From: JASA 29 (December 1977): 158–164
The aim-oriented empiricism of Nicholas Maxwell posits that a priori metaphysical blueprints must be developed as aims for scientific activity before proceeding with empirical testing. An aim M1 is proposed for Christians active in science. M, is the proposition that the knowledge domains of science and Christianity are integratable. After outlining methodological rules, Rn (consonant with M1), by which to evaluate scientific theories, two examples are discussed which demonstrate how M1 may help Christians to choose between rival integrative type theories. It is concluded that the aim articulation Maxwell posits as essential to science would be beneficial to Christians active in science.
A recent interesting view in the philosophy of science is that presented by Nicholas Maxwell called "aimoriented empiricism."1 Aim-oriented empiricism (AOE) proposes that science be subject to empirical criticism but is itself not only empirical. AOE also allows the explicit usage of a priori propositions. These a priori propositions give direction or an "aim" to science. AOE is rational, empirical, and metaphysical.
Maxwell's 1974 article puts AOE in opposition to Standard Empiricism (SE). SE is that attitude in science that claims to reject the use of a priori propositions. Science should not. make "permanent metaphysical assumptions about the world (or about the pbenomena) upheld in an entirely a priori fashion . . ."2 Ultimately all scientific knowledge must be subject to critique by empirical propositions.
Maxwell presents a number of severe criticisms of SE. First he attacks the consistency of the exclusion by scientists in the SE tradition of aberrant or ad hoc theories. Aberrant science does not allow falsification of theories by contradictory evidence.3 When a prediction fails, ad hoc reasons for the failure are tacked on to save the central theory. Aberrant theories also often consist of respectable scientific tbeories which have irrelevant information added. Aberrant scientific theories are rejected by SE as being vague, imprecise, and containing irrelevant information. Often it is claimed that the basis for rejection of these theories is "Occam's razor" or "simplicity". Yet the proposition that the "simplest theory is the most acceptable" is nonempirical. This reference in SE is disallowed because all a priori propositions are rejected. Thus scientists in the tradition of SE are not acting consistently when rejecting aberrant theories.
Maxwell's second criticism revolves around the decision scientists make between equally respectable theories. Assume two well-developed theories are equal in respect to e I success, nonaberrancy, acceptance by the sc=community, and other generally accepted norms. Scientists in the SE tradition must often choose between two such theories. But there is no rational criteria for choosing between the two competing theories. Any choice that is made must be made on grounds other than empirical. The fact that choices are made is evidence that again SE has to often act non-rationally.
Further presume that one of the theories in question has had more empirical success than the other, but is equal in other respects. SE would accept the most successful theory. Yet it was Hume's most devastating criticism that illustrated that present empirical success is no guarantee of future empirical success. Preference of the successful theory and rejection of the other implicitly assumes the metaphysical thesis that induction does give one the grounds for accepting universal formulations (the preferred theory) on the basis of particular evidence (the empirical success). Lakatos has amply demonstrated that acceptance of a successful empirical theory over an evident failure is not always a wise procedure, for the theory that is a failure may in the future be revived and receive much success.4 Thus the central tenet of SE, empirical success, is not a proposition that can be followed in an entirely rational and consistent fashion.
Perhaps Maxwell's most important insight is with the treatment of germinal theories by SE. Assume that two theories are equal in respect to having no empirical success, are germinal, and are equal in all other respects. Even the SE guidelines have no direction to give here, for empirical testing has not yet occurred. This is the situation of scientific discovery when one is faced with an unexplained phenomena and can imagine many hypotheses to account for the data. But,
. . . according to standard empiricism the only way in which we can, in the end, make a rational choice between conflicting ideas about the world is to compare these ideas with our experience. According to standard empiricism nonempirical or a priori considerations alone cannot provide a basis for choosing rationally between different ideas about the world. Thus standard empiricism rules out all hope of arriving at good new scientific hypotheses in a rational manner . . . 5
Standard empiricism excludes the possibility of rational discovery in science because it excludes the possibility of there beirig any a priori knowledge about the world (in terms of which rival ideas for future research may be assessed).6
It is precisely this problem in SE which provided the data for Kuhn to write about in The Structure ot Scientific Revolutions. At a revolutionary point in science no rational choice can be made between competing scientific theories, given the theses of SE.
