Math

Christians Shouldn’t Be Dismissive of Scientific Modeling

Projections from an IHME model.

Over the last several weeks I’ve encountered a range of negative views toward the models epidemiologists have been using in the struggle against COVID-19. Skepticism is a healthy thing. But rejecting models entirely isn’t skepticism. Latching onto fringe theories isn’t skepticism. Rejecting the flattening-the-curve strategy because it’s allegedly model-based isn’t skepticism either.

These responses are mostly misunderstandings of what models are and of how flattening-the-curve came to be.

I’m not claiming expertise in scientific modeling. Most of this is high school level science class stuff. But for a lot of us, high school science was a long time ago, or wasn’t very good—or we weren’t paying attention.

What do models really do?

Those tasked with explaining science to us non-scientists define and classify scientific models in a variety of ways.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, for example, describes at least 8 varieties of models, along with a good bit of historical and philosophical background. They’ve got about 18,000 words on it.

A much simpler summary comes from the Science Learning Hub, a Science-education project in New Zealand. Helpfully, SLH doesn’t assume readers have a lot of background.

9748 reads

Math, the Biblical Worldview, and the Mystery of God

Question

How does a biblical worldview ground math? Is math a reflection of the mind of God (which we recognize because His creation is orderly, and to some degree reflects His nature)—similar to laws of logic being a reflection of the perfect mind of God?

Answer

First some groundwork: It seems highly presumptuous for us to assume that something reflects the mind of God, when the only way we can truly know the mind of God is through what He has told us in His Word. To make that argument means we are interpreting general revelation as providing specific content regarding His invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature, when Scripture only reveals that those three aspects are seen through His creation (which would include math).

The problem is that there is no (authoritative) hermeneutic for general revelation except for special revelation, and thus we cannot make authoritative claims of specificity regarding the extent of revelation within general revelation.

Instead, I prefer to rely on special revelation for specifics about general revelation—to be dogmatic on the content of general revelation only where special revelation gives us permission. For example, Genesis 9, Job 38-39, and Isaiah 40 describe processes of nature, and assert God’s sovereign control over those processes. The aspects that are revealed in those processes are related to His sovereignty, so I can dogmatically assert His sovereignty, because special revelation does so.

1387 reads