When God and Science Mix

beakerRepublished with permission from Baptist Bulletin Nov/Dec 2010. All rights reserved.

By Liz Gifford

Challenges and Opportunities on the University Campus

Dad and Mom and their high school son or daughter sit at a table piled with college catalogs, applications, and scholarship forms. “I would really like to study chemistry or biology at the university, Dad.”

“But you know the big news stories coming out of the universities are about professors not getting tenure or even being fired because of their Christian stand on contemporary issues. What are your chances of having classes under an instructor who isn’t an atheist?”

“All I hear is how the university is a negative influence on Christians. Not the place I want to send you,” Mom adds.

“But I enjoy physics and chemistry and math, and I get good grades in those classes. I could help find a cure for cancer or work with plants and find a source of food to end hunger around the world.”

So the discussion goes as parents struggle to help their young people make the right choice of a place to study to be what God wants them to become.

Christian young people who wish to take advantage of the programs offered by a secular university, who wish to study under professors who are leaders in their areas of expertise, who want a diploma from an outstanding institution of higher learning are going to have to confront ideas that challenge their Christian beliefs. These are found in most areas of study, but highly volatile topics come under scrutiny in the sciences. Biology, archaeology, chemistry, and physics classes will force Christian young people to examine what they believe.

Two Christian men, David Boylan and Craig Wilson, have studied science and spent their careers teaching on secular campuses. They can provide an inside perspective on the rewards and challenges of being a Christian, a teacher, and a scientist in a secular university. Boylan was dean of the engineering department at Iowa State University for 18 years. Wilson teaches students at East Stroudsburg University (Pa.) to be science teachers. They are willing shared their experiences and observations, which leave us encouraged yet aware of challenges.

Boylan, a member of Faith Baptist Church, Cambridge, Iowa, has fond memories of his years at ISU. The university had a Christian faculty association with more than 120 members. “They were from most disciplines across the university. We met regularly in great fellowship. A Christian faculty member can find a blessing in just knowing other Christians are working in similar non-Christian situations. They can support each other and enjoy fellowship. And it is an opportunity for the university at large to see the testimony in the lives, as well as in the words, of those who are Christians.”

A graduate of Baptist Bible College and member of Heritage Baptist Church, Clarks Summit, Pa., Wilson finds that a variety of faiths are represented in his department. He says they have a close relationship. The campus also has an active group called University Christian Fellowship.

Both men referred to the opportunities to interact with students. Wilson has this opportunity through monthly Student-Faculty Staff Luncheons. “The purpose of those luncheons is for Christian students, faculty, and staff to get together and ask for prayer requests and then have a short devotional.” He has been able to organize and be involved in that.

Boylan points out that Christian professors can be a help and support for Christian students. Also, believers can find Christian-oriented activities on the campus. These should be an encouragement to families considering sending a young person to a secular campus to study.

Challenges

Christian professors, groups, and activities notwithstanding, a young person entering a secular university needs to know there will be adversity. Some challenges are inevitable. When addressing biological topics in both grad and undergrad courses, Wilson presents an overview of evolution and creation. He points out “that it takes faith to believe either evolution or creation. So it’s important to decide where they want to put their faith.” Students “listen intently and take down notes. Sometimes a couple stay afterwards and ask for clarification,” he says.

Wilson realizes that when taking “the specific proficiency test that teachers are required to pass to become ‘higher qualified,’ they are to ‘identify evidence that supports the theory of evolution.’” They are not asked to point out errors in evolution or to provide evidence that supports creation. This is indicative of “the bias that exists in favor of evolution and makes Christians and non-Christians alike feel that they must choose between the Bible and science.”

While the controversy presents an intellectual and moral challenge, a more personal challenge is the possibility of being attacked for Christian beliefs. Boylan has experienced such attacks. “That is a sad part about a university,” he says. He recalls that his attackers were simply expressing an individual philosophy of life. “When a Christian who is a scientist takes a position that differs from the views of those who don’t believe in God, the believer is considered a bigot or something. Some people take that seriously and use it as a way of attacking. I’ve been attacked, but that is part of the experience of being a Christian. We are to expect this. A non-believer is opposed to a believer. That has been true from Bible times down to the present.”

Opportunities

Contrary to some beliefs, scientists who are Christians are not unusual on a secular campus. Boylan says, “There were always, in my experience, professors who were identified as Christians by their lifestyle. It is a great opportunity for a person who is a Christian to be a scientist. You don’t hear about them in the newspaper, for they are not trying to force their beliefs on other people. They are living a Christian testimony and sometimes that offends people.” The university is a composite of many kinds of people. They are not all atheists; they are not all agnostics; there is room for Christians. But there are enough atheists and agnostics to cause some problems with what might be called a Christian testimony.”

Young scientists

To young people who are interested in studying science, these men have advice. Wilson strongly encourages them to enroll in a university where they can receive an excellent education in the science of their choice because there is clearly a need for Christian scientists. He suggests that they “learn how to think critically, which involves the sciences of observing and inferring. Learn to use those effectively.” He also suggests listening to Christian radio, because quite often preachers speak about philosophy and worldview. He says, “Watch the news and read the newspapers; read and listen critically. Be prepared.”