As a rational alternative to the nonrationality demanded in SE, Maxwell presents AOE. First the community of scientists must choose a metaphysical blueprint (M) to guide research, rejection decisions, and give direction to rational scientific discovery. The choice of M is "irredeemably speculative and conjectural,"7 since it is a proposition of an a priori nature. But rational reasons demand such an M must be chosen. Science as practiced by those in the SE tradition also chooses metaphysical (nonempirical) assumptions (Occam's razor, simplicity, induction, etc.). But SE claims to reject such propositions and thus discourages open discussion and evaluation of those assumptions that guide and limit science. Recognizing one's assumptions and subjecting them to public criticism allows them to be useful rather than limiting in science.
The M to be chosen should correspond with some human value or desire. For example, modern science has a deeply ingrained desire to discover an intelligible, rational universe.
We seek coherence, harmony, beauty, not because we have good reason to suppose these things really exist in the world, but because our passion to discover these things is so great, because the intrinsic value we place on the discovery of these things is so high, that we are prepared to devote ourselves to long and arduous labors merely on the offchance that what we hope to find really does exist.8
Scientists have thus over the years used Occam's razor to reject scientific theories which were not simple, elegant, and intelligibly rational to man. Maxwell uses this fact to base his proposal that the aim, or M, for science should be the proposition that the world is intelligible.9 But a different group of people, with different values, could just as well choose a different aim for their activity.10
The M that is chosen is tested against the empirical pole of science.11 M must specify the direction in which science must proceed. M is used to decide between competing germinal theories. M is used to judge the quality and importance of empirical data and also is used as a standard to evaluate well-tested empirical formulations. If, however, after long periods of time there is a lack of empirical success within the logical realm of M, the community of scientists must look at M and refine it according to the empirical data available. But if theories within M's domain are extremely successful, M is strengthened, perhaps made more specific. Through this process of reciprocal feedback both M and empirical knowledge develop.
Aim articulation in a public, rational fashion is by Maxwell to be the chief distinctive of scienc ". . . the heart of scientific method is concerned wit rationally appraising and developing different possible aims or blueprints for science."12 It is not searching after truth or trying to find immensely successful empirical theories or applying scientific knowledge to real-life situations. All of these are in some way contained in the aim-oriented method. Science should have as its main goal the articulation of M. In this way science is able to proceed rationally.
Finally Maxwell posits that a number of methodological rules(R) must be developed which "specify how scientific theories are to be chosen between, accepted and rejected, in the light of evidence."13 Three levels of statements in science are distinguished.
Level 1-Ordinary scientific theories.
Level 2-Methodological rules which specify under what circumstances scientific statements (Level I statements) should be accepted and rejected (or how they should be graded).
Level 3- Methodological rules which specify under what circumstances Level 2 rules should be accepted and rejected.14
Level 1 statements are the theories and observational data contained in the empirical pole of science. Level 2 statements are R which translate the aim of science, M, into concrete propositions by which to evaluate Level 1 statements. And Level 3 statements are a set of general rules by which to guide the total aimoriented approach to science.15
Should Christians operating in science accept Maxwell's proposal of intelligibility as their aim? Certainly Christians have a much stronger reason for the belief that the universe is rational and intelligible. The non-Christian scientist bases his desire to find simplicity in a vague tenet of his value system. The Christian believes that a rational God created an orderly universe whose laws are discernible by the scientific process.16 Thus the Christian, before starting science, would expect to discover the universe was orderly.
