The bible and science are not always what you might call best friends, and often, neither are their supporters. This is true of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as their literature has often downgraded the merits of scientific studies and scientists themselves, even to the point of misquoting them and their research. See this website for a list of scientific misquotes, and quotes taken out of context, in order to “prove” the statements from Jehovah’s Witnesses about creationism, in just one publication alone.
Not being on the friendliest of terms is one thing, but in the June, 2015, issue of the Watchtower magazine, Jehovah’s Witnesses revealed a laughable hypocrisy by dismissing scientists and their work, simply because some have tried scientific experiments which have failed, and because scientists don’t know everything. This type of reasoning is flawed in of itself, but also grossly hypocritical when it comes from a religion whose own history is full of failed prophecies and predictions.
Scientists Don’t Know Everything
While the magazine starts out by acknowledging the advances science has made when it comes to technology and medicine, it is then quick to point out how scientists don’t know everything:
However, the question must be asked: Has science learned enough about the natural world to be able to draw definitive conclusions? The simple answer is no. Science has made tremendous progress, but many scientists recognize that there are still many unknowns and perhaps unknowables. “We will never get to the bottom of things,” said physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg on understanding nature. Professor Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, wrote: “There may be things that humans will never understand.” The truth is that much of nature, from the tiny cell to the vast universe, still remains beyond the grasp of modern science. Note the following examples:
The examples they list include what happens inside living cells, how gravity works, and things in the universe that are beyond detection by scientific instruments. To which I might respond, Yeah? So?
Just because someone or a group of persons doesn’t know everything, this doesn’t mean that they know nothing. Rather than dismissing their knowledge based on what they don’t know, wouldn’t it be a better choice to respect what they obviously do know, and how they’ve come to these conclusions?
Let me explain it this way; when I take my computer to a repair shop to have it fixed for whatever is causing it to slow down and crash, I assume that the kid working on it doesn’t know how to build a self-aware robot or superconductor. So, I should dismiss what he or she does know about computers based on what he or she doesn’t know? He or she knows enough to remove malware and increase a computer’s speed, and there’s no reason for me to question that tech’s knowledge of those things just because there are other areas of computer science outside his or her realm of understanding.
It would also be obscenely inappropriate for me to do that personally, considering the fact that I have a cursory knowledge of computers myself. That repair technician knows more than I do about what makes a computer tick, so who am I to think that his or her entire body of knowledge is not worth respecting? If anything, I would think that when it comes to matters of computers, a clueless dork like me should step aside and let him or her do the talking, not the other way around.
However, according to the writers of the Watchtower magazine, the fact that scientists don’t know everything calls into question their authority or knowledge as a whole when it comes to the origins of life and our own species, the existence of god, and anything else that may detract from the reliability of the bible.
They, the writers of the Watchtower, feel qualified to dismiss scientists as a whole, despite the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses are strongly discouraged from pursuing any type of higher education or advanced degrees, meaning that they are not highly educated at all, much less are they educated in matters of scientific knowledge.
Here’s a key point to remember; scientists may not know everything as of yet, but that doesn’t mean that what they have asserted or have proven should be called into question. The magazine itself talks about how scientists discovered that the earth is suspended on nothing rather than being held up by a god or two giant turtles, that quarantine is sometimes necessary in cases of certain diseases, and that waste should be disposed of away from people. Those are scientific facts, which the magazine endorses.
Yet, they are very quick to say that we shouldn’t accept everything scientists say because they don’t know everything. Well, which is it? Scientists don’t know everything, so is the Watchtower saying that it is possible the earth isn’t really round, and that diseases have no way of spreading from one person to another? Either I can trust the things that scientists have determined to be absolute fact, or I shouldn’t trust them because they don’t know all the facts. Pick one.
“Errors in the Process”
Perhaps the most laughable of all the statements in this magazine are those directed at the late Isaac Newton, whom they acknowledge for his brilliance in understanding scientific forces and for inventing calculus, but whom they deride for his experiments in alchemy. Alchemy is a pseudoscience that attempts to turn metal into gold.
Yes, Newton tried some experiments, and they failed. This doesn’t mean that calculus is a failure, that his understanding of gravity is a failure, or that Newton himself was a failure in regards to science. That doesn’t give anyone the right to call into question his assertions, or the field of science as a whole.
Failed experimentation does not equal the right to dismiss the things they have established with their knowledge and work. As an example, chefs often try various new dishes and recipes, and they may go through many failed attempts at creating something delicious. Does that mean their past amazing work is somehow now suspect?
The worst part of this statement is the hypocrisy of a religion that has repeatedly made failed predictions talking about scientists and their “errors.” The March 15, 1980, Watchtower stated outright:
“With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting-in Freedom of the Sons of God, and its comments as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of man’s existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. … Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility.”
The March, 1968, Kingdom Ministry stated:
“Just think, brothers, there are only about ninety months left before 6,000 years of man’s existence on earth is completed. Do you remember what we learned at the assemblies last summer? The majority of people living today will probably be alive when Armageddon breaks out, and there are no resurrection hopes for those that are destroyed then.”
For more quotes about their prediction that the end would come in 1975, visit this site.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have also repeatedly stated that the year 1914 was very significant in human history and that the generation that saw 1914 would not pass away before Armageddon arrives. Since that generation has obviously all but passed away, they have now changed their “understanding” of what that generation means, which they have done repeatedly throughout the years. They now teach some sort of “overlapping” theory of generations. You can learn more about that at this site.
So, again, my question is, Which is it? We are allowed to dismiss scientists because they don’t know everything and have made some “errors,” but we should continue to trust a religion that obviously doesn’t know everything about what the scriptures mean, and have a long list of errors in their own doctrine and teaching?
Jehovah’s Witnesses should be very careful in using this reasoning when it comes to science, as they would no doubt fail miserably if they held themselves to the same standards they hold science.
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