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“When physicists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries found a fundamental rule that the universe seemed to obey they dubbed it a law. Many of these laws are profound and important, such as the laws of motion, the law of universal gravitation, and the laws of thermodynamics. Some laws are less deep - such as Hooke’s law (which talks about how springs behave) or Snell’s law (which describes how light bends when it moves from one medium to another). Modern physicists tend not to use the word law. as it implies an infallibility that isn’t truly there when you examine the laws closely. That’s why quantum mechanics and general relativity tend to be referred to as theories rather than laws, though the two terms can be used (more or less) interchangeably. (Theories tend to refer to a framework, while a law is usually a single equation).”
--Charles Seife

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About Faith & Science
An entry-level approach to Science &Christianity Studies

Biographies | Biblical Hermeneutics | Biblical Interpretation | Conclusion 
| Creation and Providence | 
 | Doctrine of Scripture| Introduction | Nature and Practice of Science
 |


"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom." Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7 
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Gen. 1:1 
"Upholding the Universe by His Word of Power" Hebrews 1:3


Introduction

Sir Francis Bacon"Let no man think upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation think or maintain, that a man can search too far, or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or the book of God's works, divinity or philosophy: but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficience in both; only let men beware ... that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together."                                        (Sir Francis Bacon, 1605)

Christians believe that their faith touches all of life – including the study of nature and the stewardship and the use of the natural world for human welfare. Discussions about God and nature have taken place  with varying degrees of skiels crossintensity since the time of the early church. For the most part, Christians have felt that faith and science should live in harmony when each is properly understood. However, as science gained a deeper understanding of the natural world and became more important in daily life, it opened many new possibilities for interaction and potential conflict with Christian beliefs. Our history page describes these developments.

The American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) was established in 1941 to support Christian students who found that they were unable to effectively respond to challenging questions posed by college and university faculty with little sympathy for the Christian faith. Over the years the ASA's purpose has broadened to include all Christians and anyone interested in the issues that are addressed. We seek to make the resources of this web site useful for those who are looking for help with specific concerns or who may be turning to the field for the first time. If you want to dig deeper, there is plenty of material to further your understanding.

The rise of Darow and Bryantscience in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was accompanied by a diminishing influence of the Church and the Bible and the turn to a secular society where government, education and medicine became, for the most part, independent of church structures and beliefs. Scholars continue to debate the fine points of how this has played out in Europe and the Americas.

Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryant take a break at the Scoes,Triai (AP)

As time passed Americans saw science-religion questions become fodder for the media in such widely separated events as the TennesseeScopes trial (1925), the recent Dover PA School Board legal episode (2005), and the  Freshwater hearing ( 2011). The US 2008 and 2012 presidential elections saw science and religion became part of the debates. The nomination of Francis Collins for  the post of Director of the NIH  (2009)  raised a storm of protest from those opposed to his public Christian witness.  Ironically, the US Senate unanimously confirmed him to the post. Candidates for the US 2012 election have included various faith-science issues in their rhetoric. A combative mix of science, Christianity, and politics does not offer the space for serious study.

As the second decade of the 21st Century began, there was an increasingly virulent sometimes science based opposition to Christianity in the print media and on the web by the "new athiests."  Interest in faith-science questions has expanded from the apologetics of conservative Christianity to include liberal and conservative Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, and beyond. 

Today, many American Christians feel endangered by the results of scientific study and the philosophical conclusions that some non-Christians have drawn. Some include negativism toward parts of science as part of a political package in the culture wars.  However, many Christians regard science as a gift from God that can be of enormous value to the human condition and are working to use science in a God-honoring way in medicine, agriculture and innumerable other areas. They view being made in the image of God as a mandate for these activities. 

 We will first offer some basic ideas important when considering particular issues. Since most questions have roots in the past it is important to take into account these earlier responses before we jump into the present discussion.

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When  examining science-faith issues, we must appreciate the facts that (1) different people may come to different conclusions when faced with the same evidence and that ( 2)  the evidence (or the way that we assess the evidence) may change over time. As one digs (ponders), what may appear clear on the surface becomes more complex and sometimes unsolvable based on the information at hand. Our religious and educational backgrounds weigh heavily on how we think. This becomes very clear when one leaves home for college.  Humility and reserving judgment are valuable virtues when examining science-faith questions or anything new in our experience.

