Return to 4th Quarter 2019 articles.
A constant theme of our message at Does God Exist? is that science and faith are friends, not enemies. We have also expressed that both science and faith are necessary. Most people realize that science is essential because it has given us modern conveniences and medical marvels. But why is faith in God necessary in science?
When we think of the many things that technology has given us from guns and explosives to computers and robotics and from a simple telephone to a modern smart-phone, we see a pattern. Every new technology has the potential to bring great benefits or great harm. The difference is not in the technology, but in the people who use it. More specifically, it is in the worldview of those who use it.
Some believe that humans are the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong, good and bad. Others believe in absolute right and wrong because they believe in an ultimate judge who has set the standard. Those in the first group believe that humans are merely the product of chance evolution from life that originated by accident from non-living materials. Ultimately they believe those non-living materials came into existence out of nothing, for no purpose, without intelligent direction. They believe that “survival of the fittest” is the ultimate basis for all that is taking place among living things, including humans. In their view there is no God to answer to and therefore no arbiter of right and wrong beyond what each individual decides.
On the other hand, some believe in God as the ultimate source of life. They believe that each person is created in the image of God and is therefore of infinite worth. Furthermore, each of us is answerable for our actions to a loving God who expects us to treat each person with the respect they deserve. The two worldviews make all the difference in science. Let us consider just two areas.
Imagine what it would be like if science could put mesh implants inside our brains that could prevent or correct neurological problems such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. What if it could preserve our mental faculties as we age or allow us to overcome addictions? In the journal Nature Biotechnology, a team of Harvard Medical School faculty members described just that. Dr. Shaun Patel called it “the merging of human cognition with machines.” 1 It could also make it possible for a paraplegic person to control robotic limbs with their thoughts. The implant would collect data and create a map of the brain. The map could be used to stimulate the brain to correct for any neurological issues. Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk (SpaceX and Tesla vehicles) has a company called Neuralink. He claims to have a brain implant device that could be ready for clinical trials by the end of 2020. 2 Implants into the brains of macaque monkeys have already allowed them to control robotic arms. We could be on the verge of amazing medical breakthroughs. Or perhaps we are about to see science fiction come to life in a tragic way.
Inverse.com reported that brain implants “could change humanity forever.” 3 The technology could allow scientists to look into a person's most intimate thoughts. If a corporation or government entity could access this information, they could punish someone for their opinions or secrets. We now have so-called “hate crimes” when someone acts out against a person with a different skin color or sexual orientation. What if the government could examine your thoughts and punish you for hate crimes before you act out? What if someone could hack your brain and take control of your thoughts and actions? What about downloading the contents of a person's brain into a computer that would think the person's thoughts giving that person immortality, at least partially? If the experts are correct, we are on the verge of turning science fiction into reality.
Medical science has developed a gene-editing tool called CRISPR, which we have reported on before. 4 The goal of editing genes with CRISPR is supposedly to find a way to correct genetic defects. However, it could also be used to create designer babies. Genetically modified human embryos can develop into gene-modified humans who will pass on the genetic changes to their offspring. Although this may offer hope for eliminating genetic defects, it could also create nightmare scenarios. What if medical science manipulates the DNA of our children to produce super-humans? Beyond the implications of Frankenstein-like creatures, there is the troubling aspect of DNA editing to select the sex, physical features, and even intelligence of an unborn child. So far, that is illegal in the United States, but not in other countries such as China. Christians should be concerned about where this may lead. Do humans have the right to play God with our DNA? What could be the result of “off-target” mistakes? What about the ethics of creating human embryos for experimentation and then destroying them? Do the possible breakthroughs in the elimination of genetic diseases outweigh the dangers? What about the moral cost to our society as we go down this road?
One thing you can be sure of is that humans will be creating genetically modified human embryos. If it does not happen in the United States, it will happen in other countries. You can also be sure that there will be some scientists who will do so with less than pure motives. In Mary Shelley's classic book telling about a scientist's desire to create a new species, Victor Frankenstein said, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs.”
