Scientists? What do *they* know?

Not as much as some would have us believe it seems.

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The blue whale model - 30m long

Recently I visited the [Natural History Museum](http://www.nhm.ac.uk/) in London with my family. We’ve been before and so this time skipped the long queues for the dinosaur exhibit and went direct to the mammals and particularly the aquatic mammal exhibit. You see I remembered going as a kid and being awed by the sheer size of the full-scale model of a blue whale they have there. I hoped my children would be similarly impressed. My hopes were fulfilled as they stood and gaped at the room-filling model and the real blue whale skeleton next to it.

What then interested me and Mrs C further was the information around the room. They have a skeleton of a sperm whale including a mock up of the spermiceti organs in it’s head. This is what gives the sperm whale its characteristic shape and name. As other aquatic mammals don’t possess this feature we wondered what it might be for. The refreshingly honest answer on the panel was “we don’t know”. It _might_ be to aid buoyancy and swift asc/descendency, it _might_ be used as a kind of weapon during inter-male fights and it _might_ be used to aid echolocation (finding your way around in the dark using sounds) but the scientists just don’t know. Then we moved to the panel about whale communication and we found out that as whales have no vocal chords, the science community is still unclear exactly how they make noises. It’s possible it’s through cavities in their upper head but again the real answer is “we don’t know”. By the time we got to the narwhal exhibit we were looking for the “we don’t know” part. In this case it was the purpose of the spectacular tusk on the male’s head. Could it be for fighting again? Perhaps it’s the aquatic equivalent of the peacock’s tail or the Lion’s mane? Again nobody really knows for sure.

This is all fine and I applaud the honesty in putting a simple “we don’t know” where applicable (if only Christians would do the same instead of spouting off about “why” something happened the way it did) but what bothers me is the way in which science is often reported. Yes this is not the scientists fault but plenty of amateur scientists and media reports often spout scientific _theory_ as fact. I find this concerning. If science can’t determine the role or function of a part of a living creature, why do we so often hear _theory_ about the behaviour and fate of extinct species portrayed as fact? My five-year-old recently told me about the colours, skin and even feathers of certain dinosaur species – basing his statements on what he had seen and read. That’s fine, he is five after all, but what bothers me is the way so many adults will blindly accept the same “evidence” as a basis of their own belief (and that is what it is by the way). Worse, many of those same adults will scoff at those who believe in God as creator because there is “no evidence”.

I appreciate I am getting into dangerous territory here for a Christian….but here’s the thing. I happen to believe in God, I believe he is all powerful and that he created the earth and everything in it. Can I say the exact process through which he did that? No, I wasn’t there and the only account I have to go by is somewhat poetic and was written sometime after the fact by a human trying to express things which are probably way beyond his or my capacity of understanding. Do I believe God is capable of creating the “heavens and the earth” in 6 days? Absolutely. Could he do it by simply speaking? I believe so. Can I prove it? No. Do I _know_ whether it was six periods of 24 hours or (as some recent theories suggest) six longer periods? No I don’t know. Does it matter that much to me? No.

Now some would read the paragraph above and mock me for the holes in it. I know this because others have done so in the past. Yet those that mock, it seems often base their own belief on similar holes. The difference between the two is that I believe God knows the answers and I am happy to accept that right now finding out the scientific process by which a Narwhal came to have a tusk and what it is for is not really going to affect my life greatly nor the lives of any human that I know of. Those promoting the scientific viewpoint (not necessarily the scientific community themselves) seem to imply we should be uneasy with holes in our beliefs.

Perhaps being content to hold less-tightly to the things we don’t understand is part of the contentment in all situations that the apostle Paul wrote of. I don’t know but I do know that I absolutely love the Natural History Museum and the fact that much of it is arranged to promote a theory that I don’t subscribe to doesn’t bother me at all – particularly because it is a theory with at least as many holes and gaps as the belief I hold to of how creation/nature got here. The NHM is a great place, particularly if you have younger children – just get there early and be prepared to queue for some time to to see the dinosaur exhibit.