Anarchist Nobel Economics Laureate, Vernon Smith on Science and Religion

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You can observe the evidence of things you cannot see? Is that right?

Exactly, yes; observations are indirect. It hit me years ago that in Hebrews 11:1, one finds wisdom for both science and religion: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In science, one must have faith in the believability, the truth value, of one’s theory. Where is that coming from? You don’t know it’s true, but its coherence can give you a glimpse of what you can’t actually lay eyes on. Then you find some controlled event that you can predict from that theory, and you can design an experiment, and the experiments all have to do with electrostatic fields and photographic plates and wires and transformers and batteries. Of course, none of that stuff had anything to do with an electron, but that’s what Millikan had to set up so he could look at what happens to an oil drop and infer the implications for the charge on the electron.

You get the evidence of things not seen directly. How is that so different from what happens in religion? Science is a process for learning more and more about how things work. It tells you nothing about meaning, about purpose.

I had a thought during your talk last night, and I’m reminded of it again. One of the great evangelists of the 20th century, the Reverend Dr. Billy Graham, once said, “I’ve never seen the wind …. I’ve seen the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind. There’s a mystery to it.” Was Dr. Graham onto something?

I think that’s a very good metaphor for what we’re talking about. Modern science is able to devise instruments so that it is able to show that molecules of air are moving, and that’s what we call “wind.” Billy Graham was a great American, with a powerful message for living.

I look at all this now and I see much more convergence between religion and science. I believe that reality and its recognition is going to win our allegiance if we keep our minds and hearts open. How long can Richard Dawkins keep saying, “It’s in my material brain?” He’s got to tell me what this material brain is that he thinks gives him so much understanding. He’s claiming to know things that he cannot demonstrate. But I would say, “Wait a minute. No, don’t be deceived by the language. What explains that explanation? Where is the deeper meaning?” Such superficial arguments should not deflect Christians from their belief that “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” That includes both religious and scientific truth.

You’ve got to ask “why,” like the child. I remember it most recently with my youngest son catching me up in that. He asked, “Daddy, why…?” I don’t remember the question. “Why so and so?” And I said, “Well, here…” and I’m describing how things work. Then the child says, “But why? Why is that?” And so then you look for something a little more fundamental. Very few questions and he’s got you to the outer limit of knowledge. He’s got you up against the wall, and you have no place to go because our knowledge is so limited and incomplete.

http://www.acton.org/pub/religion-liberty/volume-26-number-4/evidence-things-not-seen-interview-vernon-l-smith

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