The power to become a god creating new species of humans can overpower pure motives as it did with Victor Frankenstein. The outcome could be even more tragic than it was in the novel. Many people have become concerned about genetically modified organisms (GMO) in food. How much more should we be concerned about genetically modified humans (GMH)? In medical science, we need the worldview that recognizes the existence of God.
Why then is faith in God necessary in computer science? The answer is obvious. Computer science has become tied to medical science and every other area of our daily lives. We already see the consequences of technology used in the “survival of the fittest” mode. Stanford University is the epicenter of technology breakthroughs in what is known as California's Silicon Valley. Many of the leaders in technology got their start at Stanford. One of them was Elizabeth Holmes. In 2003 she founded a blood-testing company on the “survival of the fittest” concept that market domination is the highest goal. Theranos grew to be a $10 billion giant in 2013 – 2014 until whistle-blowers alerted government agencies that it was doctoring lab results and putting patients in danger. After cheating many people, the company folded in 2018. 5
Theranos is no more, but there are thousands of other companies that got their start at Stanford and Silicon Valley. Two Stanford Ph.D. students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, built Google as a research project. Today Google is the worldwide source of information on anything and everything. As Scott Galloway wrote in Esquire magazine: “As more and more people become alienated from traditional religion, we look to Google as our immediate, all-knowing oracle of answers from trivial to profound. Google is our modern-day god.” 6 Google has a 92 percent share of the Internet search market, which is worth more than $90 billion. 6 It also owns YouTube and the Android operating system.
In September 2019, the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General fined Google and YouTube $170 million for secretly harvesting personal data about minors without their parents' consent. They gathered the information from the searches the children made and the videos they watched and used it to direct advertisements to them. The New York Attorney General said: “Google and YouTube knowingly and illegally monitored, tracked, and served targeted ads to young children just to keep advertising dollars rolling in.” That was after an earlier incident in 2015 when Google misused the Chromebook computers they provided to schools in their “Apps for Education” program. 7 Google had signed an agreement not to collect, use, or share personal information of students except for strictly educational purposes without parental permission. Google did not get that permission, and school districts required the students to use the Chromebooks. In that case, Google admitted to scanning student e-mails to “compile keywords for advertising” on sites the students visited. 8
If you think that computer science and the technology it has given us are not crucial to our culture, think again. Just try taking away a young person's smartphone, tablet, or computer. Businesses and governments depend on computers for every phase of their operation. All forms of communication today depend on computers, as do our electricity and water supplies. Computer science has given us many modern conveniences, but it has also given us ransomware and hackers who live by the “survival of the fittest” mentality.
ALL AREAS OF SCIENCE
The list of ways that scientific technology has benefited human existence is growing every day. Unfortunately, the list of ways technology can be misused for the enrichment of the few while harming others is also increasing. If humans are only the product of blind chance with no more value than an earthworm or a rock, and if this life is all there is, why not grab all you can, while you can? It is time for the leaders in the application of science to realize that they are not the final arbiters of right and wrong. It is only when science accepts the truth of the value of every human being that it can genuinely lead to human thriving.
In computer science, medical science, or any other scientific field, scientists need to be guided by biblical values and faith in God. When God sets the moral standards, we know there are absolute values. When we know that God created us in his image, then we realize each life is precious. We also know that there is something of higher value than money and power. To achieve its maximum good, science needs faith to guide it. Albert Einstein was right when he said, “Science without religion is lame.” True science is a friend of faith, and faith is a friend of science.
(accessed September 2019):
© gan chaonan. Image from BigStock.com.
© 13FTStudio. Image from BigStock.com.
© Zerbor. Image from BigStock.com.
© vchal. Image from BigStock.com.
© ezphoto. Image from BigStock.com.
© photosvit. Image from BigStock.com.
Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.