Boylan’s advice to young people interested in becoming scientists is to make sure that their own personal beliefs are established and that they don’t have questions concerning their own beliefs. He warns, “Make sure that you understand that there are oppositions in the world and understand the Christian position on those worldviews. Be strong enough so you will not waver from that position. I just read a portion in Psalm 119 that says teach me your commandments so I won’t be ashamed” (Psalm 119:5, 6). He points out that Christians should not be wishy washy about their own beliefs and that they need to be established in the Word. They have a responsibility—a responsibility to be a worthy Christian—“and that,” he says, “includes understanding the culture and staying within the bounds of culture, yet not backing away from being a strong Christian. That will show up in the life. You don’t have to be a buttonholer as a Christian. But you need to have a strong Christian life, and then you will be the greatest testimony. That is more telling than words sometimes. So I encourage anyone that wants to go into science, just make sure you understand that you are in the world and the world is not in itself a theistic world: it is an evil world. The Bible clearly teaches it: there is a worldly culture and there is a Christian culture. They interact, but one does not except [exclude] the other one in its interaction.”

Reflecting on the profession in which he spent his life, Boylan says that “science is a human endeavor directed toward the world that we live in. It’s a human endeavor. Humans carry it on, so anyone that pursues in a scientific fashion the understanding of the world in which we live can do that: Christian or non-Christian. Some people don’t believe that is true. There is no requirement to believe in God or to not believe in Him to be a scientist. Some of the great scientists of the world in the past and present are Christians.”

Parents, go ahead and help your future Nobel Prize winner fill out the application and scholarship forms for a secular university. As a part of settling your young person on the campus, seek out solidly Biblical Christian organizations in the area and visit a local church that supports the values you have been instilling in your child. Encourage your young adult to identify the professors who live Christian values, such as Boylan and Wilson, who are examples of the positive influences available on the university campus.


Liz Gifford (MA, Iowa State University) teaches English at Faith Baptist Bible College and formerly taught at Ballard Community H.S. and Iowa State University. She is a member of Slater Baptist Church, Slater, Iowa.

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There are 29 Comments

jimcarwest's picture

Insisting on attending a university where you are discriminated against presents you with two possibilities: (1) accept the second class status of believers as a price for following Christ, or (2) accepting a second-class education just to have a recognized degree. Who says that spending your time studying all your subjects from an evolutionary, god-hating position is a better education than finishing your degree at a Christian university where the degree may not be as highly acccredited, but your studies are rooted in truth? Maybe one should consider whether it is really the will of God to sit at the feet of atheists in order to pursue studies that contradict the Word of God. How many students have chosen to attend secular universities only to lose their faith and wind up pursuing not only the secular studies, but also the secular philosophy and lifestyle. Some secular schools will not even allow a student to pursue a M.Sci or P.hd if the student doesn't parrot the falsehoods that the school teaches. There are many ways to serve God, and one should consider if he might not use his life in another vocation and pursue his other interests as an avocation.

ChrisC's picture

if one studies biology or chemistry at a second-rate christian college because they are afraid of learning about evolution in a non-religious environment and they actually manage to get a respectable job in that field after graduation, they will surely have to work with and for those same kinds of people they were afraid of learning from.

also, consider engineering. the focus is more on results suitable for industrial use (now) and not on developing theories of past eras.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Maybe I'm dreamin' but I'd love to see Bible-believing Christians take science back. The widespread antipathy toward "science" that I hear among fundamentalists tells me that our colleges and universities are probably not super strong in these areas. So when I say "take back," I mean be better at science than the secular schools (not that we would expect them to ever acknowledge that, but there are other criteria).

So much of science is specialized research, and there is really no reason why believers cannot excel at this work regardless of the evolutionary commitments that currently dominate science. It's mostly in the popular level literature/rhetoric that evolution plays a huge role. As far as results are concerned, it doesn't matter much what your worldview is when you are studying how a particular protein behaves under particular conditions or how to make a chain of carbon molecules one molecule thick, etc. And--I speak as an outsider--it seems to me that even the heavily worldview-polluted peer review process would have to honor studies that are well conducted and produce significant results, regardless of the beliefs of those who conducted it.

Believers pioneered science. They should still do it better than unbelievers. Somewhere along the line we dropped the ball.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Maybe I'm dreamin' but I'd love to see Bible-believing Christians take science back. The widespread antipathy toward "science" that I hear among fundamentalists tells me that our colleges and universities are probably not super strong in these areas. So when I say "take back," I mean be better at science than the secular schools (not that we would expect them to ever acknowledge that, but there are other criteria).

So much of science is specialized research, and there is really no reason why believers cannot excel at this work regardless of the evolutionary commitments that currently dominate science. It's mostly in the popular level literature/rhetoric that evolution plays a huge role. As far as results are concerned, it doesn't matter much what your worldview is when you are studying how a particular protein behaves under particular conditions or how to make a chain of carbon molecules one molecule thick, etc. And--I speak as an outsider--it seems to me that even the heavily worldview-polluted peer review process would have to honor studies that are well conducted and produce significant results, regardless of the beliefs of those who conducted it.

