The Science Behind Birthday Cake

Your Rent a Friend is listening to: Pete Special’s Mozart Street

His Mood is: tentatively snacktastic

Not long ago we had hiked to the end of the Metaphysical Map and discovered that Knowing and Believing are impossible to separate, like duck-tape and leg hair. Along the way, we examined one of the biggest opponents to this idea, which is the position declaring “Science” to be the only real way to discover truth. And of course I pointed out that, if you choose to believe this position, it will not be based on scientific evidence. Sometimes the reasons which compel me to take a side in a debate are not hard to comprehend. This is one of those times.

The first flaw in the pro-science/anti-religion movement is trying to define knowledge not only as completely isolated from belief, but as its enemy. Flaw #2 is, they don’t know the boundaries of science. says Science is “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.” Systematic means it is controlled and repeatable. Not freak accidents or single events that only happen once, or, as Harry Carry used to say, “Cubs win!” But I digress.

For instance, if you want to prove what temperature water boils at, you can put some water in a container and heat it up until it boils. Then, to be sure it always boils at the same temperature because it’s a property of water, you can try it in different containers. In glass, it boils at 100 degrees Celsius. In a metal container, it does the same. If there’s no container, your water will put out the fire and not heat up to 100 degrees. If you hold it in your hands, you’ll burn yourself very badly and still won’t have conclusive results. All of these are repeatable, though some you’ll learn not to do again.

This is the only way science works. It determines what will happen by watching it happen over and over and over and over until they’ve used all of their funding or get sick to death of burning their hands and decide just to use glass containers. If a team of scientists heated water to a hundred degrees and instead of it boiling, a rainbow pony appeared and gave them each a croissant, they would not declare this a scientific discovery. They would probably assume it to be some elaborate practical joke. It would not have a scientific explanation, and if I were them, I would be hesitant about eating that croissant.

If Crime Scene Investigations (like on all of those TV shows who are competing for the coveted WCSNDBA– the “Who Can Show the Nastiest Dead Bodies” award) ran on PURE science, they would ALWAYS discover that the deceased died of natural causes. “The evidence tells us that he was shot sixteen times,” they would say to each other, “so naturally he would die.” And then they’d go have lunch or maybe just call it a day. See, science can only “prove” what can be objectively studied under controlled and repeatable conditions. Over the past two hundred years, enough evidence has been compiled to support the idea that, when a man is shot a bunch of times, he dies. That’s science. But science cannot prove who did the shooting or why. An event of the past cannot be Scientifically Proven. For that you’d have to bring the victim back to life and have all of the possible suspects kill him to see which murder left the same evidence as the original crime scene. And who has that kind of time?

For a past event you have to use what is called “Legal/Historical Proofs.” This is what CSI teams actually do. They have used science to know that a body full of bullets must have been shot by some bullet shooting weapon, because no one can throw them that hard. They could also argue, scientifically, that a gun will not shoot at someone by itself. A shooting requires a shooter. To prove who that one shooter was at this one past event requires legal/historical proof- the kind that gets used in the trial to establish reasonable doubt. By gathering information of this kind, they can establish a reasonable faith in a possible past event. The evidence gives them faith that their belief is well founded.

Here’s a personal example for you. Think of the date you were born- day, month, and year. Got that in your head? Now, if I were to ask you if you KNOW the day you were born, you would probably say Yes. Let’s assume I asked and you said yes. Now let’s assume I follow up with this: PROVE IT.

Can you prove what day you were born on? Obviously you can’t do this with science. There’s nothing that can be tested in a lab over and over which will tell us that. But wait, it gets weirder. I’m going to show you that you KNOW what day you were born because you BELIEVE things you cannot prove. I’m gonna take a wild guess and assume you don’t know your birthday because you REMEMBER being born. You should be thankful for that. So what proof do you have? You have a birth certificate! Of course, there’s all the proof you need- a government document created, in some cases, decades ago. Can any legal document be wrong? Actually, it happens all the time. But didn’t your parents and the doctor all sign the document? They agreed to the date and time and wrote it down! Isn’t THAT proof? It sure is, provided you take into account that all three of them were pretty preoccupied by the fact that a tiny baby was being born. Maybe you don’t know this, but it can be a very distracting event. And odds are good that none of them had gotten enough sleep in the previous 24 hours. How do you know they signed it on the day it says? What if the whole thing is a fake? Isn’t it possible that all three of them forgot to do the paperwork and then some time in the next few weeks they all said, “I donno. Let’s just call it the 14th. It was somewhere around there because I hadn’t gotten paid yet, but it was after that game where the Phillies beat the Sox.” Can you PROVE that this is not the case? OK, your BIRTHDAY! Every year they celebrate it on the same day! Clearly that is PROOF that you were born on the day you think you were. Unless they were wrong in the first place. Or if they honestly didn’t know and just made something up.

To prove the validity of this possibility, I present a TRUE STORY which you will think I am making up but I am not. A friend and co worker told me the story of how she found out her true birthday. Sometime in her adult years, by which I mean her 40’s, the woman she had known her whole life as her mother told her, “Honey, I need to tell you something. I don’t actually know your birthday.” She was shocked. Did her mother not know the day her own daughter was born? She did not, as she was not there. Already you are at the end of the story. Surely she was adopted and the birth certificate was lost. No. It’s weirder than that: She was kidnapped, and the birth certificate was a fake. This woman had kidnapped my friend as an infant from the hospital where she was born and made a fake birth certificate to cover her tracks. Eventually my friend was able to go to the hospital where she was born and, using legal/historical proofs, discover who her real mother was. She was in her 40’s before she discovered not only her real mother, but her real birthday. She would have said she knew the date she was born, but for more than 40 years she was wrong.

Which brings me back to you. If you wish to say you KNOW the day you were born on, you need to KNOW that the date you’ve been told is true, you need to KNOW that your birth certificate is not only real, but accurate, and you have to KNOW that your parents aren’t a couple of kidnappers and liars. I haven’t met your parents, but I think there’s at least moderate reasons to believe they are not kidnappers. But ask them sometime. See what they say.

I hope I have shown you how what you KNOW depends on what you choose to BELIEVE. Faith and Science are not enemies, but the best of friends! If your science tries to exist without Faith, you’re only lying to yourself. And if your faith runs contrary to reasonable evidence, logic, and science, what makes it worth believing? To see more on this subject, go to and just do a search for “Science.” While you do that, I’m going to go have an ice cream sandwich, which is completely true, even though I don’t have any scientific evidence for it. I’ve given up scientific evidence for now- at least until the burns on my hands heal.


About rentafriend2000
Rocking my 40's with a heart full of love and muffins, science and technology. Jesus loves me and wants me to totally rock! And I am here to help.

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