Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Does Naturalism Blind Scientists?

I heard a great poem today that made me stop & think. It's a story about six blind men who have quite different ideas about what an elephant is like, based on which part of it they were able to touch. I couldn't help but reflect how Naturalism causes scientists in the various fields of study to behave like the blind men, in regard to their postulates about where everything comes from. Geologists look at rock layers and say it takes millions of years to form them. Biologists tell us that over millions of years, evolution changes molecules into microbes, into monkeys, into men. Astronomers argue for millions of years for stars & planets to form. They're each looking at a small piece of God's creation and building an elephant that looks and functions quite different from they way God told us He did it. And the pity is, their blinders are self imposed; they reject out-of-hand, the creationist perspective by labeling it religion, and therefor not science. If they would allow themselves to consider the possibility that God meant what he said in the Bible, and explore their fields of study from a Biblical perspective, they'd be able to see the big picture and recognize the elephant for what it is.

Of course, many Christians are willing to uncritically accept any arguments that seem to support the Bible, and reject out-of-hand anything scientific that seems to contradict the it, without examination, too. The philosophy "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" may be a good starting point, but it does not meet Peter's requirement to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you (1 Pet 3:15)". We need to be able to offer sound, reasoned answers to those who are genuinely seeking.

So, without further ado...
The Blind Men and the Elephant
by John Godfrey Saxe

It was six men of Indostan
   To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
   (Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
   Might satisfy his mind

The First approached the Elephant,
   And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
   At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
   Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
   Cried, "Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
   To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
   Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
   And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
   Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
   Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
   And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
   Is mighty plain," quoth he;
" 'Tis clear enough the Elephant
   Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
   Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
   Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
   Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
   About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
   That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
   Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
   Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
   Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
   And all were in the wrong!

So oft in theologic wars,
   The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
   Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
   Not one of them has actually seen!

1 comment:

Tobias said...

Apparently I'm not the first to relate this poem to Godly things. It seems others have attempted to use it to argue that the various world religions are different ways of viewing our life journey. As this article points out, the analogy falls short in several ways.