Not JUST Science
The big questions of life (Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from?) fall within the realm of philosophy; however, increasingly responses are derived from science because it is considered the objective basis or core reality upon which all must agree. “Who am I” is reduced to cognitive science. The seat of my identity is the brain which is a complex universal computer with sophisticated adaptive software. “Why am I here” is answered by the biological imperative and the evolutionary process that generated mankind from the first simple replicators. “Where did I come from” when answered in the ultimate sense is traced back using basic physics to the Big Bang. However, this chain of reasoning assumes that our understanding of the physical universe is sufficient to answer all these questions.
It's not just physics.
Physics is effective at describing the motion of matter through space and time. As long as the initial state and all forces acting on the matter are known, future behavior is predictable. Given the large number of particles and possible combinations of interactions, describing the simplest biological system becomes challenging even with the use of computers. Fortunately (or providentially) not all possible combinations exist in nature. A subset of lawful behavior describing the interaction between different atoms follows its own set of rules, which we embody in the discipline of chemistry. These rules are consistent with the discipline of physics, but do not require the extensive calculations required to generate the same results from the first principles of physics. Likewise, the rules of living organisms as embodied in biology do not require the formulation of all chemical reactions occurring within the organism.
Although all physical objects including mankind must obey the laws of physics, physics does not explain from whence the matter and its properties originate. Assuming no interaction or influence beyond the material universe (allowance of miraculous action would violate this assumption), Big Bang cosmology models the past, present and future development of the physical universe. Within this context it is found that the physical properties of the universe are finely tuned to values that make life possible. Although some would hope these properties are interlinked and take on predetermined values, our current understanding treats them as independent. This makes our life friendly universe a fortunate accident. In addition, the current physical universe cannot explain its own origins. Current measurements may limit the number of possible explanations, but they can never prove them without resorting to measurements beyond the physical universe. One such example of this dilemma is string theory. There exits 10500 possible forms for a Calabi-Yau shape from string theory. We can limit which ones are consistent with our universe, but not why ours is the way it is. One way of avoiding this problem is to propose multiple universes, each with different properties. It provides one answer, but it extends beyond what can be answered by physics. This falls woefully short of explaining “Where did I come from?”
It's not just biology.
Biology provides an extensive description of living organisms from the smallest cells to the largest ecological communities. This description goes beyond simple observations to include principles of embryonic development, interdependence between tissues within an organism and between organisms in the environment. What has been surprising in recent decades is the interdependence of microbes within an individual, which is called the microbiome. Completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 provided a wealth of information about our genes, but also generated a host of other questions that have fueled studies in functional genomics, epigenetics, comparative genomics and proteomics. Chemotherapy tailored to an individual based on genetic information is one benefit of the knowledge gained, with much more to come.
Advances in our knowledge of biology answers many pragmatic questions of health, disease and treatment; but does not answer the ‘why’ question. This is true with all of the sciences, which are good at answering ‘what’ and ‘how’. Attempts at the ‘why’ question in a material universe often reduce to the innate need to survive. Since the survival mandate is ultimately thwarted by death, survival is extended beyond the individual to a species or even a gene. Mankind is driven to leave a legacy either through progeny or influence on the culture. However, this description assumes the material world is all that exists. Within this paradigm the transition of life from non-life is extremely improbable and the phylogenetic tree (tree of life) associated with Darwin is problematic. Circumventing these problems is a view that nature tends towards life and mind due to immaterial cosmic forces that are untestable in the scientific sense due to their subtleties and complexities. This approach to “Why am I here” makes us all the result of cause and effect without any choice or ultimate purpose.
It's not just cognitive science.
Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field incorporating research from psychology, anthropology, linguistics, neuroscience and artificial intelligence. Its goal is to understand the concept of ‘mind’ and its associated processes through scientific means. Going beyond stimulus/response relationships, cognitive science models ‘thinking’ as structures in the mind and the operations that change the state of these structures. The neuron is considered the fundamental unit of cognition and when networked with other neurons is capable of a wide range of complex behaviors. Analogous neural networks implemented on computers have led to significant advances in machine learning and are used in voice recognition, language translation and self-driving cars.
