Ken Connor

"The test of replicability, as it's known, is the foundation of modern research. Replicability is how the community enforces itself. It's a safeguard for the creep of subjectivity. Most of the time, scientists know what results they want, and that can influence the results they get. The premise of replicability is that the scientific community can correct for these flaws.

But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It's as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn't yet have an official name, but it's occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology. . . . For many scientists, the effect is especially troubling because of what it exposes about the scientific process. If replication is what separates the rigor of science from the squishiness of pseudoscience, where do we put all these rigorously validated findings that can no longer be proved? Which results should we believe?"

?Which results should we believe? Which theories should we place our faith in? These are not questions that the scientific community likes to wrestle with publicly. Uncertainty tends to undermine authority, after all. Perhaps this is why some scientists go to such extreme lengths to preserve the integrity of their pet theories, even to the point of manipulating or falsifying data or suppressing information that doesn't support their desired conclusion (remember Climategate?).

What this reveals is that the "scientific" world view is a rather fragile one, in which there is little room for debate outside the accepted parameters of prevailing scientific dogmas. Those scientists with the courage to challenge these dogmas quickly find themselves blacklisted – relegated to the fringes of the profession, unable to secure prestigious positions in the community and unlikely to get their work published in prominent journals. This is hardly conduct befitting a field of study that prides itself on the objective pursuit of truth.

Interestingly, it is the theistic world view that offers the most cogent explanation for the current scandals besetting the scientific community. In setting up a false choice between faith and science, the Disciples of Science have created a world without grace – they have displaced God and made themselves the measure of all things. Instead of being free to inquire – secure in God's providence and humbled by their own limitations – scientists are left to literally live and die by the popular embrace of their theories. Not surprisingly, this makes for a very paranoid, very competitive working environment.

It's good to see that the zeitgeist that drives scientific investigation has begun slowly to "evolve," and that we may be moving towards a time when once again science and faith are understood as complementary and intertwining components of a larger conception of the world. There was a time when theology was considered the queen of the sciences, the raison d'etre for all other systematic pursuits of knowledge. Early scientists were confident that there was an order in the universe imposed by its Creator and that this order was intelligible. It was this understanding that guided them as they embarked on groundbreaking courses of discovery. A love of knowledge and a desire to explore God's creation through the discipline of science need not alienate us from our Creator; on the contrary, it should draw us closer to Him.

After centuries of hegemony in an increasingly secular world, it is ironic that faith – faith in the right thing – may be the only thing that can restore credibility to the world of science.


Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.