Superseded Scientific Theories. This may not be a term you are familiar with. Simply put, these are ideas or theories that were widely accepted by scientists and have turned out to be incorrect. In even simpler terms, the scientists got it wrong.
Before anyone gets too upset, this is not a “Science Bashing” post. I have a high regard for the sciences. I do believe that the claims and promises that science offers a complete and total explanation of everything are untrue. In fact, I assert that there are things that we can know with greater certainty that that which is shown by scientists.
What Is Scientism?
We in the west are falling into what is commonly known as Scientism, the believe that science is superior to all forms of knowledge. When science runs up against another discipline, such as philosophy or especially religion, it is expected that science should be differed to. Mind you, there is nothing in the scientific method that tells us this. This is a philosophy practiced by scientists. It’s not a requirement to actually do science that you believe this.
Scientists are human. They make mistakes. And as much as the scientific community will protest that mistakes are corrected by other scientists, there is a dogma that must be maintained. There is “settled science”, theories that cannot be challenged. Anyone attempting to do so is blackballed from the community.
Can We Know Truth Outside Of Science?
I mentioned earlier that there are things that we can know with greater certainty that certain scientific facts. We can know for instance, that it is wrong to torture a baby just for the fun of it. Science doesn’t tell us this, however. We can look back in history and know that it was never ok to torture a baby for the fun of it. Looking to the future, it’s pretty easy to see that there is no circumstance in which it would be ok to torture a baby just for the fun of it. We can know this with certainty.
But what about current scientific theories? How much faith should we put in them? After all, science is constantly correcting and updating itself. This is both good and noble. But that does leave a bit of a problem when we are commanded to let science rule our lives. How certain can we be that the science of today will hold up to the test of time?
In his book Scientism and Secularism, J.P Moreland give an excellent example of this where the theory of electrons is concerned.
Different Views On Electrons
J. J. Thomson (1856–1940), Was an English physicist that is credited with discovering the electron. He held that electrons were non orbiting, and not negatively charged. He used the example of raisins being stuck in plum pudding in describing the properties of electrons.
Thomson argued that the force an electron exerted on other objects was fluid. He favored the view that the force an electron exerted on another object was to be viewed as some sort of fluid in the ether (a view that presupposed absolute space and time). According to Thomson, the entire mass of an atom was due to electrons. Thomson won the Nobel Prize 1906 for his work in the field.
Niels Bohr (1885 –1962) was a Danish physicist who also won the Nobel Prize in Physics and made important observations about quantum theory and atomic structure. He disagreed with Thomson. Bohr thought that electrons WERE orbiting, but only in specific circular orbits and at specific energy levels. He thought that electrons could jump from one energy level to another. Bohr believed that they have no location (or at least no definable location) in the space between orbitals involved in such a jump. He won the Nobel Prize in 1922, just 16 years after Thomason, for his work in the field.
Modern Electron Theory
The current model of the electron is part of modern quantum theory. As explained by Dr. Moreland in his book:
“One interesting feature of current quantum theory is whether or not the constituents of the universe, including electrons, should be taken as physical or as nonphysical, according to some form of metaphysical idealism.”- J. P Moreland, Scientism and Secularism
As you can see, the theory of electrons is ever changing. I’m not saying that science can’t be trusted. Not at all. Science is, as I said, always correcting and updating theories.
But this is precisely my point. Rigid scientism demands that science be the only avenue to truth. But with science ever evolving, the truth it pretends to know today can easily be replaced with a new truth tomorrow. In this respect, we can actually be much more confident of certain religious and philosophical truths than we can of certain scientific truths.
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