Christians believe that God has revealed himself in nature as well as in the written word (sometimes called the "Two Books" concept). The ASA seeks to do justice to both sources of revelation. However, tensions arise when the 'two books ' are brought to bear on a particular question; What role does each book take? What happens when the books disagree? Are there areas of priority?

While it is important to carefully evaluate faith-science issues, we should also recognize that our redemption is not affected by our views in this arena. Also, the fact that Christians disagree should not destroy the fellowship that we have in Christ.  Too often scientists, feel isolated in their church or academic community because of their beliefs.

Perhaps, it would be easier to function as though modern science and the Bible had nothing to do with each other except in matters involving morals and ethics, but that would ignore what historian Colin Russell described as

"...the battery of historical data which point to a massive mutual debt between science and Christianity."--Colin Russell, Cross-currents: Interactions Between Science & Faith (1985), p. 20.

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...the fact that Christians disagree should not destroy the fellowship 
that we have in Christ
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This material is offered to students of all ages to help you to become informed, perhaps make decisions, and strengthen your faith. Whether you are new to the subject or an "old hand" finding this page for the first time, it is important that you develop a grasp of the nature and use of both Scripture and science before plunging into the issues that capture our mind today.

How was Galileo converted?

Galileo 

painting by Cristiano Banti (1857)

Do you believe that the sun is the center of our solar system?  Why?  Very few people have ever carried out the measurements necessary to determine that earth moves around the sun.  Most of us simply accept it by faith, backed by scientific authority.   But what would we believe if authorities told us that earth didn’t move?  That is the situation that Galileo found himself in 400 years ago.  Though Copernicus had already published his theory of a sun-centered universe, he only had some elegant mathematics but . . . → Read More: How was Galileo converted?

Check out a surprising answer to the question: " Does Science Lead to Atheism?"

Try one (or more) of these Short Videos

DawkinsCreator or the Multiverse? Does the fine tuning of the universe point to God or an infinite collection of universes?   Video, 8 Min. Faraday Institute

Why is Richard Dawkins so angry? Video, 5 Min. Faraday Institute


Where are we today?

Essay Review: " Evangelical and Catholic Interactions with Science," PSCF 60 (2008): 251. CATHOLICISM AND SCIENCE by Peter M. J. Hess and Paul L. Allen. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008. EVANGELICALS AND SCIENCE by Michael Roberts. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008. A broad comparative picture of a varied landscape

Larsen, Timothy, “‘War Is Over, If You Want It’: Beyond the Conflict between Faith and Science,” PSCF 60 (2008): 147. "The purpose of this article is to help emerging scholars, especially in the sciences, to reframe the issue of the relationship between faith and learning in a productive way. While critiques of the warfare model exist in the specialized literature of the history of science, the presumption of conflict continues to dominate in the media and in popular conversations in both secular and religious contexts. As a result, young scholars have often imbibed this model themselves as an accurate portrait of the way things are, and they usually do not have a clear, up-to-date reflection on the relationship of faith and learning to put in its place."

Jesus Creed Collection of Discussions of recent science-Christianity books and blogs This frequently updated collection offers summaries and comments on works related to current evangelical discussions by the (bashful) RJS and occasionally by Scott McKnight.  The strings of reader comments are often equally valuable. Take a look at the list, prepare your coffee, then plunge in.

The Doctrine of Scripture

Our understanding of scripture is key to building a Christian world view that includes revelation in nature. Yet we must recognize the struggle that this has been for Christians since the time of the early church fathers and before. Shades of difference in interpretive views and the cultural surroundings of local churches may set the stage for confrontation that builds walls of misunderstanding. We ask that you consider what may be new, and perhaps, conflicting ideas, before drawing your own conclusions.

You may remember the song, The B-I-B-L-E, from the Church nursery class or in your home. The words go...

"The B-I-B-L-E; yes that's the book for me.
I stand alone on the Word of God.
The B-I-B-L-E."

The doctrine of Scripture is vitally important; for it is through the instrumentality of the Word (preached and read) that God saves us and causes us to grow in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Only through the Scriptures do we have the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. While we claim that scripture is the final authority on faith and practice, the problem remains in making that affirmation a living reality through sound interpretation and consistent application to life's situations – which include the challenge of science.  

