Science vs. Theology? - Scientific Research: Good or Evil
Stig R Erlander & John E Portune
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH: Good or Evil Stig R. Erlander
IT HAS been reported that when the English scientist Michael Faraday discovered how to produce electricity by inventing the electric generator in the 1830's, someone questioned him negatively: "But what good is it?" With past, present and future electrical blackouts in major metropolitan areas, this question today seems rather stupid. But is it typical of present attitudes? Many scientific discoveries and research findings have been ignored because of a lack of vision by people who must see immediate results. Indeed, a scientist himself may not know at the time of his invention what the future use of that invention will be. Certainly Faraday could not envision the ultimate use of an electric generator. As far back as the 1890's, the famous electrical engineer Charles Proteus Steinmetz pointed out to a young newspaperman that the production of the first 60,000 kilowatt turbine generator was big news. This one generator produced as much energy as five million four hundred thousand men. Contrast this with the total slave population in 1860 — four million seven hundred thousand! Here was a machine which could more than replace the energy of all of the slave labor prior to the Civil War. This was certainly big news. Consider the invention of dynamite by Alfred Nobel, the famous Swedish scientist. In 1867, Nobel found that a safer explosive could be produced by mixing nitroglycerin with an inert substance called kieselguhr. The mixture was called dynamite. This discovery was made at a decisive moment, for it was one of the principle inventions which resulted in the rapid industrialization of the United States. North America, with its vast territorial possessions, needed it desperately. Railroads required excavation of tunnels and mountain passes; harbors, canals, and river ways needed to be built or deepened, and rapid mining of needed ores and coal was required to meet the increasing demand for fuel and metals. Without the invention of dynamite, the United States would have been too slow in its development. But with this invention, just as with the discovery of atomic power later, mankind has also been able to kill other men more effectively. Now, are these scientific inventions, of themselves, detrimental to mankind? Or is man himself — instead of inventions — the potential threat to his very existence? Alfred Nobel believed in living the Golden Rule. He was deeply concerned about world peace. He gave his employees benefits for working hard at a time when other businessmen took advantage of their men. He recognized that in order to establish peace the entire world must live by laws and that these laws must be enforced by a unifying, worldwide government. And because of his deep interest in peace, Alfred Nobel, who at that time was probably one of the richest men in the world, left part of his vast wealth for the (sometimes abused) Nobel peace prize (see Chemistry, Vol. 41, p. 22, 1968). A logical appraisal of the evidence can lead to but one conclusion. It is not usually the invention itself, but the misuse of that invention by human beings in government, in business, in farming, etc., that is the danger. Because of the greed of one nation for another's wealth, because of the desire of the businessman, farmer and others for more wealth or someone else's wealth, and because of the lack of man's concern for his fellowman, scientific discoveries have been misused and now threaten the very existence of mankind. Scientists themselves are no exception. They are human as well. But it is not necessarily the invention or the inventor which has produced today's situation. Rather, it is man's nature and his universal greed. Scientific research can be used for the betterment of mankind. Scientific research is not, in itself, evil, but man's nature can turn it toward evil.
ASTRONOMY: How Many Stars? John E Portune
On a sparkling moonless night (away from the city's smog and lights) when the stars jump out of the velvety blackness, how many stars can you see? A million? Ten million? How many? Surprisingly, by actual count, only two to three thousand at any one time. With normal eyesight, on an ideal night, the unaided human eye is unable to see stars fainter than the sixth magnitude on the astronomer's brightness scale. "But why does it seem like there are so many more?" you might ask. We have all grown up with the awareness that the universe contains countless millions of stars, even though we can actually see only a very few thousands. The spectacular knowledge that the observable universe may contain 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars has come only since the development of the telescope in 1609. When the human eye is aided by even a small optical instrument, like a pair of ordinary binoculars, the number of stars that becomes visible rises to about 10,000. But without such instruments available man is very limited in what he can see. But what about the ancients ? What about the patriarchs of the Bible? What did they know about the universe? Most people would assume that they knew very little. After all, they were simply wandering nomads in a primitive agrarian society. Or were they? Consider these two Bible passages. In Genesis 13:16 God told Abraham, "I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered." A simple examination on Abraham's part would have quickly revealed that this number far exceeded a mere two to three thousand. Yet in Genesis 15:5 God expands the same promise saying, "Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be." God was using simple analogies to explain to Abraham how numerous his descendants would be — as abundant as the dust of the earth or the stars of heaven. Of course Abraham knew better than to start counting stars in a pharisaical attempt to find out the exact number of his progeny. But even if Abraham had, he couldn't possibly have known there were more stars than he could see with the naked eye. Or could he? In theory, optics is a highly complex science. But in practice an unskilled amateur can produce a very functional telescope from two pieces of glass, a little abrasive and a lot of patient rubbing. If suitable glass had been available, a telescope would have easily been within the scope of the ancients. According to the Roman historian Pliny, in his Natural Historia (77 A.D.), the first glass dates back many thousands of years B.C. It is attributed to Phoenician sailors using soda to prepare a meal on a sandy beach along the river Belus. Archaeological evidence generally points to Mesopotamia, Abraham's birthplace, as the home of glass manufacture. There is evidence of glass objects as early as "3000 B.C." Fragments of man-made blue glass suggest a glass house in the period of "2500 B.C." Current anti-Bible, anti-God knowledge would have us believe that the patriarchs of the Bible were illiterate shepherds groping in the darkness of scientific ignorance. To coincide with the evolutionary theory, we are led to believe that the farther back in history one goes, the more primitive men were. Yet even this small insight into history throws a remarkable light onto the potential knowledge of the ancients. The real truth is that modern man is just emerging from an era of scientific darkness that fell over the whole earth during the Middle Ages as a result of the religious suppression of knowledge. The world would stand in amazement if it could realize just how much the patriarchs of old really knew!