One the pluses of being a managing editor at a well-read newspaper was the ability to steal an interview from a beat reporter using my seniority. When William Fowler came to my campus, I exercised that privilege. As a successful physics student in 1986, I relished the chance to talk to the guy who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1983. His students were now my professors, and my lack of fear or reverence allowed me to get close to him. I was looking at getting a Ph.D. in theoretical physics or taking a job in the local aerospace defense industry, as I was perhaps the best in my class at presenting a finding. Getting a chance to talk to this guy for 45 minutes sounded like a great investment in my future and something I could share with my community.
I knew that my aggressive journalist persona needed to be put to bed with this guy. I had already interviewed the father of artificial intelligence, and he and I hit a stalemate with who and what was God. I was not my best that day. I didn’t want a repeat with Dr. Fowler. I knew he had never used a computer yet was credited as a pioneer in the Big Bang theory; that meant he had to be good with people. I treated him like a father, and he responded to me more like son or student than a journalist. I have fond memories of that interview. Indeed, if we meet in heaven, I am sure we will embrace and not just shake hands.
I pulled from him at the rate he was comfortable sharing. He had no interest in hanging out in some lobby or hotel room, so we talked for twice the time that had been allotted to us by people who ran his schedule. I was only able to publish about a quarter of the questions I asked. I could tell that his thirty years of research into the Big Bang (as it is now called) would help me with my processing of life.
It did. William Fowler did. But not in the ways that expected. I didn’t know what historical science was, and I had no idea that his extrapolations were the stuff of the National Inquirer.
Like a typical scientist, his credibility was based on how well trusted his peers viewed his work. To this day, his nuclear astrophysics can readily be recreated in labs and shown to be reliable and true. That research was worthy of the Nobel prize. That man was ridiculously creative in asking questions and looking for things that no one had ever look for. He found the first nuclear four-leaf clover. For that, I am grateful. Even as I type this, I say, “Holy Crap, I got to know a Nobel Laureate when I was still a kid,” and I smile with joy.
Yet, William Fowler remained a flawed man, doing what scientists do, which is extrapolating the data that they tediously collect to recreate the past and predict the future. We are all familiar with this. Weather is a great example. Each day, we can find a forecast for the next 7 days, yet we all know that the farther out we look, the less likely the accuracy. Yet, we call the study of weather a kind of science called meteorology. We do the same thing with population and school construction requirements. It isn’t all bad.
However, when our science does not conclude what we said it would, we don’t apologize. We avoid the question, “were you right or wrong?” by assigning a percent chance that we were right. In fact, the best way to discern whether or not someone is doing observation based/experiment-based science vs. historical science is whether or not they are assigning a percentage to their perceived correctness.
Predicting election results is another place we use historical data and real-time measurement to predict the future. Ask Hillary how well that science worked.
The truth is that these speculations into the past and future are not science. It is called historical science, but it really sophisticated gambling. We use overlapping skills used when we play blackjack or pack for a weeklong trip when we don’t know what to bring.
What I learned from Dr. William Fowler was that I trusted the man without critically looking at his work. By trusting him, I trusted his work. In marriage, that works. In science, not so much.
Even though he passed away, I remain a student of the interlock between science and God’s Word. I have found no less than 6 good arguments that unwind the plausibility that the earth is millions of years old and that organic life originated from inorganic life. To be succinct, the credibility of the story in Genesis is astronomically greater than the Big Bang alternative (pun intended there).
Trusting the person is not a replacement for trusting their research. I got duped and spend many years of my life trying to put a square peg in a round hole. There is no possible metric to accommodate a world that is millions of years old with a loving God who made it all in six days. I have sat through too many attempts at reconciliation only to draw the same conclusion. God is trustworthy. Historical science repeatedly demonstrates that it is not.
Please excuse me. It is going to rain in 30 minutes, and I need to go put up my car windows.
After all, that is what the pretty weather lady just said.