This is a popularized view of science and scientific research. This is not accurate at all. All data is interpreted within a framework. There is no brute factuality. The present scientific paradigm is evolution. All data is interpreted to fit within this paradigm. What doesn't fit is rejected or re-interpreted. Science is not objective; it is what fits.
Quote:

Believers pioneered science. They should still do it better than unbelievers. Somewhere along the line we dropped the ball.

You're dreaming Aaron. We boast of many early scientists who were Christians and it is true. There may have been one time when Christianity was dominant in scientific thinking but that time has succumbed to an inevitable secularism. However, the fatal flaw of science had not surfaced at that point. Today, modern science is shaped in a secular, evolutionary paradigm. Can Christians function in this environment? The answer is a resounding YES when they realize that science is not the objective study of reality as it is often portrayed but it is the interpretation of the physical and biological world within a secular, evolutionary paradigm. Once they lose their awe and worship of science, they can get down to some serious thinking and research. But, don't dream of recapturing science for Christianity until you are willing to jettison the whole Modern paradigm. We can function within science but we must be skeptical of it. It's pure operationalism.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Roland, I agree that everything is interpreted in a framework. However, frameworks/ideologies/worldviews overlap.

This is easy to prove.
If you are a Bible-believing Christian, what is 2+2?
If you are a passionate atheist, what is 2+2?

Now when you start talking about why 2+2 is 4 or why it matters, etc., you quickly get to where worldview matters. However, much of science is not interested in why or why or why it matters, but simply what happens.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Roland, I agree that everything is interpreted in a framework. However, frameworks/ideologies/worldviews overlap.

This is easy to prove.
If you are a Bible-believing Christian, what is 2+2?
If you are a passionate atheist, what is 2+2?

Now when you start talking about why 2+2 is 4 or why it matters, etc., you quickly get to where worldview matters. However, much of science is not interested in why or why or why it matters, but simply what happens.

Not quite. Your simple analogy of the number system is simply that we both use a ten-base number system. It has nothing to do with frameworks/ideologies/worldviews any more than the belief systems of two farmers who just happen to drive John Deere tractors. Using number systems or measurement, one collects data but that data must be interpreted. It is generally interpreted in a rationalistic, evolutionary paradigm. Evolutionary theory is dictating the research in genetics, microbiology, etc. It is possible to arrive at workable solutions in this paradigm but ultimately this solution is open to question, revision, etc. We, as Christians, must have a healthy skepticism of science. We ought not, as the theistic evolutionists do, try to reconcile the current paradigm with Biblical Christianity--the two are incompatible.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

You kind of made my point there. Much of science is not interested in interpreting data beyond discovering what happens and what are its material causes... and how the information might be useful in solving various problems. Vast amounts of this occur in areas where worldviews overlap.

But if you don't believe worldviews overlap at all, it certainly makes sense to take the position you do.
But I submit that they do overlap a great deal, otherwise we would not agree that 2 and 2 are 4 and would not eat at the same restaurants, drive the same cars, read many of the same books, speak much of the same language--on and on it goes.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
You kind of made my point there. Much of science is not interested in interpreting data beyond discovering what happens and what are its material causes... and how the information might be useful in solving various problems. Vast amounts of this occur in areas where worldviews overlap.

But if you don't believe worldviews overlap at all, it certainly makes sense to take the position you do.
But I submit that they do overlap a great deal, otherwise we would not agree that 2 and 2 are 4 and would not eat at the same restaurants, drive the same cars, read many of the same books, speak much of the same language--on and on it goes.

Nathan and Hebrew National franks are two of the best brands on the market. They're kosher. Does it mean that my own Christian and the Jewish world-views overlap when I eat kosher wieners?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

RPittman wrote:
Nathan and Hebrew National franks are two of the best brands on the market. They're kosher. Does it mean that my own Christian and the Jewish world-views overlap when I eat kosher wieners?

These worldviews overlap whether you eat the franks or not. But eating them does demonstrate that you agree with them that they are good food... and yes, this is overlap in beliefs. I think that particular belief doesn't fit in "worldview" category, though.

However, the fact that both you and they believe it's OK to eat meat is a worldview overlap.

CPHurst's picture

I am with Aaron on this. It was the Christian worldview that created the foundation for and made possible the Scientific Revolution. Since Darwin it seems Christianity has given science to the atheists. This is not to say that atheists cannot do science and therefore make discoveries and advancements in many areas of life. They can only because there is order there that God placed whether they recognize it or not. They can do it despite themselves. This makes their unbelief all the more unbelievable.

God created a universe in which scientific exploration can take place. Of all people who should be involved in this endeavor it should be Christians. It is unfortunate that we may have to receive our scientific education from atheists. This should be an encouragement to Christian schools to better develop their science departments. The church needs to come along side of conservative christian colleges and universities in an effort to build this much needed field.

