|"Science Has Disproved the Bible" (1)|
Making God’s Good News Make Sense (14)
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
These days, as “everybody knows,” science seems to have the last word on whatever intends to be taken seriously, whatever aspires to wear the mantle of “true knowledge.”
The impressive record of scientific achievement, the learned and articulate representatives of the scientific community, the mystery of science (as most people perceive it), and the status of universities in America have all combined to establish the scientific worldview as the benchmark for knowledge and success in contemporary life.
So we should not be surprised when our friend, with whom we are engaged in an ongoing conversation about matters of faith, offers the opinion expressed in the title of this section. For many people today, especially many who do not believe the Gospel, science has closed the book on the question of religion, if not also the question of God.
In order to offer a reasonable response to this objection we have to accomplish two things. First, we have to make sure both we and our friend understand the nature and the limits of scientific thinking. What is science? How does it operate? How do we benefit from it? What can science not do for us? And, if science attempts to do more than it is capable of doing, what shall we conclude?
Next, we need to be able to demonstrate that science, like religion, depends beliefs, presuppositions, and theories that can never be proven by the methods of science, but must always be assumed and, therefore, received as a matter of faith.
Here we’ll deal with the first part of our response to this objection.
The methods of science
Science, for example, has shown that by punching certain “keys” on the keyboard of something called a “computer,” a writer can make a record of his thoughts. This record can be stored, retrieved, edited, and published in a variety of ways. I have no idea how that works, but I believe the scientists and dutifully punch these keys, whereupon I find their conclusions to be reliable and useful.
But how do scientists arrive at such conclusions? What is the process whereby science reaches the kind of knowledge that, by and large, the trusting public accepts as true?
The modern scientific enterprise follows a basic and proven procedure. First, a scientist makes certain observations. He notes that something happens, or something exists, that he does not understand and cannot readily explain. He makes more observations, keeping a record and inviting others to share their observations as well.
At some point the scientist believes he can hazard a guess about his observations, in order to explain and make sense of what he sees. He formulates a hypothesis, a proposal or suggestion, about what he thinks may account for or explain his observations. It’s important to be as precise as possible here, because everything that follows depends on this.
Next, the scientist will formulate a series of experiments to test his hypothesis. He will perform various operations on the things observed and the data he has recorded. The purpose is to prove or disprove his hypothesis. The procedure continues until the scientist is persuaded that his various experiments either demonstrate the truth of hypothesis or help him to refine his hypothesis until he achieves one he is able to justify by the data gathered from his experiments.
The next step is to publish his findings, whereupon he invites his colleagues to try their hand at reproducing or refuting his results and conclusions. “Knowledge” is arrived at when other scientists are able to confirm and perhaps enlarge on these published findings, demonstrating the “truth” of the hypothesis and its applicability to other areas of knowledge.
From there technicians, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and others look for ways to bring the knowledge thus acquired into the service of the general public, although this is an outcome of the scientific process and not part of the process itself.
First, for the past 300 years, the members of the scientific community, using this process, have brought enormous benefit to the world. There must be something about this process which reflects or represents a true and reliable means of arriving at useful knowledge.
Second, this process is, by definition, limited to work done with and upon material things. The scientific procedure works with matter, manipulates matter, explains (to some extent) the workings of matter, and reaches conclusions that apply only to observable matter and material processes. We should expect, therefore, that a good scientist would not appeal to this materials-based procedure to insist on conclusions relating to reality, or the possibility of it, beyond the material realm.
In our day, however, many scientists appeal to the scientific process and its findings to reach the conclusion that God does not exist or that, at best, He is irrelevant to human life, except, perhaps, as a psychological support for the fearful or feeble-minded.
Bad science, worse theology
When scientists, therefore, appeal to science in order to dispense with God, spiritual realities, and the Christian faith, they reach beyond the scope of what science can tell them and demand of science more than it is able to deliver. When scientists propound views about matters which are beyond the ken of science, these views must have been arrived at by some other means. It is bad science to use science, or to imply that one is using science, to reach conclusions about matters beyond what science is able to address.
Thus, in a very real sense, to say that science has disproved the Bible and the Christian faith is to grant to the scientific enterprise more authority than it can reasonably presume. Put another way, you may have a great auto mechanic, who knows everything there is to be known about every aspect of your automobile; but would you trust him to take out your daughter’s appendix, if he were of the opinion that doing so would remedy her stomach ache?
Moreover, since, as the Christian knows, arriving at spiritual truth does not necessarily follow the protocols of the scientific community, but another set of procedures altogether – those related to the disciplines of theological study – the scientist who uses his discipline to deny the Bible and the Christian faith is not only employing bad science, he is using even worse theology.
A scientist who attempted to paint The Mona Lisa following the methods of science would probably lead art lovers to conclude that science is not a reliable means of knowing how to paint, and that the way one achieves a masterpiece such as this is by some other set of disciplines, procedures, and protocols.
The same is true for religious faith, the Bible, and the truth of the Christian worldview.
For reflection or discussion