March 17th, 2011

Assumptions: How Good Are They?

Whenever a scientist begins an experiment, he accepts certain basic, unprovable assumptions.  Sometimes these assumptions may seem quite believable – other times, they may be a shot in the dark.  If the assumptions are good, the results are probably reliable.  If the assumptions are bad, so are the results.  Consider the following examples.

             

In the past, functions of various body organs were not understood.  Since evolution was assumed true, many organs were assumed to be “vestigial” – evolutionary leftovers with no function today.  Organs such as the pituitary gland, the thymus, the tonsils and over a hundred other “vestigial” features were mistakenly listed.  In fact, this assumption led to medical malpractice. Tonsils were often removed even though they were not diseased since they were thought to be useless.  It is not known that the tonsils are important for immunity, and functions have been discovered for the other “vestigial organs” as well.

             

Another example involves the Carbon 14 dating method.  It is usually assumed that the atmosphere is ancient and, therefore, the level of radiocarbon in our atmosphere must have had plenty of time to stabilize.  Consequently we assume that the amount of radiocarbon in the atmosphere is the same today as it was thousands of years ago.  Observation, however, shows this assumption to be false. (See Think & Believe, Vol. 1 #4.) Can we trust the results when they are based upon false presuppositions?

             

Finally, consider the current problems associated with the disposal of hazardous wastes.  Scientists have assumed that the earth is very ancient and that many geological structures have been quite stable over time.  Thus, some have endorsed dumping these wastes into salt domes.  However, what if these structures are not old and stable?  The results for future generations could be disastrous.

In Noah’s time, people assumed that life would go on as always, and ignored warnings of impending judgment.  They assumed that because the world had never been flooded before it would not be in their time either.  There assumptions were false!  Many people today live their lives under the same assumptions that this life is all there is, and things will go as they always have.  In doing so, they ignore the warnings of impending judgment in the Bible.  What if their assumptions are wrong?  What if Scripture is really right?  The assumptions could have eternal consequences.  What are you willing to assume?

 

by Dave and Mary Jo Nutting

 

Originally published in the July/Aug 1989 issue of Think and Believe

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