RPittman's picture

CPHurst wrote:
I am with Aaron on this. It was the Christian worldview that created the foundation for and made possible the Scientific Revolution.
How do you know this?
Quote:
Since Darwin it seems Christianity has given science to the atheists. This is not to say that atheists cannot do science and therefore make discoveries and advancements in many areas of life.
Perhaps you ought to check out your sources. There were unbelievers in science long before Darwin.
Quote:
They can only because there is order there that God placed whether they recognize it or not. They can do it despite themselves. This makes their unbelief all the more unbelievable.
The problem is the paradigm. Within their scientific rationalist paradigm it all makes sense.
Quote:

God created a universe in which scientific exploration can take place. Of all people who should be involved in this endeavor it should be Christians. It is unfortunate that we may have to receive our scientific education from atheists. This should be an encouragement to Christian schools to better develop their science departments. The church needs to come along side of conservative christian colleges and universities in an effort to build this much needed field.

This all really sounds attractive and it fits well with Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction but I cannot find in Scripture where this is the mission of the church. It seems that guys who pursue this path usually end up in some kind of theistic evolution (e.g. Vern Poythress's Redeeming Science advocating a framework theory).

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

... but we still don't know what it is

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

What I know of premodern philosophy--admittedly, not very much--is that before rationalism came along, folks still recognized that there is such a thing as immanent reality, or reality as we experience it. The tools for studying that reality are pretty much the same for believers and unbelievers (and modernists and premodernists): observation and reasoning. It's true that the work of science is often to interpret what's observed and reason from it to confirm or destroy hypotheses, theories and what not. The further the scientist goes in fitting his study into a "big picture," the more his worldview affects his interpretation of things.

Since he starts with a hypothesis, his worldview can be a big factor from the outset, but isn't always.
Much of science is just about trying to build better mousetraps and it's up to philosophers and theologians to figure out whether we ought to be trapping mice or why it matters or what it reveals about us and mice and so on.

I'm rambling, but the point is just that science is not our enemy. Some theories unbelievers have built from their science are obviously incompatible with our faith, but it's not science that is the problem.

RP wrote:
NOTChip... CPHurst wrote:
The church needs to come along side of conservative christian colleges and universities in an effort to build this much needed field.

This all really sounds attractive and it fits well with Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction but I cannot find in Scripture where this is the mission of the church. It seems that guys who pursue this path usually end up in some kind of theistic evolution (e.g. Vern Poythress's Redeeming Science advocating a framework theory).

It really has nothing to do with Theonomy or Reconstruction (!). The work of the church includes teaching believers to apply Scripture to all of life. Jesus is to be Lord of all. We are to love Him with heart, soul, mind and strength. That includes studying the world He has made in a Christian way. Loving Him with the intellect.

So the church does have a role in helping believers do that.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Uh, Aaron, if I promise to agree with you, will you check the quote attributed to me in post 14? I am pretty sure this is my first post on this thread unless I've been sleep posting again. :bigsmile:

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Uh, Aaron, if I promise to agree with you, will you check the quote attributed to me in post 14?

As long as you send a check in the mail also (lots of zeros recommended)!
Sorry about that. Smile I'll fix it.

CPHurst's picture

@ RPittman:

(1). It is an historical fact that the Christian Worldview created the state from which the Scientific Revolution flourished. Not to say that all of the scientists had the same conservative theology we have. It is to say that many if not most of them were theists in some fashion. They believed that because there is a God who created order they can then study that order and discover its workings.

(2). In reference to the Darwin comment. This is not to say there were not atheists, evolutionists or unbelieving scientists around before Darwin. Augustine was a Christian who served the church but he believed in an early day-age theory. What I am saying is that Darwin and the Scopes trials did much damage to the Christian worldview in terms of its contribution to understanding creation, origins and the complexity of life that we see. At the time Darwinism crushed many Christians trust in Christianities view of origins. This is where we see the divide between faith & science taking place. An unnecessary one but it happened none the less. This is part of the whole current discussion on faith & reason/science. Thankfully there is a mounted effort for Christianity to reenter the philosophical and scientific discussion about the origins of life.

(3). Of course the problem is the paradigm. No argument there. The chosen paradigm does not rule of the fact that scientists can only do what they do because God did what He did - create everything with order and purposefully.

(4). The definitive mission of the church no but part of it yes if the church is the "pillar and ground of truth". The church has the responsibility to equip and educate believers in their faith and provide answers to the world. Since science touches on creation, origins, etc. then the church needs to be involved in some way with this. Believers are to give an answer for why and what they believe so they will need to be involved in the scientific enterprise if they are to have Bible based scientific answers to atheistic scientific assertions. I am not advocating a Theonomist or Christian Reconstructionist theory. The Christian worldview has the answers. The church is God's light to the world. Therefore the church must get involved (thanks for the support on this Aaron!).

What do you propose as an alternative?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
This is where we see the divide between faith & science taking place.

I'd say it happened before that. And this is the kernel of truth in what RPittman says: there was a shift beginning with the enlightenment (which is what you are calling the Scientific Revolution?) toward a more and more exalted view of observation and reasoning. Increasingly, scientists began to believe that immanent reality is ultimate reality. Eventually naturalism (everything happens as a result of natural causes) and materialism (material reality is all that is or at least all that matters). So "modern" science came ins with "modernism" and tends to dominate today.