How we value the Bible and questions of biblical interpretation have continued to cause divisions among the people of God who seek to relate scientific advances and the Bible. On one hand, some thinkers feel that the Bible has no relation at all to the day-to-day work of the scientist. Others believe that scripture has much to say about particular details of interest to scientists but insist that the biblical picture holds priority when the two sources of information appear to conflict. Others feel that the picture is more complex and emphasize the need to carefully examine the points of disagreement and withhold Biblejudgment until better information is available.



The Gutenberg Bible at the Ransom Center


While we claim that scripture is the final authority in faith and practice, the problem remains of making
that affirmation a living reality through sound interpretation and consistent application to life's situations – which include the challenges of science.

We will start with the assumption that the Bible and science have some overlapping interests. The Bible speaks of beginning, scientists are interested in how the universe and it's contents came to be; the Bible speaks of right behavior, scientists need principles to guide their practices, and so on.


On Inerrancy

Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)
Paperback – December 10, 2013 by J. Merrick, Ed., S. Gundry, Ed., A. Mohler, P. Enns, M. Bird, K. Vanhooze, J. Franke (Kindle $7.99)   This work effectively frames the topic in the second decade of the 21st Century.

 

Biblical Interpretation

Today one may find many different attitudes toward scripture. For some the Bible is the actual Word of God; others, claim the Biblecontains the word of God; while others see the Bible as a wide-ranging human document that is one among many similar ancient documents.

The "(strict) literalist" view maintains that the meaning of Scripture is obvious and needs no interpretation. On the other hand, the "critical" (sometimes called "historical") view maintains that a scientific study of languages, culture, history, archaeology, etc. is necessary to overcome the vast distance in time and culture between the present and the actual Bible events. While the latter approach may seem reasonable, evangelicals have often been wary or negative toward critical methods of reading the Bible because of the role they have played in fostering unbelief - the  modernism of the early 20th Century.

It is noteworthy that  the "literalists" of the reformation period recognized the use of literary devices such as poetry, parables, similesand metaphors by the biblical writers as well the need for literary methods as tools for understanding the deeper meanings of scripture.

Some have charged that biblical criticism originated with anti-Christian writers who valued reason and logic over faith and revelation, whose goal was to discredit and ridicule the Bible and Christianity. Their analysis techniques were picked up by some liberal theologians and used to explain away and discount biblical accounts of prophecy, miracles, personal demons, etc. However, current evangelical theologians effectively use literary methods of analysis to understand scripture in it's purpose, historical context, and content related to the natural world.

Biblical Hermeneutics relates to the subject of how one is to understand Holy Scripture. By definition, this is a theological act, i.e. part of the discussion of a faith-community. This does not mean that it is of no relevance to those who do not consider themselves to be part of that community, but rather that it is an issue that arises out of the particular views of that community. Therefore one must differentiate between Christian and Jewish biblical hermeneutics etc., even though there is an overlap between the two, since they share part of their scriptures.

Our views arise out of different faith traditions which developed their own notion of hermeneutics. It must also be stressed that theological differences between these faith communities "preclude any 'definitive' statement' on biblical hermeneutics - in spite of the erudition and passion of particular advocates."  ASA members and those who write for PSCF predominately come from the broad evangelical tradition - their work reflects the issues of the day and their struggles to live and think as Christians in a complex arena. Our purpose is to discuss a range of science related topics but we often seem stuck on origins (evolution)  related questions - as is the case for evangelicals in general.

Evangelical theologians are actively engaged in studying the influence of Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) documents on the early Old Testament, as well as the literary forms in which Genesis was written. Time will tell whether these conclusions will join earlier interpretations that have challenged Christians seeking to link scientific accounts of the past with the biblical record. 

John Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One (2009)
offers a fresh approach; "...I propose that the people in the ancient world would believe that something existed not by virtue of its material properties, but by virtue of its having a function in an ordered system (p. 26)." 

Yet theSeptember 2010 Issue of PSCF illustrates anew the difficulty in achieving agreement on Genesis

Nothing is more highly debated in evangelical circles than the way
that the early chapters 
 of Genesis relate to the history and character of the world as we know it. 
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Ways of Relating Scripture and Science

Concordism is the hermeneutical belief that scripture and true science are in agreement. It takes the Bible in a more or less literal - chronological fashion and seeks to adapt science to fit that reading of the Bible which written in a pre-scientific ancient near east culture. Many evangelicals hold a concordist position. This approach is found today in scientific creationism and various apologetic ministries. One value seen in this strategy is that proving that  modern science aligns with the Bible provides powerful evidence for the inspiration of scripture and support for Christian apologetics and evangelism    Science is seen as providing a corrective for earlier "naïve" descriptions of creation and providence and the role of humans in nature. Inevitably, questions of biblical and scientific authority emerges. In some eyes this amounts to tinkering with scientific data and/or the biblical text to achieve agreement - always hoping for a new scientific discovery or fresh biblical interpretation that would close the gap.

