Science in Christian Perspective


Are Evangelical Scientists Practical Atheists?

J. W. Haas, Jr.
Gordon College
Wenham MA 01984

From: PSCF 48 (June 1996): 73.

A recent exchange on the HOPOS-L reflector saw one participant asserting that [science] "is a very humble, pragmatic method for taking observable events and constructing general statements to explain them ... the explanation is pragmatic truth... not ultimate truth. It's weakness is that it is very narrow... it cannot give ultimate explanations as to why we are here and why anything... other ways of knowing art, music, literature, myth, religion can have a piece of the pie in explaining reality."

His opponent argued, "If civilization survived another 5,000-10,000 years, than there would be a fairly good [scientific] account of how an individual is `effected' by art, music, literature, myth and religion." For him and many other intellectuals in the twentieth century, science has become a religion defined as the one and only source of truth concerning all of reality and man's questions.

ASA scientists may find some comfort with the first position. However, it is less easy to respond to those from within the Christian community who ask how the science that we engage is any different from that of our secular counterparts. It is one thing to be the subject of the derision of a non-believer, yet quite another when the charge of practical atheism is leveled by those of like faith. Do we function as naturalistic materialists in our daily work and Christians on Sunday?

Is there any discernable effect of our Christian world view on our vocation? Should we seek to promote what some have dubbed "theistic science?" Prominent scientists in the past have knowingly (and sometimes unknowingly) been influenced by their religious views. Today that seems less likely with the establishment of more universal norms in the scientific sub-disciplines.

I would ask our scientist readers to ponder anew the question of how their Christian faith plays a role in their scientific work. Some may wish to submit an essay on their thinking. In forthcoming issues of PSCF, we will feature a representative selection of your responses. Please limit your essay to 7001000 words.