In Science, Lives Hope?

The title of this article is the running tag line for a hospital that does radio advertisements in my area. It seems to imply that our hope ought to rest in science and, by extension, scientists. However, the deeper one dives into science, the less answers it provides. While providing answers is not the stated goal in science, much of what is portrayed in popular culture, like this hospital tagline, seem to think science can answer every question. With that in mind, we are going to examine why science promises hope but cannot deliver on all its extravagant promises.

In order to even have this discussion, we need to know what the word “hope” means.  Hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”  However, there is an archaic definition of the word which means “trust”. That will be important later.  Can science provide either of these things?

I want to emphasize up front that there are some aspects of science that do offer some hope, at least in terms of an expectation that might be met. Medicine and medical technologies extend the lives of countless thousands of people every year and other technologies greatly increase our comfort and quality of life. Ultimately though, those things are temporary.  No matter how good the medicine is, no matter how clever the technology, everyone eventually still dies. Thus the hope that science offers is fleeting and temporary.

Whether one accepts Christianity and its statements about the afterlife or not, it is clear science can only provide a limited amount of hope. Yet hope is crucial, particularly in difficult times such as those we are exiting now. Researchers actually keep track of a category of deaths referred to as “deaths of despair”. These deaths result from suicide, drug and alcohol poisoning and alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. They are termed “deaths of despair” because all three usually result from people trying to escape their problems either by deliberate suicide, accidental suicide by drug overdose or alcohol poisoning, or enough drinking over time to curdle their liver.  There are a lot of these deaths, more than car wrecks, lung cancer and strokes put together.  Clearly, these people lack hope.

This lack of hope is in spite of the United States being the most technologically advanced society in the world, with some of the best medical technology and medicine in the world.  It appears that science, with all its advances, has not conferred hope on many people.  So what can give hope? If not science, then what?

Turns out, there is hope available, but not the kind of hope most scientists will be happy to hear about. It does not come from science, it comes from faith. A recent study noted that regular church going women are 68% less likely to die deaths of despair. Men were 33% less likely to die deaths of despair if they attended church at least weekly. The study was quite robust, with over 110,000 participants. It seems hope exists outside of science after all.

“And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.  For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?  But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” Romans 8:23-25 tells us we are saved by hope. This is where the archaic definition “trust” comes in. We are saved by our trust, our knowledgeable expectation of Christ. But that salvation is not limited to this life.  1 Corinthians 15:19 says ” If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” If only this life matters, we are worse than those who hope in science. But this is not the only hope of the believer.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, we read

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Paul tells us we have hope, that we will see our departed brothers and sisters again if they knew Christ.   These great hopes, for our salvation, for our future home with Christ, and for seeing our loved ones again: these are what give Christians a unique hope.

Though science has had a great impact and has offered limited hope, it cannot offer the same hope a Christian has in Christ. Science cannot offer eternal life, salvation, or the ability to see long dead loved ones again. Only Christ, the blessed hope, can offer this. Thus the Christian’s hope is not in science, as useful as it is, but in Christ, and Him alone (1 Tim 1:1, Ti 2:13).

 

Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.

 

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2765488

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