost a fashion in science—ideas that are in, ideas that are out.”

Brian Clegg is not saying these things because he’s a Christian or a creationist; he’s neither. But his viewpoint makes his comments all the more valuable. What he shows is that science is not a dispassionate, objective, neutral pursuit of truth. The ideas wearing the latest designer clothing get a lot more traction than the ideas clothed in polyester or, worse, homespun.

Mr. By-ends of Fair-speech

In other words, one of their own is saying that scientists are like Mr. By-ends in Pilgrim’s Progress. A by-end is a secret selfish purpose—what we would call an “ulterior motive.” How can one come by such a name? John Bunyan puts the answer on Mr. By-ends’s own lips.

The worst that ever I did to give them an occasion to give me this name was, that I had always the luck to jump in my judgment with the present way of the times, whatever it was.

Mr. By-ends was married to Lady Feigning’s daughter. They were a good match since they had the same views. As Mr. By-ends explains,

It is true we somewhat differ in religion from those of the stricter sort, yet but in two small points; first, we never strive against wind and tide; secondly, we are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers; we love much to walk with him in the street, if the sun shines, and the people applaud him.

In the modern Western world, Religion has had to give up his silver slippers to Science. The sun shines on evolution, and many influential people applaud it. It’s easy to walk down the street with Science as long as you, too, will applaud his opinions.

Science and Truth

To compare scientists to Mr. By-ends is not to suggest that none of them care at all about truth or that they never discover any. By God’s common grace, science has done much of value for mankind—from the elimination of polio to the invention of bright LED stoplights. Relating the majority of scientists to a deplorable character in Pilgrim’s Progress only says about them what Paul would, that despite being faced with clear evidence in nature for God, they refuse to love and obey Him; unrighteous scientists suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18). They are neither neutral nor objective; no one is. Everyone either loves God or loves merely himself.

Something else Brian Clegg told Time magazine about the Big Bang illustrates this fact perfectly. “Why did it happen at all? There is no sensible answer for the Big Bang unless you move over into the religious side and say, ‘Well, it began because God began it.’ That’s why quite a lot of scientists are nervous about the Big Bang. They quite prefer having something that doesn’t require somebody sort of poking a finger in and saying, ‘Now it’s starting.’”[2]

So scientists, just like Mr. By-ends, tend to take positions that are fashionable. But fashions change. And why? Because of overwhelming scientific evidence? Sometimes. But Clegg says that in one all-important area of science some scientists are changing their minds because they “quite prefer” a cosmology without God.

Stephen Hawking, one of the most fashionable scientists in the English-speaking world, recently wrote a popular-level science book called The Grand Design, which made international headlines. In the opening paragraph he asks, “Did the universe need a creator?” His answer is no, and though he still assumes that there was a Big Bang, he proposes an additional idea that escapes the implication that Somebody sort of poked a finger in to get it started. He uses the “multiverse” concept to suggest that an infinite number of different universes may exist. Ours just happens to be one that can sustain life.

Science and Faith

There’s actually no conflict between science rightly practiced and faith rightly understood. There is, however, a very real conflict between the Father of Lies (John 8:44) and the Father of Lights (James 1:17). Those who suppress the truth will never make the right interpretation of the evidence in front of them. But those related rightly to the Lord will be starting with the only presupposition which makes sense of the world—“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7).

In Pilgrim’s Progress, Mr. By-ends explains to two friends why he’s not walking with Christian and Hopeful. “I am for religion in what, and so far as the times, and my safety, will bear it,” he says. But Christians sometimes have to live the way Mr. By-ends describes Christian and Hopeful: “They are for holding their notions, though all other men are against them.”

[1] “Q&A: What Came Before the Big Bang?” by M. J. Stephey. Time, Aug 13, 2009. http://bit.ly/cleggbigbang

[2] Peter Galison, writing in the left-leaning online magazine, Slate, corroborates Clegg’s claim. He speaks of a “group of Cambridge physicists . . . who were pushing for a no-first-moment account: a steady-state cosmology that would wipe out the big bang, undermining an overly religious moment of creation.” “Making Sense of the Multiverse: So, what does Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design tell us about God?” by Peter Galison. Slate, Oct 10, 2010. http://slate.me/slatebigbang

This article originally appeared in BJU Press’ Modern Pilgrim. Used by permission.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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