However this aim of simplicity may be "known in advance to be unrealizable,"17 which would disallow its use as an aim for Christians. One implication of the idea of intelligibility is rationality and the possibility of an intelligent discovery of this rationality. Yet Paul the Apostle speaks of "mysteries" which could not be discovered except through a special revelation.18 There are then certain aspects of the universe that cannot be discovered through reason, rationality, and scientific testing merely by man. Intelligibility cannot then fully be accepted by Christians as a realizable aim.
The idea of intelligibility also connotes simplicity. This means that acceptable scientific theories must have all loose ends tied into a theory. Such things as free will, personality (in a free sense), and indeterminacy have little place in intelligible theories. God's purposive action in history represents such a loose end, an uncertainty limit in any Christian theory about the world. Although God can be known to a degree, and thus his actions predicted, his infinite greatness is unintelligible to man's mind.19 The hope of finding a totally intelligible universe is unrealizable to Christians who value their beliefs while operating as scientists.
One aim suggested by Christians as appropriate for Christians active in science is the development of a Christian science. Robert Vandervennen in this vein suggests that a "Christian mind" should be developed in science resulting in a "radical Christian approach to science."20 Vandervennen appears to be influenced by the presuppositionalism movement in Europe begun by Abraham Kuiper, developed at the Free University of Amsterdam by Herman Dooyeweerd, and brought to America by Cornelius Van Til.21 Vandervennen proposes a truly Christian science should be developed which would recognize its basic presuppositions as the tenets of Christianity. The aim or M would be the tenets of Christianity within which a comprehensive science could be constructed.
The aim suggested by Vandervennen has a number of deficits, which will be mentioned only briefly here. First the Christian actively involved in science must compete in a secular situation. Research journals, universities, research centers, and funding grants come from institutions which are unfavorable to Christian research. A Christian science would have to be developed at Christian universities and through Christian societies, a goal which is not practically feasible. Secondly the activity of science may be intrinsically incompatible with the activity of Christianity. Science is a rational activity of explanation, prediction, and discovery. Christianity is based on faith and is less a knowledge activity than science. The presuppositionalism outlined by both Reid22 and Vandervennen23 must have a thesis that science and Christianity are not different in this way, but both engage in similar activities. This must be seriously questioned. Though some aspects of Christianity can be scientifically investigated, most of them cannot. Thirdly, we cannot conceive of a "Christian science" that is radically different from non-Christian science. Is it "radically" different in methodology? Then it should not be called a "science". Is it different in that it investigates Christian ideas? Then it is merely using science to invesbigate Christianity. Neither of these differences have been adequately elucidated by the proponents of Christian science, and thus the idea of how a Christian science would be is every vague. In any case these three reasons illustrate that it is a viable question whether or not the aim proposed by Vandervennen and others is realizable.
The aim or M that we would like to propose is the integration of Christianity and science.
M1-The knowledge domains of science and Christianity are to be integrated.
Christians working in science desire integration. Often the Christian must fragment his life into those areas that are Cbristian—his home, family life, church, social life—opposed to those areas that are non-Christian or secular—his job, his colleagues, his business. There is pressure from both sides to diminish the importance of the other. The Christian in this situation would profit from a substantial integration of his activities. It is also intellectually healthy to synthesize disparate cognitive values. Dissonance can be reduced by eliminating the importance of one of the disparate elements, but this distorts the realities that must be faced by the Christian in science. It would be more intellectually appealing to have a direction in which to proceed to give full credit to both elements in the cognitive conflict. Thus M1 would be both intellectually and personally valuable to the Christian.
M1 is a realizable aim for Christians in science. There are enough testable elements in Christianity that can be synthesized with scientific investigation. A Christian science as proposed by Vandervennen demands that Christianity and science be similar activities. M1 demands only that some elements in Christianity be commensurable with scientific activity, and vice versa. If it is impossible to follow this metaphysical blueprint, if future empirical testing within the domain of M1 does not meet with success, it does not matter. If it is possible to integrate the two fields, only adopting M1 would lead to success and adoption of any other M would doom our activities. Perhaps if M1 is very successful it would reveal that a fully Christian science is possible, and M1 could be refined to include Vandervermen's suggestions. But at this point we should accept M1 and begin the process of aim articulation.
