The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Facts Are Not Enough

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A story is told that during the days of the Cold War a two-car automobile race took place between the United States and the former Soviet Union. An American newspaper reporter described the result of the race this way: "American car beats out Soviet competitor." The Russian newspaper reported the same race from a slightly different perspective: "Soviet car finishes second; American car is next-to-last."

Both papers reported the same event. Both accounts were factually true, up to a point. In order to put the best face on Soviet technology, the facts were positioned to obtain a certain result. The outcome for the Soviets was inevitable in order to create the illusion that atheistic Communism is better than Christian capitalism. The lesson is obvious: "It's not that two bits of data contradict one another; it's that the same bit of data can be read in (at least) two ways."[1]

Many Christians and most secularists argue as if facts are self-interpreting, that reasonable men and women will come to the same reasonable conclusion when presented with a reasonable argument based on a fair and reasonable presentation of the facts. This rarely happens. As William Watkins argues, "Facts do not come with interpretation tags, telling us how to view them. . . . Both sides haggle over the facts. Both sides search for new facts to add to their arsenals. Both sides raise accusations, yet it's a rare day indeed when both sides acknowledge that their differences stem from something much more basic than facts. Their differences are rooted in opposing worldviews, which in turn are permeated with philosophical assumptions and commitments."[2]

For example, Jim Clarke, a meteorologist living in Fort Myers, Florida, describes the debate over global warming, not as a dispute over facts but how the facts are gathered and interpreted:

“In short, the whole global warming issue is a global scam.”

– Jim Clark,
meteorologist

For the past 10 years, proponents of man-made global warming have been "cooking the books" to further their agenda. They use selective data sources to support their claims while ignoring data from the same sources that would prove them wrong. In short, the whole global warming issue is a global scam.[3]

Facts that don't fit a pre-conceived global warming model are not considered legitimate scientific evidence. Once again, the same facts are present for both sides, but the presuppositions that are brought to the facts make all the difference when the time comes for interpretation. Since global warming claims are based on computer models, we should not be surprised if those who create the models might have a predisposition toward global warming assumptions since their jobs are dependent on government funding to fight global warming.

An increase in temperature over forty years does not mean that such increases will continue at the same rate for the next forty years. Such extrapolations are speculative since we have no way of knowing what temperatures were like even 500 years ago. In a similar way, if the stock market goes up fifteen percent one year, this does not mean that it will go up fifteen percent each year for the next ten years. Stock brokers might want to convince buyers that this is the case, but as history shows stocks always adjust over time to more realistic levels. In each of these cases, presuppositions govern which facts are gathered and the way they are interpreted.

Joy Browne, looking at things from a psychologist's perspective, tells us that most people assume that "the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who think logically and those who are nincompoops. . . ." She informs her readers that this is not at all the case. "Believe it or not, there is no such thing as human action without reason. When we look at someone else's behavior and deem it nutty, we are simply unaware of the link between that person's thoughts and actions, but a link does exist. Once you accept that you and everyone else act on the basis of interior logic, then you simply look for the clues, assemble the pieces, and ask for explanations."[4] Finding a person's "inner logic" is the key to discerning how facts and experiences are interpreted.

The coldly objective, rationalistic, and materialistic field of science claims to be immune from presuppositional bias. At least that's what scientists who hold any one of these positions want us to believe. Science is not an objective field of study, and it doesn't operate independent of certain non-empirical starting assumptions, as Paul Davies, Professor of Mathematical Physics, points out:

However successful our scientific explanations may be, they always have certain starting assumptions built in. For example, an explanation of some phenomenon in terms of physics presupposes the validity of the laws of physics, which are taken as given. But one may ask where these laws come from in the first place. One could even question the origin of logic upon which all scientific reasoning is founded. Sooner or later we all have to accept something as given, whether is God, or logic, or a set of laws, or some other foundation for existence. Thus "ultimate" questions will always lie beyond the scope of empirical science as it is usually defined.[5]

Beyond these "ultimate" questions, there are certain presuppositions that prevail among materialist philosophers and scientists that color the facts. How is it possible to reason with Lawrence Lerner, professor emeritus at California State University in Long Beach, when he claims that "There are no alternatives to evolution that are science," and that all the "alternatives are religious"?[6]

Any piece of evidence that is put forth that might contradict the evolutionary model will be dismissed out of hand as non-factual, creating a veritable interpretive "Catch-22." At the same time, Lerner and other evolutionists will claim that they are being scientifically objective when they evaluate the facts.

What's true for global warming and evolution, is equally true for morality and politics. We must learn to look beyond the facts--without ignoring the facts--to the underlying assumptions that color the facts.

Footnotes:
[1]
David Murray, Joel Schwartz, and S. Robert Lichter, It Ain't Necessarily So: How Media Make and Unmake the Scientific Picture of Reality (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), 86.
[2]
William D. Watkins, "Whose Facts Anyway?," Christian Research Journal (24:2), 60.
[3] Jim Clarke, "Fear-mongering a greater threat," Readers Opinion, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (July 18, 2002), A19.
[4] Joy Browne, The Nine Fantasies that Will Ruin Your Life (and the eight realities that will save you) (New York: Crown Publishers, 1998), 228.
[5]
Paul Davies, The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 15.
[6]
Mary MacDonald, "A textbook case in Cobb County," Atlanta-Journal Constitution (April 14, 2002), F1.

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