Dr. Robert Waltzer is a Professor of Biology and the Chair of the Biology Department at Belhaven College in Jackson, MS, and a ruling elder at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church.
I have greatly appreciated our church’s recent sermon series on Genesis, particularly the sermons on Creation. In his March 10th sermon on Genesis 1:28, Pastor Carl said that all of the music and other forms of art will never be completely created this side of heaven. He also mentioned that electromagnetism, light waves, and other physical entities would never be fully fathomed. I began thinking about how this applies to biology. I agree with the conclusion that Carl made about the physical realm and will lay out my thoughts related to the biological.
In this article I’d like to make 3 points and then some application.
Even if it were possible to achieve all knowledge in biology, we would have difficulty knowing we’ve arrived.
There seems to be a bottomless pit of technical knowledge to be learned about biology.
Focusing on the brain, there are mysteries that may be beyond the realm of science.
Regarding point one, what would it look like to know everything there is to know about a branch of biology? It is not clear that scientists would know that they have arrived at this point. By what criteria would they assess that they have exhaustively understood any particular field of biology (or any area of science for that matter)? This is a deep thought and something to consider as one assesses the limits of knowledge.
On the second point, there is an explosion of knowledge in every area of biology. Each area (dozens) has a professional society which has an annual meeting where thousands of scientists give thousands of presentations on new research. Each presentation will have specialized knowledge, concepts, and terminology. It will address only part of its topic and will raise many more questions than it answers. Knowledge is increasing exponentially, but the answers to questions are only approached and not reached. Scientists are filling up entire libraries every year with new information. Not only is there this expansion of new knowledge, but in a limited world one must prioritize which areas should be studied. In other words, there are areas that could be studied but are not because of limited resources. There are not enough people and resources to study all that could be studied. What does this say about God’s “unbounded capacity of His understanding” (John Ray, Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of The Creation , p. 25)? It is absolutely overwhelming regarding how much knowledge is available but even more so how much more knowledge there is yet to discover!
On the third point, there is a category related to science which I would define as “mystery”. In thinking about neuroscience I have in mind self-awareness and choice, but there are other areas related to the brain and biology. How can one build a system from raw materials that will be aware of itself and have an ability to choose? I have studied cells my entire life. I can see how they can be made into pumps, filters, metabolic processors, gas exchange organs, and many other things. But self-awareness is an entire order of magnitude beyond those things. Choice is also a mystery in a system that is wired so that one action leads to the next, which leads to the next, etc. just as in a circuit or a computer. Secular scientists dismiss these issues in a variety of ways – likely because they don’t have any idea how to answer them. As hard as science is to understand, it’s almost as if God has reserved an exclusive portion for Himself where He is saying, “Don’t even try because you will never understand this”!
Science is a gift from God. He has gifted certain individuals with tremendous insight and understanding (even as they deny the existence of God). What a gracious God who allows humans to understand what He has made in order to improve their lives (and glorify Himself)! We can respond in different ways to God’s Creation. One sinful response will be, “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). A godly response is complete and total awe about what God has made: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36). A second right response is a contrite heart leading to repentance. This is seen in the words of Job, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted… I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:2, 3b,3c). May God open our eyes to see how we should respond to His world.
 While the context of the doxology in Romans 11 is God’s plan of salvation, one could apply it to all that God has done, including the work of creation.