A second tradition views the Bible and science as providing two kinds of information; the Bible provides a picture of the Creator, His purpose and plan for creation and redemption of a fallen humanity while science offers details and concepts of the World that are refined and transformed as more information is received. 2  This approach seems to avoid conflict but fails to engage a biblical response to the nature of humanity and the role of humans in this world.

A third view is found in the reformation belief that "scripture alone interprets scripture" (sola scriptura). Here one begins with not with hermeneutics but with the more fundamental level of religious presuppositions - a biblical world view.3  Christians from congregations and organizations which encourage this "third view" have developed numerous ways to interpret the early chapters of Genesis - a confusing start for those new to this field.

A fourth view seems to be gathering strength in the early 21st Century as the challenges of genetics and paleontology build new tensions between evolution and Christianity and our desire to keep the Bible and natural science in "conversation."  Evolution is seen as a "game changer" - a literal/historical reading of Genesis will not do - unless we want to reject the scientific evidence.  Carolyn Arends' recent Christianity Today essay illustrates a better path.

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 The pages of PSCF reflect the diversity of strategies for relating scripture and nature.   We often hear the cry that the Word of God always gives in to the word of science. Yet we forget that there have often been good reasons for this. Christians of an earlier time and some today have been all too willing to espouse fanciful unfounded descriptions of nature in an attempt to save favored models of biblical interpretation.   At this stage of our understanding it may be appropriate to recognize that there are numerous ways of approaching faith-science questions that appears faithful to the Bible rather than insisting that a particular choice trumps all others.

Paul Marsten ,  Understanding the Biblical Creation Passages, 2007 Lifesway 60pp., ebook, pdf . This very readable e-book offers insight into the ways that current scholars approach the interpretation of the Genesis passages.

References

1 One may hold a concordist position on historical narratives as found in Gen. 1-3 even though the chronology of the story is figurative. It is the actual characters and the events which are historical in a concordistic sense. See Kline

2 The  letters of Seeley and Godfrey, Blodgett, Hill, Mcintyre, Godfrey, and earlier Kline, are just the tip of the iceberg of debate.

3 Noel Weeks, Robert Godfrey, Vern Polytherysis, and John Collins represent this position.

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At this stage of our collective understanding of it may be appropriate to recognize that there are numerous ways of approaching faith-science questions that are faithful to the Bible rather 
than insisting that a particular choice trumps all others. 
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Two Biblical Hermeneutics Studies

1. The Baylor 2009 ASA Annual Meeting Papers : PSCF62  September 2010

Adam and Eve as Historical People, and Why It Matters        [PDF]    147    Collins, C. John  
Genesis and the Genome: Genomics Evidence for Human-Ape Common Ancestry and Ancestral Hominid Population Sizes        [PDF]    166    Venema, Dennis R.
After Adam: Reading Genesis in an Age of Evolutionary Science        [PDF]    179    Harlow, Daniel C.  
Recent Genetic Science and Christian Theology on Human Origins: An "Aesthetic Supralapsarianism"        [PDF]    196    Schneider, John R.

2. Concordism and a Biblical Alternative: An Examination of Hugh Ross’s Perspective (2007)

Paul Seely, Concordism and a Biblical Alternative: An Examination of Hugh Ross’s Perspective PSCF  59 (March 2007): 37.

Hugh Ross Additional Explanations on Concordism: A Response to Paul Seely’s Critique PSCF 59 (March 2007):46.

Paul Seely, Reading Modern Science into Scripture PSCF 59 (March 2007):51

Carol A. Hill, A Third Alternative to Concordism and Divine Accommodation: The Worldview Approach PSCF 59 (June 2007): 129.

