I have never seen the slightest scientific proof

by TPE Contributor Jeff McInnis*

“I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious theories of heaven & hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God.” – Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison was a brilliant inventor.  He holds 1,093 patents in the U.S. and others in the U.K., France, and Germany.  He brought us such hits as the phonograph and the commercially-viable electric light.  He was a man of science – he created the first industrial research lab, Menlo Park in New Jersey.  It was a veritable invention-factory with several new products having been invented there.  Later it was reconstructed in Dearborn, Michigan by Henry Ford.  It is now a museum.  Edison was indeed a very successful scientist.

As Edison was an expert in science, I am tempted to write Edison’s quote off as the fallacy known as a Faulty Appeal to Authority, the fallacy of an expert in one field making authoritative statements in an unrelated field.  It is not so easy.  He has done something that shows his intellect.  He does not attempt to pass himself off as an expert in the matters of heaven and hell simply because he was an expert in science.  That would be a Faulty Appeal to Authority plain and simple.  Instead, he attempts to fool us into believing that heaven and hell are a matter of science.  He tries to bring the question into a realm in which he is known as a giant among men.

The problem, I’m told, with being a hammer is that everything looks like a nail.  To the surgeon, the cure must always involve surgery; the insurance salesman has but one solution – more insurance.  To the successful scientist, everything belongs in a test tube.

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Is science the platform by which we should evaluate every aspect of existence?  Science is a tool, and a useful one at that, but still just a tool.  Many tools are useful, but no one tool can be used in every situation – we need a complete toolbox.  Many scientists would have us believe that their field of study is the Swiss Army Knife of worldview tools; that every possible task and every possible situation can be evaluated with that one tool.  But we know better.

The wooden, lifeless approach of science works fine for some matters.  But the matters of our inner life, our yearnings, and our eternal importance cannot be evaluated with their tool, no matter how many pliers, blades, or toothpicks it has.  We need more than their one tool in our toolbox in order to uncover the mysteries of life.

Why does a rose smell sweet?  Science would tell us it is due to the make-up of the petals or some such nonsense.  That is not why, it is how.  It does nothing to give us the reason for the matter but only provides the mechanics of the matter.  That is not a satisfying explanation and our inner self testifies to the fact that there is more to life’s questions than science’s wooden answer.

Science needs a reality check – it does very little to explain anything.  While science uses some scientific sounding words to describe almost anything under the sun, really very little can be explained by science.  Described, yes; Explained, no.  An explanation, you see, is much more than overlaying scientific words onto a mechanic process.  We must demand more.

Thank you, Edison, for the gift of artificial light, the phonograph, and so many other things.  You were an amazing scientist, but not everything is science.  Please keep your scientific tool where it belongs – in the lab.

*Jeff McInnis is also the author of Everyman’s Apologetic (Kindle edition only $0.99 for a limited time!).


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