But not all people who do science today are "modern" in that sense and even many who are happen to be doing science of a sort where their beliefs about ultimate reality and truth are not major factors.
So the fact that many do science badly nowadays is not a reason for generalized hostility toward the discipline of science itself.

CPHurst's picture

Yes Aaron I would agree that the Enlightenment did contribute to what would later happen with Darwin & Scopes. I think though we have several different things going on here is this discussion in terms of Darwin, Scientific Revolution, Scopes, Enlightenment, etc. They all have their historical significance within the faith/science debate.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's a big tangled bowl of spaghetti, that's for sure.
Some, in their zeal to reject the problems of the Enlightenment way of thinking, have thrown out some solid stuff along with the error and either left a huge hole in place of it or something just as bad or worse (or just incoherent) in place of it.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
It's a big tangled bowl of spaghetti, that's for sure.
Some, in their zeal to reject the problems of the Enlightenment way of thinking, have thrown out some solid stuff along with the error and either left a huge hole in place of it or something just as bad or worse (or just incoherent) in place of it.
It's not incoherent to me and there are always areas that I may not have addressed in my thinking. However, I'm not sure that I agree with your flow of thought here. You seem to be saying that something is better than nothing. That is not necessarily true. The wrong viewpoint can be a hindrance to come to a more accurate view.

Regarding the first part, could you please enlightened me on what has been thrown out with the error that is good stuff? Please give some specific examples.

RPittman's picture

CPHurst wrote:
@ RPittman:

(1). It is an historical fact that the Christian Worldview created the state from which the Scientific Revolution flourished.

This is an inaccurate statement, if not a wrong statement, at best. A fact is something observable, is true, and is not open to debate. A historical fact would be that Teddy Roosevelt died January 6, 1919. Your statement, on the other hand, is a conclusion or inference. It may or may not be true.
Quote:
Not to say that all of the scientists had the same conservative theology we have. It is to say that many if not most of them were theists in some fashion. They believed that because there is a God who created order they can then study that order and discover its workings.
Again, this is overly simplified and it is a poor representation of the progression, or evolution of thought, if you please. Many believe in God whereas others believed in a First Cause or some nebulous something behind reality. The idea is rooted more in an orderliness of things than in a personal God. Coincidental to the rise of our version of modern science was the growth of naturalistic rationalism that probably had as much or more influence than any so-called Christian world-view. What you must realize is they you are speaking of a view of science arising from largely Greek origins as opposed to Moorish and Eastern technical accomplishments.
Quote:

(2). In reference to the Darwin comment. This is not to say there were not atheists, evolutionists or unbelieving scientists around before Darwin. Augustine was a Christian who served the church but he believed in an early day-age theory. What I am saying is that Darwin and the Scopes trials did much damage to the Christian worldview in terms of its contribution to understanding creation, origins and the complexity of life that we see. At the time Darwinism crushed many Christians trust in Christianities view of origins. This is where we see the divide between faith & science taking place. An unnecessary one but it happened none the less. This is part of the whole current discussion on faith & reason/science. Thankfully there is a mounted effort for Christianity to reenter the philosophical and scientific discussion about the origins of life.

Well now, just how did Darwinism trump the Christian world-view? Was it not that Christians were already entangled in naturalistic rationalism? Yes, Christians ought to be in this game but they are playing by the wrong rules.
</p> <p>(3). Of course the problem is the paradigm. No argument there. The chosen paradigm does not rule of the fact that scientists can only do what they do because God did what He did - create everything with order and purposefully.[/qoute ]Now really? Do you think the moder scientific paradigm allows for any teleology? How so? Please explain.[quote wrote:

(4). The definitive mission of the church no but part of it yes if the church is the "pillar and ground of truth". The church has the responsibility to equip and educate believers in their faith and provide answers to the world. Since science touches on creation, origins, etc. then the church needs to be involved in some way with this. Believers are to give an answer for why and what they believe so they will need to be involved in the scientific enterprise if they are to have Bible based scientific answers to atheistic scientific assertions. I am not advocating a Theonomist or Christian Reconstructionist theory. The Christian worldview has the answers. The church is God's light to the world. Therefore the church must get involved (thanks for the support on this Aaron!).

Well, even the idea of a Christian world-view or Weltanschauung is a human construct. We may even argue if such an animal exists. Or, more importantly, how do we define a Christain world-view because there appears to be many philosophies purporting to be Christian world-views according the particular theology? Although your generalizations possess surface appeal, there are some obvious problems and I would like to know what "Bible based scientific answers" looks like in shoe leather. BTW, I heard this repeated among Fundamentalists as they read and listened to R. J. Rushdoony and the Christian Reconstructionists back in the 197-80's until it became Fundamentalist dogma. They thought it gave them intellectual respectability, I think. They ought to have inspected what they swallowed a little more carefully.
Quote:

What do you propose as an alternative?

