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Lessons from a Pandemic: Science Is Limited

I’m obviously very thankful for science, I’m thankful for medical advancements that improve quality of life, I’m thankful for technology.

However, what our current situation with COVID-19 has helped us to see is that science can’t solve everything because it is based on human observation, and humans are limited. The scientific method by definition is inductive reasoning —scientists collect as much data as they can, and they run as many tests as they can, and then they draw logical inductions from that data. But by definition, inductive reasoning can never prove with certainty. We may not have sufficient data; there may be other factors involved that we didn’t forsee; or something might enter the situation later that was not present when we first started collecting data and running tests; or we may just draw the wrong conclusions because of our own limitations. At the end of the day, science is simply really, really, educated guesswork, and sometimes we just don’t have enough information, the information changes, or we draw the wrong conclusions.

We’re seeing all of this during with COVID-19, and hopefully the lesson we’re taking from this is to be very thankful for science and medicine, but ultimately not to put our trust in these things.We must be careful to avoid a post-Enlightenment implicit trust in human reason and understanding to solve all problems.As David Wells astutely observes,

The Enlightenment world liberated us to dream dreams of the world’s renovation and of ourselves at its center, standing erect and proud, recasting the whole sorry scheme of things bare-handed, as it were, leaning only on our own reason and goodness. It also liberated us to perceive illusion as reality. The illusion was that the forces at work within human life were benign, that life was bound and moved by the hidden purposes of an impersonal Good that would, in the end, serve only the high purposes the Enlightenment had imagined.1

At the end of the day, God is in control, and we should work to understand God’s world and improve quality of life and heal the sick and meet needs, but ultimately we should run to the only one who is sovereign and trust him.

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

  1. David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1994), 57–58. []