Paul H. Seely, The First Four Days of Genesis  in Concordist Theory and in Biblical Context, PSCF 49 (June 1997): 85-95.  Moderate concordism's interpretation of the days of Genesis is derived from modern science. The correlation of Gen. 1:1 with the "Big Bang" has a certain legitimacy; but, concordism's interpretation of the days themselves takes Genesis 1 out of its historical and biblical context. Concordism achieves a concord between modern science and the Bible only because it has rewritten the Bible to agree with modern science. From a biblical standpoint there is no need to take the Bible out of context in such a radical way as concordism does. Biblical inspiration, according to the teaching of Jesus, sometimes encompasses concession to human weakness even in the area of morals (Mark 10:5), how much more then in the area of science, the discovery of which God has delegated to man (Genesis 1:28). Scripture and science complement each other.__________________________________________________________________________

General

P EnnsPeter Rüst, Early Humans, Adam, and Inspiration PSCF 59 (2007): 182.

David F. Siemens, Jr.,  Extended Humpty Dumpty Semantics and Genesis 1 PSCF  59 (2007): 194.

James Barr, 
Biblical Chronology: Legend Or Science? (The Ethel M. Wood Lecture 1987. Delivered at the Senate House, University of London on 4 March 1987. London: University of London, 1987).

Books

Peter Enns, “The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Dosen’t Say About Human Origins,” Brazos Press, paper (2012).

C. John Collins, "Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care," Crossway Books, paper (2011).

Gregory K. Beale, "The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority," Crossway Books. paper (2008).

C. John Collins, Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, And Theological Commentary 318 pp., ISBN: 0875526195, (2005) P & R Publishing, Paperback.

W. Robert Godfrey, God's Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1. 144 pages. ISBN: 087552799X, 2003, P & R Publishing, Paperback.

Lee Irons & Meredith Kline, in "The Genesis Debate," ed. David Hagopian, 2001, Crux Press, Paperback.

James McKeown, Genesis The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary pp., BookISBN-10: 0802827055, 2008, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

John Walton, Genesis, NIV Application Commentary, 2001.

Articles

Richard H. Bube, "Towards A Christian View Of Science," JASA 23:(March 1971): 1-4. An ASA Classic

Peter Enns, Preliminary Observations on an Incarnational Model of Scripture, Calvin Theological Journal 42 (2007), pp. 219-236.

Meredith Kline, Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony PSCF 48: (March 1996): 2-15.

Clark H. Pinnock, "The Ongoing Struggle Over Biblical Inerrancy," JASA 31 (June 1979): 69-74.

Walter R. Thorson, "Hermeneutics for Reading the Book of Nature 55 PSCF (June 2003): 99-101.

Biblical Doctrines of Creation and Providence

Two fundamental planks in a Christian world view are the Doctrines of Creation and Providence.  While these doctrines are widely held beliefs, the details continue to vex theologians and scientists alike as each seeks to make sense of the world around us

Creation

creationA report from the ASA Commission on Creation (2000) offers a General Statement onCreation which it was felt to reflect the general thinking of the ASA community and several more statements representing narrower views on the details of creation.  One might think that biblical and scientific scholars could have otten together and forged a definitive statement on origins rather than a grocery list but the issues are too complex to achieve accord. at this time.
 
We can agree on the who and perhaps the when but the how is speculative. We see patterns in nature and marvel at its detailed interworkings, harmony, and beauty as those created in the image of God but the details elude us.


The Nature and Practice of Science

"As the pinnacle of God's creative activity, humans stand responsible for their stewardship of fellow creatures and the earth. Indeed, a helpful corrective which has emerged in contemporary theology is the recognition that the cosmos is neither "mere nature" nor "our world," but is most properly "God's creation." Humans are granted a high degree of delegated agency within God's creation, but it remains fundamentally God's alone. This affirmation underlines the tremendous charge of stewardship to humankind by the Creator."

"Creation is not a brute fact without meaning. It derives its meaning from the divine character and will. As the theater of God's redemptive activity, creation is not static, but is moving toward the goal established by the Creator before the foundation of the universe. Creation, like the humans within it, has a future." (R. Albert Mohler, Jr.,)

Ask a scientist friend to define science and you will be surprised by the waterresponse. What seems easy to explain and obvious to anyone takes many twists and turns when one is active in scientific research or engages in "philosophical analysis" about how science works.

Here is a carefully written  discussion of the nature  of science by Dr. Helen Quinn, a theoretical physicist at SLAC in Physics Today, July 2009.