As a biochemist/microbiologist, I take a purely operational view of science. It is a systematic way of problem-solving and study of the natural world. It is a tool, nothing more. It is useful and workable but it is not a means of discovering truth or ultimate reality. Human reason is limited in several ways including its depravity and cognitive power. Humans are further limited by experience leaving them with many unknowns or perhaps unknowables. I take an agnostic position on many practical matters realizing that the unknown may be greater than the known. Then, there's the matter of levels in understanding and conceptualization. Science deals in models that simplify reality into understandable form to be comprehended by the limited human mind. Although we may be making better and better models, we are far from comprehending reality.

Although I do not believe that we can know exhaustively, I do believe that we can know with certainty.

I am open to various venues of knowledge. There's some value in reason, intuition, feelings, etc. All information/knowledge is not necessarily contained in human language. The only certain knowledge is revelation. All other knowledge is open to revision, refutation, question, and debate. We live by faith. The Holy Spirit inexplicably guides us in our understanding of God's revelation, the Word of God. I do not accept Modernity in that reason and methodology measure all things. I reject scientific naturalistic rationalism as final arbitrator in all questions. This applies only to finding workable solutions in the physical world. Although I reason and use logical methods in certain situations, there are some things (i.e. miracles) that are irrational to human reason and experience. My methodology would be what I call faith and reason as guided by the Holy Spirit.

As for creation, it speaks of God's majesty and power to the believer. An unbeliever may interpret it differently.

I am not a big fan of apologetics because most apologists use Modernity (i.e. scientific naturalistic rationalism) to prove spiritual things. They're in the wrong universe. God is much bigger and transcends the Modern paradigm.

I believe in a plain language philosophy, stripping the conversation of all the baggage of errant dead men. IMHO, it is better to reserve judgment than to speculate. What's wrong with saying, "We don't know?"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

RP wrote:
Regarding the first part, could you please enlightened me on what has been thrown out with the error that is good stuff? Please give some specific examples.

Example from your post earlier...

RP wrote:
The present scientific paradigm is evolution. All data is interpreted to fit within this paradigm. What doesn't fit is rejected or re-interpreted. Science is not objective; it is what fits.

Aaron wrote:
Believers pioneered science. They should still do it better than unbelievers. Somewhere along the line we dropped the ball.

You're dreaming Aaron. We boast of many early scientists who were Christians and it is true. There may have been one time when Christianity was dominant in scientific thinking but that time has succumbed to an inevitable secularism. However, the fatal flaw of science had not surfaced at that point. Today, modern science is shaped in a secular, evolutionary paradigm. Can Christians function in this environment? The answer is a resounding YES when they realize that science is not the objective study of reality as it is often portrayed but it is the interpretation of the physical and biological world within a secular, evolutionary paradigm.


Your second paragraph here is especially confusing. Believers can only function in this environment if they realize it's basically a load of refuse? ... they can function as garbage collectors, I suppose.

There is nothing wrong with science itself. There is alot of trouble with the way many do science today. But there is much that is not a problem at all.
Saw a fascinating episode of Nova on NPR the other night... all about dogs. They went out of their way to use evolution-speak quite a few times, but the funny thing is, if you replaced the word "evolution" with "development" all the way through, there was almost nothing to disagree with. We know dogs have developed. We even know they've evolved (in the sense of varation within the kind).
But a major segment of the program focused on the question of whether dogs are different from wolves (in the sense of domestication) due to environmental factors or due to genetics. Experiments confirmed that it's due to genetics. Guess what? This is true whether you're an atheist or a devout Christian. The science involved is not affected by different "paradigms" in this case.

And there are many, many cases like it.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
RP wrote:
Regarding the first part, could you please enlightened me on what has been thrown out with the error that is good stuff? Please give some specific examples.

Example from your post earlier...

RP wrote:
The present scientific paradigm is evolution. All data is interpreted to fit within this paradigm. What doesn't fit is rejected or re-interpreted. Science is not objective; it is what fits.

Aaron wrote:
Believers pioneered science. They should still do it better than unbelievers. Somewhere along the line we dropped the ball.

You're dreaming Aaron. We boast of many early scientists who were Christians and it is true. There may have been one time when Christianity was dominant in scientific thinking but that time has succumbed to an inevitable secularism. However, the fatal flaw of science had not surfaced at that point. Today, modern science is shaped in a secular, evolutionary paradigm. Can Christians function in this environment? The answer is a resounding YES when they realize that science is not the objective study of reality as it is often portrayed but it is the interpretation of the physical and biological world within a secular, evolutionary paradigm.


Your second paragraph here is especially confusing. Believers can only function in this environment if they realize it's basically a load of refuse? ... they can function as garbage collectors, I suppose.

There is nothing wrong with science itself. There is alot of trouble with the way many do science today. But there is much that is not a problem at all.
Saw a fascinating episode of Nova on NPR the other night... all about dogs. They went out of their way to use evolution-speak quite a few times, but the funny thing is, if you replaced the word "evolution" with "development" all the way through, there was almost nothing to disagree with. We know dogs have developed. We even know they've evolved (in the sense of varation within the kind).
But a major segment of the program focused on the question of whether dogs are different from wolves (in the sense of domestication) due to environmental factors or due to genetics. Experiments confirmed that it's due to genetics. Guess what? This is true whether you're an atheist or a devout Christian. The science involved is not affected by different "paradigms" in this case.

