In controversies about creation and evolution, it’s often claimed that the Bible has nothing to do with science, that in fact the Bible and Christianity are anti-science, and that the idea that things were created has no place in science classes or curriculums. Perhaps it can be talked about in Social Studies classes but certainly not science classes.
Alternatively, it may be claimed that the concept of creation is pseudo-science. I’ve been to a number of NZ Sceptics Society conferences where Creation is lumped together with spoon bending, astrology, and such things.
So the question is, “What is the relationship of science to Christianity?” Does science conflict with Christianity as so many claim?
To start with we need to define critical aspects of ‘science’ so that we clear the water rather than muddy it further.
In strict terms science deals with what can be observed, measured, tested, and repeated, in the present.
Just a little reflection on this aspect of science will show us there are a number of things that are beyond the reach of science. For example, the love I have for my wife and children. Yes, it exists in the present, and yes, some effects of it can be observed, but how can you apply a test to it, or measure it, or repeat the test and the measurements? And how do you know what you see is the result of love and not some personal hidden agenda.
Love is an intangible activity of the human person and simply cannot be put in a test tube the way material things can be. Never the less it’s real. Well…actually…there is controversy over what constitutes ‘the human person’ and whether ‘love’ is actually real or not, depending on the worldview you hold.
History is another area that is beyond the scope of science, and this impacts very significantly on controversies surrounding Christianity and science.
History consists of one off events. Once something has happened, it’s gone for good and cannot be got at to observe, test, and measure.
This is significant because however the world and universe came to be, it came to be in the past. As both evolution and creation are understood as processes which have occurred in the past, they’re consequently inaccessible to science strictly defined. As a result it’s incorrect to call either evolution or creation ‘science’ in strict terms.
Of course it’s claimed that evolution is an ongoing process so it also occurs in the present. In principle therefore it should be open to scientific scrutiny. However evolution is said to happen very slowly, and this is so even in the views like punctuated equilibria, which understands evolution as happening relatively fast compared with what is called ‘gradualistic’ evolution, or neo-Darwinism. The practical effect of evolution happening slowly is that it’s beyond observation. And if it’s beyond observation, it’s outside of science.
But say we do observe something happening today which we postulate is part of the evolutionary process. For example, we may observe natural selection, or a mutation, or genetic drift. How do we know it’s part of the evolutionary process? Perhaps it is something else. We are back to an interpretation of a one off event, and how do we know we have interpreted it correctly? There may be other equally, or more valid interpretations.
For example, if natural selection is part of the Creation view of things, and it is, though as a conservative rather than a creative process, then it can’t be used as an argument purely in support of evolution.
Mutations are also part of the Creation view. Within the Creation view, mutations degrade existing genetic information, they don’t enhance it or improve it and so are understood to harm the organism involved as a result of there being a loss of information. Mutations are known by the diseases they cause. They’re harmful, not beneficial. They scramble and destroy information, they don’t produce new information in the sense of producing new enhanced information. They only produce new information in the way that spelling mistakes lessen coherence and degrade the original intent of the words.
But evolution requires that mutations produce new, innovative, enhanced genetic information. Do we see this happening? No we don’t, and actually there’s no possible mechanism within an evolutionary framework for this to come about. Mutations are the only mechanism touted but they will not do the trick.
Now there should be no debate about history being beyond the scope of science. However there is a debate because many evolutionists want to gain the upper hand in the controversy, and so try and link evolution – which is not science – to the renown and authority of genuine science. They therefore insist that evolution (the claimed history of the development of life in the past) is science while creation is not.
Creationists on the other hand are constantly pointing out that neither creation or evolution are science as it is strictly defined, but are rather models that are used for interpreting the present we live in – and how it came to be the way it is.
We need to be clear on this distinction between the present and the past. It’s been proposed that we should separate them out into two branches of study, what have been called ‘operation science’ and ‘origins science’.
‘Operation science’ applies to the observing, testing, measuring and repeatability aspect of things. This is the sort of science that put men on the moon, produces computers, and has brought about the fantastic medical advances over the past 100 years. This is the painstaking study of the material world that allows us to understand how materials and systems work under all sorts of conditions and why.
‘Origins science’ is different kettle of fish altogether. It seeks to understand what happened in the past through interpreting data we have in the present. As a general rule, the data is interpreted within a preexisting overarching view of the universe and everything, or a worldview as we’ve been discussing.
