Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Science vs. Religion?

We’ve all heard these indictments against the role of religion:

“Science has achieved so much because it has not been tied down to religious commitments and ideas. Christians approach science with presuppositions that interfere with them dealing impartially with the evidence. Therefore, religion and Christianity should be kept out of science.”

Although this statement seems rational, there are many incorrect assumptions lurking behind these words. I’ll list the assumptions and the counter-arguments:

1. CHRISTIANS (AND OTHER “RELIGIOUS” PEOPLE) ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO HAVE PRESUPPOSITIONS THAT MIGHT INTERFERE. We all have our presuppositions, values, philosophical commitments or religious sentiments. Even the secular humanists used to claim to be a religion, until they realized that they had more to gain by denying this fact. The first Humanist (atheist) Manifesto (Paul Kurtz, 1933) reads: “Humanism is a philosophical, religious, and moral point of view.”

2. CHRISTIANS CAN’T DO SCIENCE. This just doesn’t accord with the facts. The historical testimony in favor of the Christian role in the development of science is overwhelming. British scientist Robert Clark sums it up this way:

• “However we may interpret the fact, scientific development has only occurred in Christian culture. The ancients had brains as good as ours. In all civilizations—Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, India, Rome, Persia, China and so on—science developed to a certain point and then stopped. It is easy to argue speculatively that, perhaps, science might have been able to develop in the absence of Christianity, but in fact, it never did. And no wonder. For the non-Christian world believed that there was something ethically wrong about science. In Greece, this conviction was enshrined in the legend of Prometheus, the fire-bearer and prototype scientist who stole fire from heaven, thus incurring the wrath of the gods.” (Christian Belief and Science, quoted by Henry F. Schaefer, 14)

3. THE NATURALISTIC EXPLANATIONS EQUATE WITH SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS. These are two very different things – the “what” of science and the “why.” We have the findings and the technical progress of science on the one side. Then we try to understand the underlying causes, mechanisms and laws behind them. Science has recently been hijacked by naturalism – the laws are natural, unintelligent, and just happened their way into existence, as opposed to the theory that they were intelligently designed. While we can’t see either at work – whether natural or supernatural operations – yet there are many reasons to regard the supernatural (ID) paradigm as preferable.

4. CHRISTIAN PRESUPPOSITIONS WILL TAKE US IN AN UNSCIENTIFIC DIRECTION. Instead, it was the Christian presuppositions – God rules predictably through laws, the material world is worth understanding, He wants to be known… – that reopened the door to scientific inquiry.

5. NATURALISTIC (ATHEISTIC) PRESUPPOSITIONS ARE THE MOST SCIENTIFICALLY FRUITFUL. Indeed, we all see through a lens. The question then becomes, “Which lens brings reality into sharp focus; which lens will distort the image? C.S. Lewis wrote:

• “I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun—not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” (The Journey, Os Guinness, 27)

Let me try to give an example of how the lens of Biblical truth enables us to see clearly. In many ways, the Bible says that we are sin infested, even the best of us (Romans 7:25; Gal. 5:17). This lens has enabled me to fruitfully navigate life’s demands in so many ways. On the surface, people can look darn good, but the Christian lens has alerted me to the fact that there are no ascended gurus out there, just people like me. It has enabled me to accept myself, knowing that the struggles I have are little different from those of others. It has also helped me to accept others, despite how they might have disappointed me. It has also informed me that there is no Mr. or Mrs. right out there. Each one of us comes into a relationship with a load of issues.

But does the Christian lens produce scientific clarity and knowability? In his debate with the ardent atheist Richard Dawkins, John Lennox stated that if the scientific community had taken the Bible’s assertion of a universe-beginning more seriously, it would probably have found evidence to reject the widely accepted Aristotelian idea of an eternal universe much sooner.

I think that there are many examples of this kind of thing. Furthermore, I would predict that much of the atheistically-driven research to find the natural origins of RNA, DNA, the cell, and life itself, in their attempt to get around ID, will merely drain us of a lot of money and waste a lot of time. But, of course, this prediction comes from my presuppositions. Do you have a better one?

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