Daily Devotional – I’m Normal.™ I AM Ministries
“To promote Godly living in a culture committed to destroying it”
Thursday, January 14, 2016
Objective or subjective – which is the better view of the world? Which do you prefer? In the 21st Century, the distinction between objectivity and subjectivity has become a point of contention between science and religion, between “truth” and faith. There is a growing debate as to whether the views on these two concepts can be reconciled, with many believing there is an unbridgeable chasm between the two.
Thinking back on my school days, I remember “true or false” tests were termed “objective”, whereas essay tests were deemed “subjective”. The implication is the objective test is synonymous with “true” or “real” with the “subjective” test being equivalent to a biased or personal perspective. Today, science has co-opted the term “objective” to imply truth or reality, but is this really so? Some careful reflection suggests holes in the logic.
Modern science has applied itself to extracting the knowledge hidden in nature, i.e., God’s creation. Knowledge is gained by experiment, a metaphorical “twisting of nature’s arm” until the hidden secrets are revealed. A scientific encounter involves sophisticated apparatus, measurement devices, along with careful and precise readings. Thus, science becomes the art of finding the portion of the truth that can be measured and quantified. This methodical and systematic approach produces the knowledge, which is then housed in science’s objective language, mathematics.
For example, color can be treated totally in terms of wavelengths, which are purely mathematical representations of this phenomenon. Ironically, from the human perspective, science erases the color by converting it to mathematical formulations. Similarly, sound can also be dealt with solely in terms of waves. The mathematical forms tell the entire objective story, but any human quality or subjectiveness is eliminated in the process. As an engineer, I appreciate the value the objectification process brings from an intellectual perspective, but my spiritual side goes unfulfilled.
The problem with the objective view is it removes the special dignity and distinctiveness we enjoy as human beings. We are more than mere chemical concoctions that absorb light waves through our eyes to see color, or sound waves through our ears to hear. Real sight and seeing cannot be captured by wavelengths whose absorption spectra are captured by our retinal cells and then transmitted to the brain. Likewise, hearing can never be experienced solely by the mechanical interactions of sound waves on our eardrums, which vibrate the pulses for cranial interpretation.
Real sight involves the actual image we see in our minds, an image that is interpreted subjectively in various contexts and in living color. The image of a beautiful sunset, an exquisite flower, or the smile of a loved one falls flat when reduced to pure mathematics. Similarly, mathematics cannot compare to the subjective interpretation we perform when we hear a classical symphony, the roar of a lion, or the voice of an old friend. Anyone who has ever loved knows that love cannot be reduced to neurological transmitters (1 John 4:8).
To base and interpret our human existence purely on science robs us of our God-given dignity and undermines our complexity as living, breathing, and caring creatures. We are the only beings in His creation who have moral values, who know what charity is and what it requires, who can think about the whole, who can marvel at the Universe given to us by our Creator, or who can even ponder the mystery of its source. All these things take judgment, which is inherently subjective in nature.
Science has brought us great understanding and physical comfort to our lives. Science, however, can only answer objective questions such as “How does it work?”, not “What does this all mean?” or “What is my purpose here?”. Only humans can contemplate, plan, speak, and judge. We may not always perform these functions well, but they are exclusively ours as the only species made in God’s image. As human beings, our first task is to make sense of the world and our task within it. This takes subjective judgment, but it does not disallow the use of scientific and “objective” information. Thus, there is a bridge between the two concepts.
Ironically, the Truth of our LORD Jesus Christ can only be found in the subjective realm of the soul, an entity which cannot be found, measured, photographed, or seen by the subjective world of science. We undermine the incredible work God performed when He created us when we claim that truth comes only from science. An objective view may be wonderful at times, but to rely on it completely is not normal because it cannot capture the magnificent richness of this life. Belief and faith in the sufficiency of science amount to a false religion, which is definitely not normal.
The capacity of sight and appreciating a beautiful view are things you cannot hold in your hand. They do not constitute an objective view. But ask yourself this question: “Would I trade the subjective view of seeing and hearing for the objective view of wavelengths and vibrations?” In my own subjective, God-given view, a normal person wouldn’t trade them for the sterile, but quantifiable, objective view. How about you?
In His love and service,
A servant of Jesus Christ
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