M1 as proposed specifically is for theoretical concerns rather than applied values. Maxwell shows how often values in technology conflict with theoretical postures even though the theoretical postures are not inherently non-rational. Certain values in the Christian community on a practical or applied level would prohibit postulation of new models or paradigms by which to view biblical and theological concepts. We are open to any new model which is not in specific contradiction to our blueprint, Mi. With Maxwell it is asserted that 11 pure science has valuable practical applications. "24 If Mi represents reasonably well the contingencies of reality, research guided by Mi should meet with success. If it does not it can be revised on a pure level by those Christians practicing science for its own sake. Intervention by those on an applied level is unnecessary.
Proposed theories must do justice to both the tenets of Christianity and to those'of science.
The following methodological rules (Rn) supplement the blueprint of integration, M1. These Rn are Level 2 statements which specify how to evaluate scientific theories. They are dependent upon the acceptance of M1, being logically related to M1. The future refinement of M1 resulting from aim articulation will be accompanied by similar refinement of Rn.
R1-Via analogy, metaphor, transfer of ideas, and application of theories into many areas, concepts in
Christianity should be used to develop new models
in science, and scientific models should be used to
develop new models in Christianity.
R1 gives some substance to the authors' conception of integration. By integration is not meant the mere explanation of phenomena in one discipline by concepts in the other discipline. Rather each discipline should infuse new ideas into the other such that useful new concepts can be discovered.
R2-In areas of controversy or conflict, and even in the
normal application of integration, proposed theories
must do justice to both the tenets at Christianity
and to those at science.
R2 is an important rule for the correction of current practice of many Christians attempting some integration. Integration demands that the activities of both science and Christianity be given equal importance. Many Christians attempt to explain the motives and results in science by Christian principles, resulting in a "biblicism". On the other hand, attempting to explain all the facts of Christianity by a secular science results in a "scientism". It is most important to recognize that Christianity and science are different activities and their separate integrity must be preserved. While "The Holy Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, the only unerring guide of faith and conduct the scientific approach is capable of giving reliable information about the natural world."25
R3-Empirical theories must admit the possibility of
commensurability between Christianity and science.
R3 is a necessary direction for the integration of two slightly different activities. Christianity and science are in many ways incompatible. However theories which wish to integrate the two cannot state that they are speaking in such different areas they are not relevant to each other. Perhaps at times, especially with the biblical witness, translation may be necessary to discern the author's intents and purposes.
R4-Truly successful theories must not only
explain phenomena in the other field, but must enhance predictions and discoveries in the other field.
R4 attempts to guard against ad hoc or aberrant theories which are often found in integration attempts. Those that would violate R2, resulting in a biblicism or scientism, often make use of ad hoe and contrived explanations when difficulties arise. Integration demands a synthesis which leads to new discoveries in both fields.
Having adopted M1 and developed appropriate Level 2 statements, Rn, two examples will be given. Assume for the following example a period of "revolutionary crisis" surrounds the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and authority. In fact the past 15 years have been accompanied by an increase in tbo~e questioning the exact meaning of this doctrine. Dewey M. Beegle's The Inspiration of Scripture (1963, revised as Scripture, Tradition and Infallibility, 1973) began the recent controversy in the area. Harold Lindsell's Battle for the Bible (1976) shows the question is still a viable issue among evangelicals. M1 gives Christians active in science a rational tool by which to evaluate the problem with respect to its scientific implications.
The following views (Vn) are a number of positions that might be taken on the question of the Bible and science relationship, In this period of "discovery" it will be shown which empirical theories can be rejected through the use of M1 and Rn and which are acceptable for further investigation.
V1-The Bible, containing historical and scientific assertions, has "no final conflict" with science and speaks authoritatively in those areas it has in common with science.
