The Limits of Science (John Blanchard)

Product Details   The kind folks at Evangelical Press sent me this book to review: Is God Past His Sell-By Date by John Blanchard.  It is a shorter version of his award-winning Does God Believe in AtheistsThe former is around 230 pages while the latter is around 650.  Is God Past His Sell-By Date is intended for skeptics, people who doubt or question the Christian faith, the existence of God, the person/work of Jesus, and so forth.  The book mostly deals with creation, humanity, evil, science, suffering, and the gospel.  Even though I’m not a skeptic, this book helped me think through some of my own doubts and questions I have about life in general as well as the Christian faith.  At the end of each chapter there is a short testimony written by different Christians who used to be skeptics.  I appreciated these testimonies; they were “real life” examples of how God brings people out of doubt and into [the] faith.

One section that stands out for me is where Blanchard discusses the limits of science (p. 64-5).  Drawing on several scientists themselves, he lists the following limits (which I’ve edited for the sake of space):

1) Science can tell us nothing about why the universe should have come into being.  It cannot answer the question that Stephen Hawking asked (and could not answer himself): “Why does the universe bother to exist?”

2) Science cannot explain the fundamental facts about humanity.  Even the three billion letters that make up the human genetic code can tell us nothing about the really important things in life.

3) Expanding on #2, science cannot explain the existence of each person and a unique being; it cannot answer the questions, “Who am I? Why am I here now and how did I get here – where will I go when I die?”

4) Science cannot explain why the mind exists and functions as it does.  Science can tell us much about the biological aspect of our brains, but cannot really intelligently and dogmatically explain the mind or human consciousness.

5) In spite of all the technological advances it has spawned, science can add nothing to the overall quality of life.  How can science overcome greed, violent anger, selfishness, and other harmful characteristics of humans?

6) Science cannot explain human purpose, meaning, and value.  It cannot explain the principles involved in human behavior.  It cannot give ultimate foundations for justice, good, evil, goodness, or love.

By way of summary, Blanchard quotes one atheist genetic scientist who admits,

“It is the essence of all scientific theories that they cannot resolve everything.  Science cannot answer the questions that philosophers – or children – ask: why are we here, what is the point of being alive, how ought we to behave?  Genetics has almost nothing to say about what makes us more than machines driven by biology, about what makes us human.”

This is a book worth owning and reading if you’ve not read Does God Believe in Atheists.  I’d recommend it to our readers who wrestle with the questions of science, creation, evil, suffering, and purpose in life.  Blanchard writes clearly and carefully – he isn’t out to demonize anyone, but lead them towards the living God revealed in the Word: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This book will strengthen the faith (and weaken the doubts!) of Christians, and point skeptics in the right direction.  To be sure, it is an intermediate book – not really for beginners, but skeptics who are willing to engage a detailed book that will challenge them.

Again, my thanks go out to Evangelical Press for the review copy.

shane lems

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