Reason Rally: Why Christians Should Accept Science

Is there really a war going on? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

With the Reason Rally coming up, one objection Christians can expect to face is that their beliefs are at war with science. Is this really the case? For fundamentalists on both sides, there has long been a battle going on between science and religion. Meanwhile, also on both sides, there have been some in the center hammering out a peace treaty while trying to dodge the bullets that are being shot.

Is there a basis for this antagonism. I think so. We Christians are largely to blame also for not holding to our intellectual grounds. In the past, when the question of evolution came in the Scopes Monkey Trial, the best side was not put forward and it became a question of science vs. religion. Later on, as liberals began entering our Seminaries, rather than stay and fight, we backed away and started our own schools. Unfortunately, that would leave the liberals behind at a prestigious school. With no opposition, it was not a shock which way those schools went.

The case can go back further, though I believe it is dangerous for the atheists to do so. They can try to appeal to Galileo, but I would urge them to not do so. Galileo’s beef with the church was only secondary. He was a believer himself and his biggest warfare was with the philosophy of his day in the secular community. The dangerous parallel with the atheists is that they could be making the same mistake with the ID movement that Christians can be accused of with evolution. Galileo was in the minority going against the majority in the secular world in the area of science. Some might say “But ID does not have facts on their side now!” That could be the case. However, it is definitely the case that Galileo did not have conclusive evidence for his position either.

I in fact contend that both sides are making a mistake. Too many Christians have argued against evolution not on scientific grounds per se, but because they do not like a supposed conclusion, meaning that evolution would obviously mean that there is no God and Jesus did not rise from the dead. Atheists have argued against ID often while stating scientific reasons, but as well for not wanting there to be a designer to the universe. What both sides need to do is in fact encourage the other to do the best work that they can and challenge one another in the scientific community and let iron sharpen iron.

Make no mistake. Everyone in the scientific community should be interested in truth for the sake of truth. I would hope that if ID was true, an atheist scientist would want to know and if so, to back it. I would hope that if evolution was true, a Christian scientist would want to know it and if so, also back it. We are people of truth as Christians, or so we claim, and we should seek truth in all areas, including the scientific ones. In fact, to do otherwise is more of a position of Gnosticism. We do not want to separate the world of matter from the world of Christianity.

In order to be candid here, I will also point out that I am not a scientist. I do not speak as a scientist. If you want to come and argue against the claims of ID, go ahead and do so. I have no desire to engage you as I have no dog in the fight whatsoever. If you want to tell me why evolution is or is not true, go ahead and try, but I have no desire to respond. I have no dog in that fight either.

Which is how I think it should be. Now let us suppose you are a scientist and you say “I study this on a scientific basis and I have serious questions concerning Darwin’s theory.” Then on a scientific basis, bring forth those objections and if the other side can answer them, then they are answered. If they cannot, depending on the severity, it could cripple them seriously or just be a minor bump in the road they need to work through.

For myself as a non-scientist, I will not speak that way. I am just fine discussing metaphysical implications, but not the scientific data itself. Does that mean I have no opinion? Of course I do. We all do. I just do not have an informed opinion and I readily admit that. I often say that I do not want people like Dawkins and Meyers who do not have credentials in philosophy and theology and biblical studies to speak on those areas. I try to live out my conviction as well in that since I do not have the necessary study in science, I will not speak on science as science.

What I am speaking on here is a philosophy of science and how science should be approached which is quite different. Let me state that there are things in science that fascinate me and one such example is space. I understand there is a mountain on Mars twice the size of Everest. I hear that under one of Jupiter’s moons could be an underwater ocean. I have heard of lightning bolts that stretch the length of our galaxy. Reports have come of a distant quasar that in one second gives off enough energy to power Earth’s electric needs for one million years.

Things like this lead me to worship. I stand in awe of the God who created such wonders. This was what drove early Christian scientists. They wanted to see how God had made the universe. They figured that God was rational and He made a world that was rational and we could understand it.

This is not God-of-the-Gaps! This was started in fact because there were gaps and we wanted them filled! Now could it be for the sake of argument that some gaps are filled in by miracle? Maybe. Maybe the origin of life is one such gap. We won’t know until we try and it will not work to just plug in God and hope against hope that no one studies it and finds an answer lest God be out of a job, as if God’s only business was scientific business.

Nor will it work to just say that this does not matter. We are not Gnostic. The material world is part of God’s creation and we should in fact be wanting to find all that we can. All truth is God’s truth. We claim to be people of truth and that is not just “spiritual” truth but also truth about the material world. One thing is clear in Genesis. God said that this world is good and we should agree. Even though it is fallen, it is still good.

What are we to do? Christians who do not have studies in science should not argue science. I have long said that people like Dawkins and Meyers who are not studied in biblical studies, theology, or philosophy, should not speak on those topics. They are studied in science. Let them speak on science. Note however that this does not mean they can speak on the metaphysical or philosophical implications of a scientific discovery. They speak on the finding itself and leave the philosophy and metaphysics to those in those fields.

This is fair entirely after all. If we do not want them speaking where they have no study, then if we have no study in an area, let us not speak as well. However, let us be quick to argue against the god-of-the-gaps idea. Let us make it clear that we want as little gaps in our knowledge as possible. We want to know as much about the universe as we can.

However, we must always oppose scientism wherever it raises its head. By this, I mean the belief that all knowledge is that which is verifiable scientifically. This statement itself is not verifiable scientifically. We must say that we accept scientific truths, but we accept truths in other areas that are not known by the scientific method.