If it’s not done within the context of a worldview, what you end up with is a raft of unconnected things, and that’s not satisfying to most people.
Tell me – and this is not an original question, but it’s a good one: Do fossils exist in the present or the past. Answer: Fossils exist in the present. So we look at fossils and ask questions. This appears to be an animal, but it’s rock. Presumably, it once was an animal that was alive but which somehow got buried and somehow turned to stone. What sort of animal was it? Are these sorts of animals alive today? If so, what sort of environment do they live in?
Then we could ask questions about how the fossil came to be like it is. How did it die? How was it buried? How was it turned to stone? What sort of processes could bring this about? Further, and this is a 64 million dollar question! When was it buried? Is there even any way of knowing?
So we ask these sorts of questions and look to see if the fossil and its surroundings, or any other material that bears on it – perhaps historical records if there are any – can give us some answers.
For example, just outside of Rotorua in New Zealand, there’s a small museum. In that museum is a fossilized hat, a fossilized cat, and a fossilized leg of ham – among other things. When were these things fossilized and how long did the process take? Well you could do all sorts of tests on them but the most accurate way of knowing when the fossilization process started and when the cat died, is to read historical records. They were all fossilized as a result of the Mt Tarawera eruption of June the 10th 1886. Probably the fossilization process only took a very short time. The most it would have been is from the time of the eruption to the time they were found…I’m not sure how long that was.
But the point is, we’re asking questions and seeking to understand how something in the present, came to us from the past. That is very different from measuring, and testing – and repeating the measuring and testing – of something in a laboratory. And as you can imagine, the way you answer some questions can be heavily influenced by your pre-existing worldview.
Now…does ‘operation science’, that is science strictly defined, conflict with the Bible? No, it doesn’t. Not in any way.
That this is so should be obvious to everyone by noting that virtually every branch of modern science was established by those who believed in God and the Bible.
These people; like Sir Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, Louis Pasteur, and others – the list goes on and on and on – these people consciously went out and researched the world on the basis that the world was created by a rational Creator who consistently maintains his creation. Many of their inventions and discoveries have given rise to the modern world and the wonderful technologies from which we all benefit.
These people approached their science with the idea that the material they dealt with day by day in their studies was material embodying the thought of God. As God is a rational being of infinite wisdom, they presupposed that whatever God had made, he had made for a reason and to optimum efficiency. They were just finding out some of his design thoughts and reasons for making things they way they were. As was said, ‘they were thinking God’s thoughts after him.’
These scientists, believers in God – and in most cases dedicated believers in the Bible and in Christ, laid the foundations of what we have as science today, so why should we think that science in a strict sense is opposed to the Bible? The thought is nonsense. Add to these giants of science, the thousands of moden scientists alive today who accept the Bible and are straight-out creationists. Someone has conservatively estimated over 10,000 in the US alone.
Furthermore, it can be argued very persuasively that without the Biblical worldview, there would be no science. Science needs very special conditions to arise and the lack of these meant that it didn’t arise in the ancient world, nor in Hindu, Islamic, or Chinese cultures, even though some of these cultures produced amazing technology. But it did in post-reformation Protestant Europe. What was missing from these other cultures? The Biblical worldview! If a Biblical worldview was a critical element in the rise of science, it can hardly be argued that the Bible is against science!
Given the philosophies that have spawned from the evolutionary worldview, I think it’s valid to predict the end of science not to far in the future. If the universe is ultimately without meaning, as evolution postulates, then there’s no ultimate meaning to science either. What better way to destroy science than to gut it of meaning?
But what about ‘origin’ science?
Well as I said, ‘origins science’ is another story altogether. It’s not really science at all, rather is more about philosophy, religion, and worldviews and the basis on which we interpret data.
Today the scientific establishment is controlled/dominated – and stiflingly so, by a religious/philosophical view that goes under a number of names depending on what aspect of it is focused on. I’ve mentioned them in the video series, but to spell them out:
It can be called ‘Naturalism’. Naturalism says that ‘nature’ is all there is. There is no such thing as super-nature – a realm above or beyond nature, which is superior to nature, and from which nature derives and on which it depends. I illustrated this by a circle. Everything there is is within the circle. Nothing whatsoever is outside of the circle.
