Sunday, March 01, 2009

Christian Views on Science

What is the science? (excerpts from Scaling the Secular City, JP Moreland)

Realist view: Good scientific theories are rational, close to true description of the world. If it’s true, a theory will have virtues like simplicity, clarity, internal/external consistency, predictive ability, empirical accuracy, guide future research). As science progress, we get a truer picture of the world. (i.e. Karl Popper)

Non-realist view: There is no neutral facts/data. The ‘world’ we observe is itself determined by our theories about the world. Rival theories cannot be compared with each other because there are no theory-neutral criteria. What is rational for one culture is not necessarily so for another culture. Paradigm shifts (i.e. Thomas Kuhn)

Are there limits of science?

“Only what can be tested empirically is true and rational Everything else is just opinion.” But can this statement itself be empirically tested? What kind of experiment can prove that?

(Realist) Science presupposes some philosophical ideas like the laws of logic are true, that numbers exist, that good theory corresponds to the world and existence of mind-independent world (if a tree falls, does it make a sound if nobody hears it?) versus the ‘world’ is just sense images in the brain of perceivers. Point is: Science is possible only under certain philosophical assumptions.

How Does Science And Theology Relate To Each Other? (Five models)

1. Science is for natural realm and Theology is for supernatural realm. The Bible is not a science textbook. If we want to know the chemical makeup of water, that’s the role of science. But science cannot help to settle the question of how sins can be forgiven.

2. Science and theology are different ways of explaining a phenomenon – science focuses on the how and what, theology focuses on who and why.

3. Theology as foundation for science: The same personal Creator who created the world also created our sensory and rational faculties so it’s reasonable there is correspondence between them. But it’s probably more accurate to say that science owes its existence to philosophy. At least, Christian theology is consistent with presuppositions of science.

4. Science sets limits on Theology. Theology can do its work only after consulting science, not vice versa. For example, if science contradicts theology, it trumps everything. But if Bible is God’s revelation, then we need to be cautious of this option.

How do we respond when there are apparent conflicts? Is our interpretation right? Is our science sound? All truth is God’s truth.

5. Both are interacting approaches to the same reality. (5 is compatible with 1, 2, 3) Theology sometimes implies gaps will exist in scientific accounts where God intervenes. Let the biblical revelation speak for itself i.e. make historical/scientific claims. Is this God-of-the-gaps strategy?

a) It’s debatable whether theology always loses (some theologians predicted that the universe is temporally finite, fossil record would show gaps, anthropologists would find widespread belief in a supreme Being in different cultures etc.

b) And just because most alleged gaps are explainable, it doesn’t follow that all alleged gaps will turn out this way. By definition, a miracle arises against a backdrop where it is rare and unexpected and in the minority.

c) God of the gaps argument can be used against science as well. Most past theories have been replaced or falsified now. Caution against accepting a prevailing theory too readily.

d) What if the gap gets bigger with the advance of science? Spontaneous generation of life theory debunked as we understand more the complexity of microbiological structures.

Picture courtesy of this website

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