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An Introduction to Science for Christians

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Written by Basil on 10/30/2004 12:10 PM. Filed under:

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This is in response to a post by Huw Raphael about evolution.

In order to throw out the scientific research that explains the collective data referred to by the name “evolution” — the extreme age of the universe and the earth and the development over time from simple to complex life forms — you would have to throw out most of science. Christians now stand in much the same predicament as they did about a century or so after Galileo was forced to recant his Copernican views: They are being forced to either abandon science or admit that their fundamentalism is not the right way of approaching the Truth of the faith, because Truth does not contradict himself.

I recognize Priestmonk Seraphim has very negative things to say about “Evolution.” (I love the way it gets capitalized like Gnosticism or Iconoclasm, like there is one scientific theory by that name — there isn’t — that is somehow a great heresy of the faith.) There are also many priests, monks, seminary professors, and even bishops who have a much more humane approach to the subject.

You might read The Galileo Connection by Charles Hummel, a professor at Wheaton. It is a good introduction to integrating a sound philosophy of science with an orthodox Christian worldview. On the science side, there is Abusing Science by Philip Kitcher. Mr. Kitcher’s aim is to provide solid evidence against the flimsy case for giving “scientific creationism” equal time in the classroom, so he pulls no punches. It is excellent and incisive, while remaining respectful of religious persons.

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6 Responses to “An Introduction to Science for Christians”

  1. David T. Says:

    I’ve read The Galileo Connection. It was good. Some of Hugh Ross’s material is helpful as well.

    Haven’t read Abusing Science. Does Mr. Kitcher lump in the Phillip Johnson /William Dembski Intelligent Design group ( ) with his definition of the “scientific creationist” abusers of science ?

    I’ve found that many of the hardline materialists/secularists hold the ID people in even greater contempt than the young-earther ICR types
    (Duane Gish, Ken Hamm ) . Wouldn’t Mr. Kitcher also think that Wheaton’s Dr. Hummel is “abusing science”

  2. basil Says:

    David, Abusing Science was published before the advent of ID, so Kitcher makes no reference to it. I need to read some of the proponents of ID to be able to respond; I’ve heard very mixed reactions to them. Behe strikes me as possibly making a strong, scientific argument; Dembske’s authority is ambiguous for me. Johnson: A lawyer? Please. Part of the problem with ICR and others with similar views is their refusal to accept the authority of scientists in their own field. Mathematicians and physicists doing biology and geology? They simply don’t have the requisite training. That’s why they make mistakes that strike scientists as elementary. (Though it’s not why they make so many spelling and grammar errors. Read Kitcher’s book to see what I mean. sic appears at least once in every citation of scientific creationists.)

    It has been a long time since I read the Abusing Science, but I thought Kitcher cited Hummel as a positive example of the interaction of religion and science.

  3. David Says:

    Thanks , Basil.

    I made my question to note that in the “battle” between materialistic/secular SCIENCE â„¢ and any form of Christian science it seems as if Christians lose every time. The materialist establisment doesn’t seem to care whether it’s Duane Gish or Ken Hamm (young earthers ) or Hugh Ross and Charles Hummel (old earthers/old universe “theistic” evolutionists ) …… in fact , it seems that they hate the Hugh Ross, Charles Hummel, William Dembski Intelligent Design accepting-of-evolution-as-a -mechanism Christians even more than they hate the “fundamentalists” like John Morris, Duane Gish , and Ken Hamm . To the Kitchers of this World it seems like any who acknowledge God a the Creator are to be despised and put down . Do you see it any different ?

    Yes, I have a problm with the ICR crowd and their
    “cranky engineer” reading of the Holy Scriptures……… but at least , in the end , the ICR guys are on the side that says “Jesus is Lord” and the Kitcher’s are the ones who deny that Jesus has anything to do with it all.

    Am I missing something ?

  4. David Says:

    Sorry for the spelling errors above. I type too fast and don’t spell check.

    What I was trying to point out is that the Secularist/Materialist defenders of Science â„¢ don’t much give a damn if you accept evolutionism as a mechanism ……… they just hate you all the more if you acknowledge a “God” who is at the begining of all such processes. To say that “Jesus is Lord and Creator of All” is what is truly offensive to these people. They don’t really care if you think God took very long ages or Ussher’s literal Biblical chronology …… any “god” is equally offensive to them . Any idea of “god” as a Creator is to Abuse Science .

  5. basil Says:

    In Abusing Science, Kitcher aims to explain healthy philosophy of science by contrasting it with ideology that masquerades as science. He is very careful not to overstep the bounds of this stated aim: He does not ridicule religous people for their religious views. He keeps the argument on track and only targets their pseudo-scientific views.

    As to whether he even mentions Hummel or other scientists, I honestly cannot remember. When I was coming to terms with this issue in college (I attended Asbury College, something of a sister school and rival to Wheaton), I spoke with several professors about the issue, and I don’t remember them mentioning any kind of exclusion from the scientific community on the basis of their extra-scientific views. As far as their published papers were concerned, it simply bore no relevance.

    Science is by definition empirical; it employs what is sometimes called a “methodological naturalism,” meaning it attempts to explain empirical phenomena in terms of empirical explanations. Explanations which are not empirical do not come to bear; by definition, they take the explanation into a non-scientific field of inquiry — whether theology or philosophy or tea leaf hermeneutics. It really makes no difference to the scientist.

    As I understand it, scientists mostly get irritated when religious people try to mix science with some non-scientific field. (New Agers do this all the time, by the way.) They mix like oil and water.

    I exempt from this description metaphysical naturalists like Richard Dawkins who have a philosophical and atheological axe to grind. Their non-scientific opinions are just as non-scientific as mine. The sword of science cuts both ways. If you cannot include non-empirical explanations because they are excluded by definition — that definition being the Scientific Method — then you cannot use it to argue for or against non-empirical data or explanations, because those data and explanations are already exempted from the discussion. It is already another field of inquiry. Richard Dawkins, then, is writing philosophy and atheology masquerading as science; ironically, he makes the exactly the same mistake as “scientific creationists,” except his religion is atheism.

    Perhaps I should write a book analogous to Abusing Science that demonstrates just that. That would be ironic.

  6. dis Says:

    “Science is by definition empirical; it employs what is sometimes called a “methodological naturalism,” meaning it attempts to explain empirical phenomena in terms of empirical explanations. Explanations which are not empirical do not come to bear; by definition, they take the explanation into a non-scientific field of inquiry — whether theology or philosophy or tea leaf hermeneutics. It really makes no difference to the scientist.”

    hmm, interesting. . .

    seems to me, though that science has strayed from the empirical to the “assumed without sufficient evidence”

    I just do not see how this can be so lightly regarded by Kircher. I have a doctorate in molecular biology and still see this from colleagues. I am still old fashioned. What I can see, test, and observe.

    I am an atheist, but am not in the evolution camp by a long-shot.

    I work on what I can prove, I do not start with a foregone assumption of what my findings are going to prove. That is as faulty as Wartime propaganda. To begin with the determination to affirm a specific angle is like paying a boxer to take a dive. You just twist the findings to whatever end you wish. I let the results speak for themselves, then coalesce it with other findings. That, my friend, is science.