This past Good Friday, I posted the following two paragraphs (shown in italics) in the facebook group, Celebrating Creation by Natural Selection. One of the comments was a question shown below in bold. What follows that is my answer.
I don’t know a lot. I don’t know how life began, or whether the universe will end. I don’t know what most of the Biblical passages I read really mean. I don’t know if the work I am doing on gene networks has any relevance to anything important. I don’t know how to take good photographs or figure out how my printer works. I don’t know why I am loved by my beloved. I don’t know what the purpose of human existence might be.
But I do know a few things. I know that I am loved. I also know that God came to walk among us, and that Jesus Christ died on this day for my sake. I know that I do not deserve such love, but that I have it anyway. And I know that the day after tomorrow, I will rejoice in the glory of the risen Christ, and that death is defeated and my sins are forgiven.
What I know isn’t much. But it’s all I need.
How did you come to know these things, i.e. by what method did you come to know these things? Is it at all important to you whether you came to know these things by a method that has reliably provided more and more accurate understanding of the universe around us, as opposed to methods of knowing things that are notoriously unreliable in leading to accurate conclusions?
Yes, it is very important to me to use reliable ways of knowing when I say that I know something. That is one reason that in none of my 200 scientific publications, nor in any of my 4 books have I ever said that I know something definitively. Nor to my knowledge have any of my colleagues. The process of knowledge accumulation in science is very slow and always subject to change. This doesnt mean that the scientific method does not lead to knowledge, it does. But not in the way many logical positivists think (and while many atheists deny that they are logical positivists, that denial is not very reliable).
The path to knowledge through the scientific method (at least in modern times, when all the good questions are hard) is very tortuous. It is still a worthwhile path to follow, and one that (usually as a side benefit) can provide humanity with valuable technological tools. On another level, the path to scientific knowledge of the truth of how the universe works gives us a sense of satisfaction for some unknown reason. If this knowledge does not or even cannot lead to any material improvement for the benefit of humanity, then what purpose is served by understanding the origin of the universe, the origin of life and diversity of species, and the reality of the Higgs field? If you answer that it is a benefit because of the satisfaction of gaining true knowledge, I would agree with you, but also point out that that is a very metaphysical statement that cannot be verified by the methods you believe are most reliable.
What I believe, as did Newton, Boyle, Faraday, Polkinghorne, Collins, and so many others, is in a different metaphysical claim (also by its nature, not verifiable by scientific methodology), namely that the purpose of acquiring such knowledge, is not only for personal satisfaction, but the joy of understanding God’s creation.
The question remains, what method did I use to come to the knowledge I referenced in th OP? The answer is two fold. I began as a strict and militant atheist. As a scientist, I began to see that what I was learning about reality seemed to fit a far more complex and ephemeral model of the nature of existence than the materialistic model I had previously held true. This did not make me a theist, but it opened the door to a different way of knowing. And, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christ walked through that door into my heart and soul and taught me an entirely new method of knowledge, one that I have tested repeatedly and found as reliable as any method I have ever used.
I still do science, and always will. And I use the scientific method to do so. And if I ever find out anything true and interesting (it has happened a couple of times, and if Im lucky it might happen again), I will thank God for the priviledge of being allowed to contribute to the knowledge of his Creation works. But the knowledge of Christ’s love for me, does not depend on that. It is a gift, and its wonder is beyond knowing.