And there are many, many cases like it.


Aaron, you are confusing some basic concepts. Like many Christians, you are espousing a popularized view of science. Science is NOT a pure, idealized quest for truth. Science, as you seem to believe, is not a construct of reality but it is simply a human concept contained within a specific paradigm. When you speak of science, you must specify which paradigm unless you are defaulting to the current generally accepted one. The present paradigm of science seems to work for you and other Christians because you are NOT engaging it as a whole but you're picking niches that are compatible in a general, fuzzy sort-of-way with your overall view. You are avoiding the conflicting areas.

dgszweda's picture

First, I am a scientist and I graduated from Bob Jones University. I think it is unfair to classify a christian college as "second rate". You really need to evaluate each program on it's merits and not on the institution. I graduated from Bob Jones with a Chemistry degree and I would say that the program is equivalent to any other undergraduate program in the US. I did study one year at College of Charleston and Marquette University, I have also taken classes at a few other colleges such as Clemson. The textbooks, material covered and the knowledge of the instructors was identical or better at BJ than any of the other secular universities that I have been exposed to. The instructors all have PhD's and post graduated work from reputable secular universities. Most of the professors continue to further their knowledge during the summers working on the grant work at area secular colleges. The textbooks for the most part are 100% identical to the text books considered "standards" in these fields. The nice thing that you get at BJ is that you get 1:1 time with the professors, where as in most secular colleges for some courses (such as labs) you are only interfacing with GA's.

With that said, a christian college is not the end all. There are some programs that are significantly better at a secular college within the science field than you would get at a christian university. So this isn't a wholesale endorsement, but just one example where some science programs are identical or better than a secular college. So my challenge is to really evaluate the programs to make the right choice.

My second comment is directed to RPittman. While I agree with your statement about science fitting into a paradigm, it doesn't mean a christian scientist cannot operate within a secular scientific realm without either giving up his beliefs or refusing secular beliefs. You could be a surfactant chemist working on developing soaps without ever having to confront evolution or what most christians may view as a failed paradigm. I have worked for years within numerous science fields, making contributions and never having to confront an evolutionary world view in my work. It was never a part of it. That is not to say that there aren't broad swathes of science exposed to an evolutionary world view. But there are equally large areas where you can operate. Second, you can also recognize the studies within an evolutionary framework as being scientific without having to embrace the evolutionary framework. I can accept that science sees a universe that is 15 billion years or more old, without having to accept evolution. I worked for some time at a particle collider in Illinois. The Big Bang was the predominate framework which structured the studies within this facility, but that didn't stop me from working on determining subatomic particles. While most scientist were looking at this from a view into the "beginnings of the universe", that didn't stop me from look at the daily practical aspects of looking at subatomic particles. And it didn't stop me from making a contribution to the field. I do agree with you that science in and of itself, in today's framework is a very humanistic and very ungodly, but I don't think it limits our ability to be involved, anymore than the humanistic and ungodly world around us limits our ability to be involved and make a difference.

RPittman's picture

dgszweda wrote:
First, I am a scientist and I graduated from Bob Jones University. I think it is unfair to classify a christian college as "second rate". You really need to evaluate each program on it's merits and not on the institution. I graduated from Bob Jones with a Chemistry degree and I would say that the program is equivalent to any other undergraduate program in the US. I did study one year at College of Charleston and Marquette University, I have also taken classes at a few other colleges such as Clemson. The textbooks, material covered and the knowledge of the instructors was identical or better at BJ than any of the other secular universities that I have been exposed to. The instructors all have PhD's and post graduated work from reputable secular universities. Most of the professors continue to further their knowledge during the summers working on the grant work at area secular colleges. The textbooks for the most part are 100% identical to the text books considered "standards" in these fields. The nice thing that you get at BJ is that you get 1:1 time with the professors, where as in most secular colleges for some courses (such as labs) you are only interfacing with GA's.
You are absolutely correct! Some of the classes that I had at BJU were superior to classes I've seen at Clemson, USC, UC-Berkley, and MIT. It is generally said that the best undergraduate chemistry program is not at Harvard or Yale but it is a lesser known Davidson in NC. Harvard graduates tend to excel because they are part of a highly selective population that is gifted and geared to success; it is not necessarily the quality of the program that makes them productive. People who talk of first-rate and second-rate are generally expressing the popular perception of things. This may or may not be accurate. It is probably generally true that Christian universities, as well as most private, do not have the research facilities and equipment of state institutions. However, there are ways around this and undergraduate education may not be seriously impacted.