....thoughts from other authors:

Science is an intellectual activity carried on by humans that is designed to discover information about the natural world in which humans live and to discover the ways in which this information can be organized into meaningful patterns. A primary aim of science is to collect facts (data). An ultimate purpose of science is to discern the order that exists between and amongst the various facts. 

Science involves more than the gaining of knowledge. It is the systematic and organized inquiry into the natural world and its phenomena.

Science is about gaining a deeper and often useful understanding of the world. 

Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers in the preceding generation . ..As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.


To do science is to search for repeated patterns, not simply to accumulate facts. 

Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.

The fuel on which science runs is ignorance. Science is like a hungry furnace that must be fed logs from the forests of ignorance that surround us. In the process, the clearing that we call knowledge expands, but the more it expands, the longer its perimeter and the more ignorance comes into view. . . . A true scientist is bored by knowledge; it is the assault on ignorance that motivates him - the mysteries that previous discoveries have revealed. The forest is more interesting than the clearing.;

There is no philosophical high-road in science
, with epistemological signposts. No, we are in a jungle and find our way by trial and error, building our roads behind us as we proceed. We do not find sign-posts at cross-roads, but our own scouts erect them, to help the rest.

The stumbling way in which even the ablest of the scientists in every generation have had to fight through thickets of erroneous observations, misleading generalizations, inadequate formulations, and unconscious prejudice is rarely appreciated by those who obtain their scientific knowledge from textbooks.


Regardless of the diverse ways that scientists describe their task and the ways this plays out in their own experience, it is clear that science is both understanding and doing - making sense of nature and making "better things for better living" as the earlier du Pont slogan proclaimed. The interweaving of medical research to discover the mechanism of a disease and the search for a cure illustrate the complexity of the scientific enterprise.


Many of us take our ideas about the nature of science from Francis Bacon- who lived four centuries ago. For Bacon, science is the objective pursuit of reliable knowledge. Although one might "know" something through authority, faith, or intuition, scientific method is distinct in that it must be possible for other investigators to ascertain the truth of scientific theories. It is founded on objective observation, the formulation of hypotheses that fit the data and predict other possibilities, repeatable experiments that can fail as well as succeed, and analysis and review by the scientific community. Baconian science rests ultimately on pure, objective dispassionately collected observational data followed by the application of special logical procedures to those data in order to produce scientific theories. This set of stringent procedures constituted the 'scientific method.' - something you learned by 8th grade.

However:

This view of science achieved dominance, becoming practically the official conception by the early 20th century, and still underlies many popular ideas about science. But however attractive its promises, Baconian inductivism is in fact irreparably defective, disintegrating at nearly every point when examined by philosophers. Among its many problems are these: (a) There simply is no form of logic by which theories, laws, and the like can be inferred from empirical data; and (b) empirical procedures cannot confer certainty upon any scientific theory.

The following summary of an article by Philosopher of Science, Del Ratzsch sets forth the current situation:

The only way to test proposed theories or hypotheses was to deduce experimental or other observational predictions from the theory or hypothesis (hence the term hypothetico-deductivism), then see whether or not the predictions matched observed reality, thereby confirming or contradicting the theory. Hypothetico-deductivists believed that although theories could not be proved true, they could at least be empirically confirmed.

Not everyone agreed, A number of people (claiming to follow Karl Popper) concluded for technical, logical reasons that theories could not even be confirmed, much less proved. But in their view, science could at least prove specific theories to be false by uncovering empirical data contrary to predictions of those theories. Unfortunately, even this modest claim turned out to be too strong.

Historically, it was almost universally believed that perception was neutral, in the sense that genuinely honest and careful observation was unaffected by beliefs, presupposition, philosophical preferences, or similar factors. This neutrality guaranteed the objectivity and utter trustworthiness of empirical data, which constituted the secure foundation of science. But that perceived neutrality came under attack in the mid-20th century. Thomas Khun, for example, argued that perception itself was an active--not a passive--process, deeply colored by the broader conceptual matrices, or paradigms, to which one had prior allegiances - context counts!

This view not only destroyed the allegedly rigid, logical structure of science, but also threatened the pure objectivity of its foundation. Furthermore, paradigms influenced not only perception, but also theory evaluation and acceptance, conceptual resources, normative judgments within science, and a host of other consequential matters. And, according to Kuhn, paradigms were partially defined by, among other things, metaphysical commitments and values. Thus, non-empirical, human-suffused perspectives had seeped into the no-longer-inviolable scientific method at all levels, from empirical bedrock to theoretical pinnacle. One consequence of under-determination was that no amount of (even pure) empirical data could point to just one theory among competitors.

