So far, so good. Unfortunately as Schooler was publishing his results he began finding it difficult in further studies to reproduce the results. He continued to see the effect, but it was becoming less pronounced. In 1995 he tried to replicate his study and found an effect 30% smaller. The next year he did it again and saw another decrease of 30%. It was as if his now well established effect was somehow disappearing. Schooler is not alone in seeing this frustrating trend. In the New Yorker article Lehrer wrote, “all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn’t yet have an official name, but it’s occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology.” Apparently in medicine the phenomenon has become widespread, and is even being observed in physics.
The article upset some people. Dr. Robert Johnson of Wayne State Medical School wrote a letter to the magazine in which he said, “Lehrer’s closing words will play into the hands of those who want to deny evolution, global warming and other realities.” John Hogan ofScientific American also wrote and said, “Lehrer's broad-brush critique will no doubt also cheer global-warming deniers, creationists, postmodernists and other pesky challengers of scientific orthodoxy.” Lehrer himself later responded that he didn’t see the phenomenon he wrote about as calling into question either global warming or evolution.
As one who believes that the existence of our universe and of human life are not the results of random chance but of “intelligent design” by the Creator, I guess I would say that yes, I am cheered by this article. At some level it does play into my hands. Without going overboard and asserting that it disproves some current theories, I will say that it confirms something that we all know. Even scientists are not totally impartial. They have a tendency to see what they want or expect or need to see just like other human beings do. What seems curious, but is real nonetheless, is that even when studies are designed to be protected from such things they somehow still seem to come into play.
Maybe I’m a skeptic at heart, but I have long had a slightly jaundiced view of the latest findings of “scientific studies.” I’ve noted that there often appears to be a correlation between whatever the politically correct view of various psychological or sociological issues happens to be and what the latest studies show. It has often seemed possible to me that those doing the studies are getting results that they were looking for before the study ever began. There once was a time when in western society whatever the priest said was received as absolute truth. In some places in the world today that is still true. It is no longer true in our culture. However, in the west there is a new class of priests. The new priesthood is made up of scientists. If they say it, surely it must be true because they have proven it to be so in the lab. I think it was a good thing in society when people began to question the priests of old. Without that questioning the Reformation would never have taken place. I still think it’s a good thing when people don’t take the word of religious leaders as gospel truth, but do their own work and thinking to verify if what the leaders say is so. I also think it’s a good thing when we have a certain amount of skepticism of the new class of priests, those wearing lab coats.
Over the years I’ve heard of a number of studies that supposedly establish theories regarding child rearing, family issues, relationship matters and other questions that may be at variance with a biblical perspective. My native skepticism has caused me at times to be less than convinced. Perhaps Lehrer’s article has confirmed for me that such skepticism is healthy. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. The scientific method has produced many great and undeniable insights and benefits for us all. But I do think there is reason for me not to be especially shaken by whatever the latest finding might be that is in conflict with God’s Word. I may be regarded by many in this world as sticking my head in the sand or exercising blind faith, but I believe I’m on solid ground in trusting the Bible over whatever the latest theory might be. Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” The grass withers, the flowers fall, the scientist sees what he expects to see, and the latest theory may eventually fall and be discarded in favor of another, but the word of God stands forever. Should we listen to science and learn? Absolutely. Galileo obviously clarified that what religious leaders claimed was truth in fact was not even taught in the Bible. But we have reason to be calm and confident in God’s Word regardless of whatever the latest study reveals.