V1 can be recognized as the view proposed by Francis Schaeffer in such books as Genesis in Space and Time. The Bible does not contain exhaustively every possible scientific truth, but what is there is accurate and should be in no final conflict with the discoveries of science. V1 is acceptable to pursue within the domain of M1 and the rules Rn. It allows for the possibility of integration and especially is concerned with the importance of both Christianity and science. Christians in science can now proceed to test V1, which is a Level I scientific statement.
V2-The Bible is a collection at myths, folktales, and
cultural stories, and speaks with little importance in
matters at science.
V3-Science has nothing to offer the Christian. All concepts of life, truth, and knowledge are to come from the Bible.
V2 and V3 are similar in that they both deny the respectability or importance of one of the disciplines. V2 is the opinion of most persons in the secular field of science. V3 is the view of many sectarian Christian organizations. Both V2 and V3 make no attempt to integrate and thus conflict with R1. They do not do justice to the tenets of both fields and are contradicted by R2. The Christian scientist valuing integration would not then consider empirically iesting these views because they do not acceed to his aim, M1.
V4- The Bible should be given the ultimate say in every matter. Science does have some things to offer: improvement of life, design of technology, etc., but when it comes to conflicts the Bible must prevail.
V5-The Bible certainly has some historical significance and may be historically accurate. It contains some good stories and good moral lessons. However most at the events listed therein, the interpretations of those events, and the importance placed upon them, especially "supernatural" ones, can be alternately explained using the principles of modern science.
V4 and V5 are modified positions of V2 and V3. They appear to be the most prevalent positions taken on this subject. The proponents of these views often engage in integration activities. However these views must be rejected because they conflict with certain Rn. They violate R2 because they fall back on their Christian or secular precommitments when conflict arises rather than attempting a synthesis. Often persons with these views rely on ad hoc explanations of phenomena in the other field and do not attempt to generate successful new theories. In this they violate R4. Both V4 and V5 violate M1 and thus should not be investigated.
V6-Conceptg in the Bible and the historical-scientific propositions of the Bible are encouched in the cultural paradigms of the time of the author. Translation is necessary to make the concepts of the Bible commensurable with current cultural paradigms.
V6 is a current popular view, especially with those who call themselves the "new evangelicals". They wish to retain. the authority of the Bible but do not like being restricted by cultural and paradigmatic differences. This view is accepiable to pursue by Christians active in science for it falls within the domain of M1 and Rn. Note that to be in accord with R3 great attention must be given to translation activities, preserving the integrity of the thoughts and intents of the original authors. But this view does give equal importance to both disciplines (R2), can be used for integration purposes (R1), and can be used to develop new models which could lead to new discoveries (R4).
V7-The Bible speaks in and of a world completely separate from that of science. The Bible speaks to man in a way that cannot be measured by scientific tools. It need not be accurate historically nor scientifically because it is incommensurable with science.
V7 is the inspiration and authority position taken by the neo-orthodox movement led by Karl Barth. The matters spoken of in the Bible cannot be scientifically examined because they are of a different nature and meant for different purposes. V7 conflicts with the cornmensurability rule, R3. Integration is not possible if the two fields have no common subject-matter. Thus this position would have to be rejected as unsuitable for further research.
There may be other views of the inerrancy and authority doctrine. Before they are empirically tested, they should be evaluated as to their compatibility with M1 and Rn after thev have passed this a priori test they can be subjected to empirical verification.One final point should be clarified with respect to this example. No claim is made by the present authors about the existential status of the rejected theories. The neo-orthodox view may be philosophically or biblically sound, but it is incompatible with the Christian scientist's desire to integrate science and Christianity. Christianity may be a hoax, a fraud, or worthless, as V2 and V5 might assert, but these must be rejected because Christians in science value integration. And perhaps scientific activity is a waste of time as V3 and V4 would entail. But Christians active in science obviously do not feel this way and thus would reject