Another name for Naturalism in the West is ‘Materialism‘, or ‘philosophical materialism’. Materialism says that matter is all there is. There is no such thing as a spirit mode of existence. If we could boil everything down to its nuts and bolts as it were, we would end up with material stuff – atoms and molecules – energy maybe, but still material. In terms of our diagram, not only is everything there is within the circle, everything is also material. Ultimate reality is material.
If we think of this view in relation to God, we would call it ‘Atheistic‘ – meaning ‘no god’. There’s simply no place in this view for a personal being who thought of and built the universe, and who is outside the circle. Rather the universe built itself. The stuff within the circle, all of it material, arranged itself by purely natural processes – that is, processes limited to those which occur within the circle – into the complex forms we find it has today.
If we think of it in relation to humans and authority, we would call it “Humanistic‘. This is because it is humans which are eventually the focus of attention, and humans which are understood to be the highest authority – that is, if an authority is acknowledged, and we all do that, even if it’s only ourselves.
There is an irony at this point. While the focus is on humans, naturalism reduces humans to zero – to a status of having no ultimate significance, worth, or meaning, simply material machines.
It can also be called the ‘Secular‘ view as it focuses on this world and takes no account of a realm above and beyond it – a realm outside the circle. Such a realm does not exist.
Now…is Naturalism established by ‘observing, testing, measuring, and repeating the testing and measuring’? Of course not. ‘Naturalism’ is a philosophical/religious position – or a worldview – on the basis of which the world is understood. It is a religious view, not science.
But the scientific establishment today wants to include the religion of naturalism’ within its definition of ‘science’, in fact as it’s baseline definition. Science, it says, is naturalistic and therefore the only processes or causes allowed to be considered are naturalistic ones. Nothing super-naturalistic – like a God who made the world – can be considered.
This is like making the rules of a game so you can’t lose. It’s like stacking the deck, or loading the dice. It’s the action of swindlers and gangsters. Honest players don’t resort to such tactics.
Philosophy/religion is not science. However philosophy/religion undergirds science in the minds of everyone who does science. The scientist’s philosophical/religious position gives the framework of meaning within which all of their scientific activities are conducted. Every scientist does this…without exception.
Does Naturalism conflict with the Bible and with Christianity?
It most certainly does! There is nothing in common between these two views of the world, except the data we observe and interpret. We all live in the same world and have the same data. There is no dispute about the data – except when one view or the other thinks some monkey business is going on and the opposition is massaging the data, in other words, lying about it.
Naturalism and Christianity are implacable enemies. At the moment Naturalism controls the thinking of much of the world’s science and because of this uses its position of influence to censor from consideration its main opponent.
Scientific journals will not publish creationist articles, and nor do popular magazines that touch on scientific matters. For example the National Geographic Magazine clearly has an agenda to counter what they perceive as the Creationist threat. The Creation viewpoint is growing rapidly in the US to the point it can no longer be ignored and so the NG is basically asking people to keep the faith – the evolutionary faith that is.
When you consider education, students are not taught the creationist model for understanding the world.
Those of you at university, do any of you in any of your lectures get the things you are studying outlined from within a creation/design framework? I bet not. Those who are doing nursing and studying the mind-numbing complexity of the human body, is it ever suggested to you that what you’re studying is the product of the most brilliant thinking there has ever been?
To be heard, the proponents of creation have had to sidestep the normal channels of dialogue in science because they’re excluded from establishment company. And they’ve sidestepped the usual channels quite successfully such that the establishment can no longer ignore what creationists are saying. They may be ridiculed and abused – and they are – but they cannot be ignored anymore. The scientific tide has turned and is beginning to run the creationist way.
Specifically, how is it that naturalism conflicts with the Bible and Christianity?
Well…naturalism is evolutionary. As I said, Naturalism says that the universe made itself, and the process by which it is said to have done this is evolution. The foundational stuff of the universe is said to be matter not mind, in fact, as I record in the video series, a leading evolutionist has said there is no such thing as mind, only brain…i.e. matter. You could not get a more fundamental difference or conflict between the views than this.
It is as plain as day to anyone who can read, that the Bible taken at face value does not describe an evolutionary world. And from beginning to end, the creation of life, the universe, and everything, is said to have derived from the creative activity of a transcendent, personal God.