“Mom?” said Seymour, “look at this newspaper. It says there is life on Mars.”
Seymour’s mom took a sip of coffee. “Life on Mars? Really?”
“Sure,” nodded Seymour with wide eyes. “This says the Martians are running out of water. They only have the frozen polar caps. So they built viaducts… and they farm, too.”
Seymour’s mom moved to his chair, reading the article over his shoulder.
“Mom, I don’t understand how the writer knows all this. Isn’t Mars a really long way away?”
His mom pursed her lips and began nodding her head. “Yup. Mars is a long trip. But this man – Percival Lowell – is a scientist. You know, it’s 1895 and scientists are discovering all kinds of important stuff. He wouldn’t lie, would he?” She scratched the top of her ear. “Nope. The scientist says there are farmers on Mars. It’s printed in the newspaper. I’m calling Lois; she’ll want to know.”
The Truth About Mars … So Far
Percival Lowell, a famous astronomer who helped look for Pluto, wrote a book called MARS in 1895. In his book, he described “canals” on Mars that he saw from Arizona’s Lowell Observatory. Lowell decided that these canals were complex, engineered viaducts. He was certain they were built by Martians to supply themselves with water. In fact, he was sure he could see vegetation growing alongside the canals.
Scientists argued over Lowell’s findings until NASA’s Mariner 4 rocket passed Mars in 1965. The pictures Mariner 4 sent back showed that Mars is a dead planet. Not only is it full of craters, but there is no vegetation. In fact, there are no canals. Percival Lowell imagined the canals, and he invented a whole society to go with them.
Other False Scientific Guesses
Percival Lowell wasn’t the first scientist to be wrong. Scientists have made mistakes before:
- Phrenology Scientists thought human personality and character were linked to the size of different areas of the brain. They felt the bumps in people’s skulls to predict who they would become, who they should marry, and even whether they might murder someone.
- Alchemy For about 4,000 years, alchemists in Europe, Africa and Asia tried to change metals into gold and silver. They also hoped to find a secret medicine to allow people to live forever. Alchemy itself turned out to be a poor scientific guess, but it did lead to the discovery of gravity and to the study of chemistry.
- Hollow Earth Many scientists have argued that the earth is hollow. In fact, some people still believe it is; scientists now believe our planet is solid, with different layers.
- Geocentrism For a long time, astronomers believed Earth was at the center of the universe. The sun, stars and planets all revolved around us.
- Plum Pudding Atoms Scientists used to think atoms were like a messy soup with electrons in the middle, surrounded by a positive “pudding”.
- Spontaneous Generation 300 years before Jesus was born, scientists believed life could spring forth from inanimate objects. In fact, scientists are still trying to figure out how this could happen. I have never seen a pencil become a cat… have you?
How Science Began
Our God is very orderly. His creation is amazingly complex and intricately arranged. Much of modern science began as Christian men strove to understand the world God created. There are thousands of scientists throughout history who have loved Jesus. You might recognize a few of them: Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Nicholas Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, and Johann Kepler were all Christians. (For a great book about some of them, check out Henry Morris’ Men of Science, Men of God.)
What Good is Science?
Albert Einstein once said, “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”
The study of science helps us see the majesty of our Creator. What a great and amazing God we serve! There is not a human alive who could design your body to function in the marvelous way God has made it.
Technology is only due to science. Electricity, running water and vaccines have not only increased our quality of life, they have also saved lives.
Besides, how would you watch Dr. Schniffenhousen on Jelly Telly without the internet?
What God’s Word Says About Earthly Wisdom
1 Corinthians 1:20-21 says, “So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.”
Science is the study of God’s great creation. Humans can’t create anything new, but we can learn more about God through his design. We often misunderstand what we think we’ve discovered. So what’s real?
God loves each of us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for our sins so that we can be forgiven forever and ever, to the end of time, which never ends. We can be sure of that.