RPittman's picture

dgszweda wrote:
My second comment is directed to RPittman. While I agree with your statement about science fitting into a paradigm, it doesn't mean a christian scientist cannot operate within a secular scientific realm without either giving up his beliefs or refusing secular beliefs. You could be a surfactant chemist working on developing soaps without ever having to confront evolution or what most christians may view as a failed paradigm. I have worked for years within numerous science fields, making contributions and never having to confront an evolutionary world view in my work. It was never a part of it. That is not to say that there aren't broad swathes of science exposed to an evolutionary world view. But there are equally large areas where you can operate. Second, you can also recognize the studies within an evolutionary framework as being scientific without having to embrace the evolutionary framework. I can accept that science sees a universe that is 15 billion years or more old, without having to accept evolution. I worked for some time at a particle collider in Illinois. The Big Bang was the predominate framework which structured the studies within this facility, but that didn't stop me from working on determining subatomic particles. While most scientist were looking at this from a view into the "beginnings of the universe", that didn't stop me from look at the daily practical aspects of looking at subatomic particles. And it didn't stop me from making a contribution to the field. I do agree with you that science in and of itself, in today's framework is a very humanistic and very ungodly, but I don't think it limits our ability to be involved, anymore than the humanistic and ungodly world around us limits our ability to be involved and make a difference.
Well, I don't think that I ever said this or implied that a Christian cannot work in scientific research. However, a scientist, who is a Christian, ought to recognize the limitations and the paradigm within which he or she works. As with many other things in life, there is no one-to-one correspondence between our conceptual paradigm and our practical application to life. Unfortunately, this is too often true of our theology and our behavior--our theology does not always govern our actions. So, don't imagine Indians . . . .

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
Aaron, you are confusing some basic concepts. Like many Christians, you are espousing a popularized view of science. Science is NOT a pure, idealized quest for truth

I don't that's quite what I said. But we are clearly working from different definitions of science. Mine is pretty simple. It's the study of the created world... or "immanent reality." Some do it badly, some do it well. But what it is exists independently of how people do it.
You can call this "a popularized view" if you like, but the fact remains that "the study of the created world/immanent reality" needs a name. I'm going to keep calling it science.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Quote:
Aaron, you are confusing some basic concepts. Like many Christians, you are espousing a popularized view of science. Science is NOT a pure, idealized quest for truth

I don't that's quite what I said. But we are clearly working from different definitions of science. Mine is pretty simple. It's the study of the created world... or "immanent reality." Some do it badly, some do it well. But what it is exists independently of how people do it.
You can call this "a popularized view" if you like, but the fact remains that "the study of the created world/immanent reality" needs a name. I'm going to keep calling it science.

Why not call it the study of creation? I don't know why we need to speak of immanent reality unless we want to sound intellectual or philosophical. It seems that the study of creation is more direct and clearer. Of course, the most basic definition of science is knowledge but when we use it today we are usually referring to something that utilizes the scientific method. This brings it squared into the paradigm of modern science. All scientific research is conducted within this paradigm and roughly follows the methodology of the scientific method. It has only been more recently that the scientific method has been stretched from its rigorous strict methodology to include the soft sciences (e.g. psychology, sociology, etc.).

Aaron, it seems that you want to define science to fit your ideal but this simply is not what it is today. If you're going to have a conversation with scientists and educated unbelievers, then you will be forced to modify your definition. See if it will fly on the evolution blogs.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

RP wrote:
Why not call it the study of creation?

Because "science" is a perfectly good word and has fewer syllables.

RP wrote:
I don't know why we need to speak of immanent reality unless we want to sound intellectual or philosophical.

No, precisely because of the confusion that exists among so many modern scientists. We do not believe that what we observe with the senses (or reason to) is all there is or even fully what is. What protects science from a truly "rationalistic paradigm" is the distinction between immanent reality and ultimate reality.

RP wrote:
Of course, the most basic definition of science is knowledge but when we use it today we are usually referring to something that utilizes the scientific method. This brings it squared into the paradigm of modern science.

Not really. The scientific method is only "modern" in any negative sense if you vest it with power it doesn't possess. It has no power to tell us what anything means, why anything matters, or fully what is real. But it does help us discover "reality as we know it" (sounds less hifalutin than "immanent reality" maybe?).

RP wrote:
Aaron, it seems that you want to define science to fit your ideal but this simply is not what it is today. If you're going to have a conversation with scientists and educated unbelievers, then you will be forced to modify your definition. See if it will fly on the evolution blogs.

I would suggest that I'm using a historical definition and not allowing people who do science badly to hijack the term. But there is, again, more overlap in the term in Christian usage and non-Christian usage than you seem to grant. Because so much of it is about measuring, observing, hypothesizing, testing, quantifying, etc., there is often no need to redefine anything.

To me, it's a bit like fishing. Suppose after years of sane people fishing, a group of people comes to believe that fish are gods and that frying them and eating them gains you eternal life. They call the act of casting and reeling them in, "fishing," just like normal people have for centuries. Of course, when I fish, I don't believe anything remotely like they do about what a fish is or what catching it means or what eating it does for my soul. But I can still call it fishing and fish with the best of them because the act of catching them and reeling them in is pretty much the same.
Yes, we have different paradigms--to a degree. But should I start saying "fishing is just no good" because of these nut jobs?

I'm stubborn I guess. They didn't invent it and I'm not giving them permission to take it away from the rest of us. (Besides that, they actually fish really well a good bit of the time despite their "paradigm")

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