We must also be people who think that while science gives us great and important truths, it does not give us the greatest ones. Science can help connect my computer to yours somehow so you can read my blog. i will not attempt to explain that. When I move and have my game systems hooked up, I have to call someone to do it. I cannot do that kind of thing. Some of you will probably say my terminology about one computer connecting to another is inaccurate with the internet. That’s fine. I don’t claim to be accurate there. My point is just that it can explain why there is some sort of connection, but it cannot explain why you should care about what I say or what knowledge itself is.

When I enjoy intimate time with my wife, science can tell me exactly what is happening in our bodies at the time, but it cannot explain to me why it is we do that, what it means, and if there are any dishonorable practices there. Science can help me when I have a disease to give me a cure, but it cannot tell me why I should seek to free others from disease or why it is my life is really worth living in the first place. Science can help me to send money from a distance to my fellow man in need, (Such as you can do by donating to this blog) but it cannot tell me why I should give a rip about him to begin with. In these cases, science is an aid to the understanding of greater truths that are prior.

Unfortunately, by promoting a warfare, I believe both sides lose. Christians will lose because many great minds that could work wonders in the scientific field for Christ will not go in thinking that they are entering enemy territory. Who knows which one could cure cancer for instance? Atheists will lose because in encouraging the idea that there is a war, many will take their religion much more seriously than science and will be anti-science then. Atheists will end up creating the ideology that they do not want to see.

In reality, the final battle will not be won in the scientific community as it cannot be the final arbiter. Both sides must be open to the truth claims of the other. For we Christians, if evolution is true, we should want to know it and for that reason, should encourage the best research in the evolutionary community. For atheists, if ID is true, they should want to know it and seek to encourage the best research in the ID community. Too often, we can be tempted to look at just a conclusion we do not want to support and assume the means is a threat then. We must instead abandon that and say “We will go with whatever is found to be true.”

Of course, this will be with varying degrees of evidence. No Christian should want to abandon a position on evidence that can rightly be called new and sketchy at the time. No atheist should want to do the same. We should all seek to be people following the evidence where it leads, but we Christians must especially be such since we claim to be people of truth.

We want the atheist community to follow the philosophical and historical arguments. We want them to see philosophy points to God and history shows that Jesus rose and we have evidence. If we are not willing to follow scientific evidence where it leads, why should we expect them to follow philosophical and historical evidence? Let us set the example.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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6 Responses to “Reason Rally: Why Christians Should Accept Science”

  1. Walt Says:

    Thanks for this post, Nick, I think there is a lot of wisdom here. To me, though, there is also a dilemma. It’s wise to say that philosophers should not speak on science and scientists should not speak of philosophy, but then what of a statement like, “science will never answer ___” or “philosophy will never answer ___.” How are we to bridge the gap if we must stay within what we know best?

    • Walt Says:

      I should rephrase part of my comment:

      It’s wise to say that philosophers should not speak on science and scientists should not speak on philosophy, but then what of a statement like, “science will never answer this philosophical problem” or “philosophy will never answer this scientific problem.” Who would be qualified to make such a statement if not a scientist or a philosopher?

  2. apologianick Says:

    Hi Walt.

    Science cannot tell you about some things because those things are in the areas of ethics and ethics does not relate to the material. It can be expressed materially, but it cannot be studied scientifically as the good itself is not a material concept.

    In the same way, philosophy is not informative about something like, say, plant growth. You could sit back and think about plants all day long, but the way to see how they grow is by observation and experimentation and just thinking.

    The answers are determined by the areas the subjects can study.

    Does that help?

  3. Walt Says:

    Nick,
    That helps, but I’m not sure how to tell what a real boundary is.

    I accept that there are many real limitations to science – I cannot disprove a deity or that the universe didn’t begin last week. But there are also apparent limitations to science that are products of our own limited abilities or imaginations. For example, we will never be able to observe or test the first few moments of the Big Bang. In billions of years we won’t be able to observe any galaxies outside of our own. Our inability to apply science to these unobservable features wouldn’t necessarily thrust them into the domain of philosophy. Regarding imagination, our examples of ways that humans are somehow philosophically distinct from other apes are becoming fewer and fewer. What makes us human is not necessarily a philosophical question but may come down to the number of neuronal connections in our brain, etc etc.

    How is a philosopher sure that a question of interest is solely in the realm of philosophy?

  4. apologianick Says:

    Walt. It would also depend on what kind of philosophy we’re talking about. There’s philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, ethics, metaphysics, etc. Of course, there is some overlap.

    Why could something be said about the multiverse? Let’s grant that there is one. One thing can be sure about it. It exists. If it exists, then it is in the area of things that have being and if it has being, it is in the area of the metaphysician. Of course, there’s not much that could be demonstrated about said multiverse, but if it is like the physicists think it is and being material, then the questions of potentiality and actuality apply to it as well.

  5. Walt Says:

    Nick, I should clarify. I don’t mean the multiverse, though it’s an interesting idea. I’m just referring to the expanding universe – since the expansion of the universe is accelerating, we will eventually be so far away from other galaxies that no one will no they exist. I’m just making the point that these other galaxies that we observe now will no longer be in the testable realm of science but would also not necessarily be in the realm of philosophy. I’m brainstorming a bit to think of other examples. Let me know if this one makes more sense now.

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