painting by Cristiano Banti (1857)
Creation and Providence |
| Doctrine of Scripture| Introduction | Nature and Practice of Science |
“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).”
About Science &
"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 proficiency in
both; only let men beware ... that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together." Sir Francis Bacon, 1605
The American Scientific Affiliation has been working in this arena since 1941 and its scientists, theologians, and biblical scholars have have provided a sounding board for the relation between the sciences and the Christian faith over seven decades. You will find various voices here offering authentic science and tested biblical scholarship - sometimes providing differing responses to the questions being raised, perhaps answers that bother your beliefs - even saying "I don't know." Has this not always been the case for Christians with our many denominations, theologies and worship practices? We ask only that you read, ponder, and perhaps join in the conversstionn.--JWH
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
of intensity 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.
describes a few of these developments.
There are new voices seeking understanding and in other cases seeking to promote their views on particular topics. Be wary of jumping on bandwagons!
The rise of science
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.
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 atheists." 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 preserve the environment. They view being made in the image of God as a mandate for these activities. Others are suspicious of the use of science to improve agricultural products or fight disease. Organic farming and folk medicine advocates are among the voices raised in opposition to the application of some scientific findings.
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.
Christianity and the Tooth Fairy, John Lennox: Veritas Forum, Video
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 important 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 appear to ? Are there areas of priority? Does one book always have the last word?
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 chemist/historian Colin Russell
"...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.
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.
Check out a surprising (perhaps confusing) answer to the question: "
Lead to Atheism?"
Check out a surprising (perhaps confusing) answer to the question: " Does Science Lead to Atheism?"
Then there is Richard Dawkins:
Then there is Richard Dawkins:
The Test of Faith, Video, 2 Min.
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 or tea,, then plunge in.
The Doctrine of Scripture (where angels fear to tread)
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 - past and present - 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.
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 and 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 perhaps withhold judgment until better information is available.
The Gutenberg Bible at
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.
Today one may find many different attitudes toward scripture. For some the Bible is the actual Word of God; others, claim the Bible contains 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, similes and 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.
to the subject of how one is to understand Holy Scripture. By definition, this
theological act, i.e. part of the discussion of a faith-community
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 their 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) and 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) and Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology (2011) offer a fresh approach.
Yet the September 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
Ways of Relating Scripture and Science
Concordism1 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. A televangelist recently noted that the recent phenomenon of four "red (blood) moons" 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 not with 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.4
The pages of PSCF reflect the diversity of strategies for relating scripture and nature.2 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 some current scholars approach the interpretation of the Genesis passages.
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
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
Two Biblical Hermeneutics Studies
1. The Baylor 2009 ASA Annual Meeting Papers : PSCF, 62 Number 3 September 2010
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.
Additional Explanations on Concordism: A Response to Paul Seely’s Critique
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.
Peter Rüst, Early Humans, Adam, and InspirationPSCF 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).
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, ISBN-10: 0802827055, 2008, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
John Walton, Genesis, NIV Application Commentary, 2001.
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.
Two fundamental planks in a Christian world view are the
Doctrines of Creation and
A report from the ASA Commission on Creation (2000) offers a General Statement on Creation 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 gotten 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.
Creation in the Creeds and Confessions
Apostles' Creed.(roots in apostolic times) I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 1 for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, 2 wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good. 3 1 John 1:2,3; Heb. 1:2; Job 26:13, 2 Rom. 1:20, 3 Col. 1:16; Gen. 1:31
Belgic Confession. (1619)We believe that the Father, deeming it good, created heaven and earth and all other creatures from nothing by the Word--that is to say, by the Son. God has given all creatures their being, form, appearance, and their various functions for serving their Creator. Even now God also sustains and governs them all, by his eternal divine providence, and by infinite divine power, that they may serve humanity, in order that humanity may serve God.
Belgian Confession of 1561 ...
Irish Articles Of Religion (1615)
18. In the beginning of time when no creature had any being, God by his word alone, in the space of six days, created all things, and afterwards by his providence doth continue, propagate, and order them according to his own will.
19. The principal creatures are Angels and men.
20. Of Angels, some continued in that holy state wherein they were created, and are by Gods grace for ever established therein: others fell from the same, and are reserved in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
21. Man being at the beginning created according to the image of God (which consisted especially in the Wisdom of his mind and the true Holiness of his free will) had the covenant of the law ingrafted in his heart: whereby God did promise unto him everlasting life, upon condition that he performed entire and perfect obedience unto his Commandments, according to that measure of strength wherewith he was endued in his creation, and threatened death unto him if he did not perform the same.
Nicene Creed. (381 A.D.) I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH (1646) I.
It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and
goodness, in the beginning, to create or make of nothing the world, and all
things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all
very good. II.
After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female,
with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and
true holiness after his own image, having the law of God written in their
hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing,
being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change.
Besides this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept were happy in
their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.
It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create or make of nothing the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good. II. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness after his own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Besides this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.
Providence involves the question of Gods relation to the World; it is the most comprehensive and difficult in the compass either of theology or of philosophy. The World, meaning thereby the universe of created beings, includes the world of matter and the world of mind. The doctrine of providence concerns, first, the relation of God to the external or material universe; and secondly, his relation to the world of mind, or to his rational creatures.
Providence in the Creeds and Confessions
This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most gracious and heavenly Father; who watches over us with a paternal care, keeping all creatures so under His power that “not a hair of our head (for they are all numbered), nor a sparrow can fall to the ground without the will of our Father,” in whom we do entirely trust; being persuaded that He so restrains the devil and all our enemies that without His will and permission they cannot hurt us.
And therefore, we reject that damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God regards nothing but leaves all things to chance.
London Confession of Baptist Faith 1689
I. God the good creator of all things, in His infinite power and wisdom, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all His creatures and things, 1] from the greatest even to the least,[ 2] by His most wise and holy providence, to the end for which they were created, according unto His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will; to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.  1. Heb. 1:3; Job 38:11; Isa. 46:10-11; Psa. 135:6, 2. Matt. 10:29-31, 3. Eph. 1:11.
II. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly;  so that there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without His providence; [ 5] yet by the same providence He ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.  4. Acts 2:23, 5. Prov. 16:33, 6. Gen. 8:22
III. God, in His ordinary providence maketh use of means ,  yet is free to work without,  above,  and against them  at His pleasure. 7. Acts 27:31, 44; Isa. 55:10-11, 8. Hosea 1:7, 9. Rom. 4:19-21, 10. Dan. 3:27
Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) God the great Creator of all things doth uphold,[ a] direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, [b] from the greatest even to the least, [c] by His most wise and holy providence,[ d] according to His infallible foreknowledge, [
Ask a scientist friend to define science and you will be surprised by the response. 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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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 .
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.
A recent web site from our British cousins, Scibel seeks to reach the younger generation.
Science 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.
a useful source of science news
Autobiographies A personal view of the spiritual and scientific odysseys of ASA members and friends. Please send us yours.
Last entry: 4/15/2014