Not Without Anomalies

Alice... through the looking glass...

Anyone who adopts a worldview finds that they are confronted with exactly the same issues. There are difficulties and anomalies alongside the many clues and pointers that are supportive of their position. It is a matter of having faith. It is about trusting that the many merits of the worldview compensate for those areas in which it seems to be weaker. ~ Alister McGrath, Glimpsing the Face of God

This is so true, not just for any religious or philosphical worldview, but for any scientific theory as well – whether it is a belief in an all-powerful and loving God in the midst of human suffering, or the belief that all life on Earth evolved from a common ancestor while there are still bits and pieces missing in our understanding of evolution. Just as astronomers held on to Kepler’s laws of planetary motion even when the orbit of Uranus was found to be anomalous (eventually leading to the discovery of the planet Neptune), sometimes we just have to hold on to a worldview (or a theory) only because the clues that point to it greatly outweigh its flaws. Darwin was aware of all the flaws in his theory of evolution, but these flaws did not cause him to abandon his theory because he knew it provided a powerful explanation for the origin of species. And of course, modern day scientists have been able to correct many of these flaws. Cosmologists hang on tightly to Einstein’s theory of general relativity – even though gravitational waves have yet to be detected, and we have had to come up with things like dark matter to account for inconsistencies in the rotational motion of galaxies and their orbits within galaxy clusters. We believe, that one day, we will be able to find an answer. We may be right, we may be wrong, or we may never know… but for the moment, we have faith in the worldviews that we have chosen for ourselves – because, despite their flaws, they make sense to us.

Many have the idea that it takes one apparent piece of contradictory evidence to refute a theory. The reality is very different. Natural scientists are happy to live with anomalies and enigmas that cannot presently be explained by their theories, but which they believe will one day be resolved by further advances in our understanding. ~ Alister McGrath, Glimpsing the Face of God


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