Since cognitive science focuses on the structures and operations of the mind, the developed models will always be physical in nature. This is true whether the structures are neurons and chemical reactions or electrical circuits and sophisticated software. This leads some to believe in a ‘singularity’ when machine intelligence meets or surpasses the capabilities of human intelligence. However, this approach implicitly reduces “Who I am” to a materialistic answer. Rejecting a strict materialism some believe an inherent form of mind is present in all of matter. Given systems of sufficient complexity, mind will manifest itself in forms that we would recognize as self-aware. Introducing an immaterial source of mind makes a statement that materialistic answers are insufficient to answer the question “Who am I?”
It's not just theology.
If materialistic answers are insufficient, what about immaterial or supernatural answers? As alluded to previously, maybe the answer lies in immaterial properties of life and mind. When conditions are right, life and mind will emerge as a separate and unique property from the material structures. However, if there is no creative, personal mind behind these properties, they will be either random in nature or part of an immaterial realm that obeys its own set of rules which can be studied and codified. For ages mystic religions have attempted to discover and use these supernatural rules to benefit their followers. If there is a creative, personal mind behind all that exists, how do we know who it is and what relationship we have with the Creator? This is the role of theology, the study of God, and is vital in answering the questions “Who am I,” “Why am I here” and “Where did I come from?”
The description of God and how He works with mankind given in the Bible provides the content for a theology that is coherent, rational and sufficient to answer the big question of life. Although there are many reasons to trust the authenticity of the Bible, ultimately it is a step of faith to enter into relationship with the Creator of the the universe by accepting Jesus Christ, who offers the only acceptable sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. However, the answers to life's questions don't stop with salvation, but just begin. A proper theology is not an end to itself, but a foundation upon which all aspects of life can be connected to the Creator.
It begins with Creation.
For centuries there have been attacks on the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. Modern society's acceptance of the authority of science has caused some theologians to rethink the historicity of the Bible and as a result focus only on the redemptive themes presented in scripture. However, this shift undermines the claims made by the Bible. The history of mankind and Israel, in particular, illustrates the need for salvation and foreshadows the need of a Savior. Veracity of the prophets' messages is confirmed to the audience through miracles and fulfilled prophecy that occur in a particular point in space and time. If historicity is rejected, then the messages of the Bible become merely the writings of influential people and are equal in value to the writings of Mohammed, Buddha, Joseph Smith and the Upanishads.
This is why origins and creation are “Not JUST Science”. Theology and philosophy demonstrate that science and the pursuit of knowledge is not an objective, fact-based activity. Fundamental assumptions as to what is real and how knowledge can be validated has a strong influence on how science is done. Limitations in developing conceptual models, processing information and financing exploration constrain what is and isn't pursued. Scientists constantly make value judgments that go beyond the ‘hard’ facts and highlights the importance of presuppositions in how science is done.
The Apostle Paul states in I Corinthians 1:22, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” To the Jews the validity of one's message was linked to signs. Jesus gave signs, but they rejected them because Jesus did not fit their presuppositions of a Messiah. The Greeks seek validity through wisdom of words and ideas. Paul proclaimed the wisdom of fearing God (“... he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:31) in Athens and some mocked because they presupposed that nobody comes back from the dead. Although the preaching of Christ is seen as foolishness, this does not mean that our faith in Christ is irrational. God has revealed himself to mankind and we are commanded to proclaim the gospel, not with the wisdom of our own words, but trusting the power of God to change lives. At the same time we are instructed to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15). How we answer the questions “Who am I,” “Why am I here” and “Where did I come from?” provides an effective means of sharing the hope that we have within us. It focuses on Christ, but it begins with Creation.