God, Science, and Christianity

The other day, I was listening to a Christian podcaster by the name of Joe Messina — the first time I’d ever heard him. His normal topics are, I think, politics and culture. But, he had on a guest who was explaining his skepticism of the validity of radiometric dating. At one point, they were discussing how conservative Christians are often accused of being “against science”. Not so, they said. Well, if it were me, I would amend that by saying that Christianity or “traditional, orthodox Christian doctrine” is not against the practice of science. But, there are some Christians that are either deeply suspicious of science — really, of scientists in general, who they see as being in a great, secular conspiracy to hide the truth about God’s Creation — and/or their own methods of doing & evaluating science are somewhat suspicious and skewed toward proving their own biblical interpretations. To that extent, I suppose it could be said that those Christians are at least partially “against science”. I think both cases are sad, even shameful.

sciencey montage

copyright Univ. of Illinois

Of course, it is also true that much of the “scientific consensus” nowadays about some topics presupposes a decidedly non-Christian view of the world and/or of what is allowed in science (see below). Therefore, while the facts of science — to the degree that current technology and careful practice allows — are simply facts, the interpretation of those facts is often biased toward one’s philosophical world-and-life view. So, when the interpretation of particular scientific evidence is presented — whether in scholarly journals or in the popular press — with “anti-Christian” implications, then I think the Christian is justified in questioning the interpretation. Some skepticism is warranted. But, one is not justified in being “against science”.

The next thing the podcaster said (and his guest agreed) was that “God created science.” I think I understand what he meant by that, and maybe he was just using a sort of shorthand to get across the idea. But, technically, I don’t think that claim is accurate, and it’s worth closer examination. Perhaps I’m being nit-picky, but let’s think about it for a minute….

What is “science”? Well, I’m sure you could get a million-and-one variations on an answer to that. Those with naturalistic or deistic leanings would probably be sure to throw in something about empirical proof or limiting scientific theories and interpretations to the purely “natural”. However, I am among those who hold to a more historically traditional definition of science that does not pre-determine the kinds of answers that are philosophically (and socially) acceptable. So, here’s my attempt at a workable definition:

“Science is the practice of using systematic methodology to study the natural realm in search of answers.”

It could probably be tweaked a bit, but that’s sufficient for my point. “Science” is a particular type of activity conducted by curious and intelligent beings. Such activities are not themselves created. Rather, the beings that conduct them may be, and as a “creationist” I believe that humankind was indeed created de novo by God. Secondly, God is indeed responsible for creating humanity in general with the intellectual capacity for such study, and some of those humans have a particular natural curiosity about the world around them that can be nurtured and encouraged, so that they get the education and training to become “scientists” — i.e., those whose profession is to do some sort of work in one or more branches of “science”. (Though, of course, there are knowledgeable amateur scientists, too.)

So,…

Is Christianity “anti-science”? Certainly not — but, definitely against, or highly skeptical of, certain interpretations of scientific data.

Did God “create” science. Not exactly, but He did create beings with the intellectual capacity and curiosity to engage in endeavors leading to discovery about His Creation.

Make sense?

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