Thus, if one adopted a realist stance toward theories, claiming that some specific scientific theory was actually true, rather than merely a useful model, the selection of that specific theory had to involve (at least implicitly) factors beyond just the empirical. Kuhn's own list of operative non-empirical principles was relatively tame--simplicity, fruitfulness, measurability, accuracy, and the like. But some postmodernists went much further, claimin

However:  Rigor, objectivity, and warrant may be less than absolute, even less than many fervently hope, but science can still get at theoretical truth. A tempered realism still seems defensible. Realist claims are plausible only if we have grounds for confidence in the human perceptual and cognitive structures that, inescapably, function within science,

for instance, that the very heart of science contained political agendas, social biases, dominance hierarchies, gender prejudices, and so on. But what can no longer be denied is that a science with utter objectivity, absolute logical rigidity, and purely empirical foundations is not an attainable ideal. Most contemporary mainline commentators argue that despite the unavoidable dependence of science upon resources other than just empirical data and reason, scientific results can still claim significant rational justification and epistemic legitimacy.

Further, the principle of underdetermination of theory by data indicates that science requires a conceptual environment extended beyond the merely empirical. Historically, that indispensable confidence and conceptual richness was drawn from religious principals. Some current historians argue that without the broader Christian conceptual matrix, modern science might never have arisen. Ideally, a worldview should be a unified, integrated whole. But for much of the 20th century, many people thought that religion and science were simply irrelevant to each other. At worst, religion was seen as fighting a rearguard action against the seemingly inexorable advance of a science destined to conceptually engulf everything it touched.

Science is now recognized as (1) at least partially embedded in a wider conceptual context and (2) unavoidably drawing resources from that wider context. Science can thus be locked into place within a number of different worldviews, with advocates of each claiming that it confirms their particular view.

There are many who insist on some version of methodological naturalism--that whatever the ultimate metaphysical reality, genuine science as science must (either definitional or practical) be completely detached from everything other than the purely natural. But rigid cases for such prohibitions are increasingly difficult to construct, and even some secular thinkers now admit that there are no compelling reasons why Christian thought cannot contribute to a legitimate conceptual context for science.

Thus, it seems that empirical data and science is pretty much an imaginary idea. What we are really dealing with is interpretations of data and science within philosophical foundations. These can include Ontological Naturalism, Methodological Naturalism, and even Creationism (typically, Young Earth Creationism). Old Earth Creationism apparently finds its foundation in Methodological Naturalism.


There are many who insist on some version of methodological naturalism--that whatever the ultimate metaphysical reality, genuine science as science must (either definitional or practical) be completely detached from everything other than the purely natural.

        ___________________________________________________

Charles (Chuck) F. Austerberry, A view from the ASA Listserve, (2008) The thoughts of a practicing scientist.

A further pair of blog comments

Science Falsely So Called

 by "Benjamin"  August 25, 2010

The Theories of Natural Selection and Evolution are not science because they cannot be tested. They fall into the philosophical realm of tautology. A tautology is a formula whose negation is unsatisfiable. Karl Popper (1902-1994) wrote extensively about this problem to the irritation of evolutionists. Although they disagreed with him, they were never able to negate his philosophically arguments. Karl Popper famously stated "Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research program. One of his greatest critiques of evolutionists is that they only looked for evidence to support their theory. True scientific method searches for other evidence, forms other hypotheses and seeks to disprove the favored hypothesis. None of this is allowed in the field of evolutionary studies. Strangely, as critical as Popper was of evolutionary science, he remained committed to it.

Response It's "Only a Theory"

by" javadave61," August 25, 2010

Benjamin... The fact is, evolution is a theory to explain numerous facts, not a single fact to be tested in a laboratory. Christians often argue that "evolution is only a theory, not a fact," as if it's some nebulous philosophy. When we say those things, we completely embarrass ourselves.  Evolution is indeed "only a theory," BUT a theory is higher than a fact, for a theory explains all the facts. We don't say that the theory of gravity is "only a theory." The theory of gravity will never grow up into a fact. All the creation scientists have to do is produce one fact that does not fit within the theory of evolution, and the theory will be changed or undone.  In fact, science is a very competitive field, and you only make a name for yourself by proving that something someone said before you is wrong. Scientists would LOVE a verifiable test that can be repeated in a laboratory that would fit outside the theory of evolution so a newer, more comprehensive theory can take its place. In fact, I believe someday that will come. Just as the theory of gravity was subsumed into the far more encompassing theory of relativity, so the theory of evolution will continue to be expanded to give us a clearer picture of the workings of nature.

But to call it a mere philosophy that isn't falsifiable is misguided. All a creation scientist has to do is head into laboratory with a primitive form of bacteria and let these bacteria reproduce for a period of ten years. An entire generation of bacteria live and die within about a 24 hour period. Over a period of years, thousands of generations pass, giving us a chance to observe evolution in a fast forward mode. All creation scientists have to do is conduct this experiment and demonstrate that no evolution has occurred. But in fact, scientists have already done this with upwards of 30,000 generations of bacteria reproduction and have seen repeatable and predictable evolutionary changes in the bacteria. In fact, this happens with viruses, which is why we have to have a different flu shot each year. We kill the viruses, but the mutated generations live to evolve into a new strain. If you believe evolution is a false philosophy, don't get your flu shot!

But here's where God screams out his name. Each time these bacteria tests have been done, these bacteria evolve in nearly the same way each time. What this demonstrates is that evolution is not "random," but directed. That shows intelligence and purpose. Rewind the clock of time, refire the big bang, and eventually, you'd have upright intelligent creatures that are fully self-aware and capable of knowing and worshiping God. Evolution may appear random on a micro scale, but the broader picture reveals purpose and design. Unfortunately, we Christians have surrendered the territory known as science and have left Dawkins and company to interpret the data to a new generation of future atheists. We will answer for that someday.

Jitse M. van der Meer, "The Struggle Between Christian Theism, Metaphysical Naturalism And Relativism,: How To Proceed In Science? Pascal Centre, Redeemer College Ancaster, Ontario Canada 1995. A thesis arguing that Christians are mistaken in their belief that material reality can be understood without reference to non-material created causes, such as mind, or to non-material uncreated causes, such as God.


Conclusion:

One of the enjoyable aspects of relating science and Christianity is the ever-changing challenge of new discoveries. Environmental questions, medical advances, astronomy, neuroscience, and the social sciences offer new challenges for reflection. None of us can be an expert on everything, but we can cultivate ways of thinking and attitudes that allow us to be a productive part of the discussions .

"There is a clear analogy between the limitations on the scientist and those on the theologian. The scientist must submit his]her mind to the data of experiment, the theologian must submit his to the data of revelation. The word “data” means “the things that are given.” Both the religious person and the scientist accept givens. The givens may perplex. They may seem difficult to bring into harmony with each other or with what is known on other grounds. They may throw all our theories into confusion. But accepting the data must come before progress in understanding. That is why the words of St. Augustine apply, in a way, to the scientist as much as to the theologian: credo ut intelligam, “I believe in order that I may understand.”

"So we see in science something akin to religious faith. The scientist has confidence in the intelligibility of the world. He has questions about nature. And he expects—no, more than expects, he is absolutely convinced—that these questions have intelligible answers. The fact that he must seek those answers proves that they are not in sight. The fact that he continues to seek them in spite of all difficulties testifies to his unconquerable conviction that those answers, although not presently in sight, do in fact exist. Truly, the scientist too walks by faith and not by sight."- Stephen F. Barr

If this discussion has caught your attention you may want to turn next to the  Bible-Science discussion.

We close this page with several useful articles and materials on science and a number of short autobiographies of ASA members.

NewtonScience for All Americans: Book about Science Literacy By Project 2061 - American Association for the Advancement of Science.  A Short volume covering the basics of science.

Issac Newton


Mark Strand, "Transcultural Issues in Science," PSCF (March 2003) 41.

Jonathan Sacks, "Power & Responsibility: Science, Humanity and Religion in the 21st century," Faraday Institute Lecture (11/25/2004) Lecture  Audio MP3

Biographies and Autobiographies

Arie Leegwater, 'Giving and Receiving': Charles A. Coulson's Witness as a Christian Scientist. Audio (MP3) a presentation at the ASA/CIS Edinburgh Meeting, 2007

Autobiographies A personal view of the spiritual and scientific odysseys of ASA members and friends. Please send us yours.

 

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