Part 1: How can the average Christian become conversant in science?

A point of beginning – know some basic definitions:

A first step in being able to discuss science is to learn the vocabulary that is associated with the science.  Six-6 basic definitions will assist the average Christian to become conversant in science.  These important definitions are:

  1. Science (the Biblical definition, and the Secular definition)
  2. Experimental science
  3. Applied science
  4. Forensic science
  5. Scientific consensus
  6. Naturalism

Define Science:

Consider a proposed Biblical definition of science and contrast that definition with the secular definition of science.  The Report of the Creation Study Committee (PCA Report) of the Presbyterian Church in America provides a good definition of science from a Christian perspective.  This definition appears below:

Science, (proposed PCA Report definition):  “The sciences are disciplines that study features of the world around us, looking for regularities as well as attempting to account for causal relations.  In the causal chains we allow all relevant factors (including supernatural ones) to be considered.”

A good secular definition for science may be found on Wikipedia.  The Wikipedia definition (below) is generally similar to the PCA Report definition except that there is no reference to the supernatural.

“Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

Contemporary science is typically subdivided into the natural sciences, which study the material universe; the social sciences, which study people and societies; and the formal sciences, which study logic and mathematics. The formal sciences are often excluded as they do not depend on empirical observations. Disciplines which use science, like engineering and medicine, may also be considered to be applied sciences.”

(This definition was excerpted on from a Wikipedia article on science on 2/26/17; footnotes and hyperlinks have been removed.)

Some secularists have produced definitions of science that are more hostile to the supernatural to the point of excluding it.  Consider the definition of science from the National Science Teachers Association:

Science: “science is limited to explaining the natural world by means of natural processes” (National Science Teachers Association).

(This is a definition from the brief definitions section of the PCA Report.)

A first step to being conversant in science is to know and accept the fact that science is defined differently by secularists and Christians.  These different definitions should not be surprising.  From a secular viewpoint, there is no place for a god and particularly the God of the Bible.  From a Christian viewpoint, the God of the Bible is factor in explaining all things.  Believers must understand and accept the fact that the secular definition of science has no place for God.

Define terms associated with science:

After defining science, a vocabulary of science related terms may be developed.  Some modifiers to the root word “science” are helpful in understanding the scope of science, as follows:

Science, Experimental: Experimental Science (also termed Operational Science) begins as a theory that may be confirmed by experiment.  The results of successful experiments are then applied to all areas of human life.  Experimental science is the root of applied science.

Science, Applied: Applied science is the use knowledge obtained from operational science and applying it to human need.  The results are advances in medicine and technology.  Engineering and medicine are examples of applied science.  Applied science touches every area of our lives.

Science, Forensic – Forensic science (also termed Historical Science) is the development of a theory based on observation.  However, no experiments can be devised that prove the theory.  Forensic science takes observation and extrapolates it to explain something that cannot be confirmed by experiment.  Forensic science is used both those who believe in the literal view of creation and by those who do not.  Much of the creation discussion involves the claims and counter claims based on forensic science.

A second step to being conversant in science is to develop discernment when listening to the claims of scientific discovery.  The most basic question to ask is: Was the scientific discovery based one of experimental science or forensic science.   The recent discovery of soft tissue in dinosaur bones has been documented by secular scientists; it is a finding of applied science.  To those who believe in the literal view of creation, this forensic evidence of a recent burial and fossilization of dinosaurs.  To secularists this is not really soft tissue since they know from their own forensic evidence that dinosaurs were buried and fossilized 60 million years ago.

Understand the scientific consensus:

A third step to becoming conversant in science is to understand the scientific consensus.

Science, Scientific Consensus – In basic terms, the scientific consensus is an official position of the scientific community as it relates to a particular subject.  Most within the scientific community are in general agreement with this consensus.  However, this consensus is not unanimous. Presently, the scientific consensus supports the naturalism, the Big Bang, uniformitarianism, and evolution.

The scientific consensus is the official position of the secular scientific community on any science related issue.  The scientific consensus has positions of global warming, climate change, sea level rise for example.  However, not all scientists agree with the official position on these issues.  Similarly, in medicine, there are official positions on the safety of vaccinations, and approved cancer treatments.  However, not all those in the medical fields agree with the official position on these issues.

The scientific consensus on a subject can change; however, any change in the scientific consensus is slow and deliberate.  For years, the scientific consensus fought against a catastrophic origin of the Channeled Scablands in eastern Washington State.  Now, the catastrophic origin of the Channeled Scablands in eastern Washington State is position of the scientific consensus.

Understand the presupposition of secular science:

Naturalism: “a metaphysical concept that the world exists on its own, and that God exerts no influence on any object or event in the world.”

(This is a definition from the brief definitions section of the PCA Report.)

 Secular science is developed from a presupposition of naturalism and as a result, God is never referred to in the writings of the scientific consensus.  This should not be surprising to the believer.  The Bible states that: “But the natural man preceiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:14).

Naturalism is in sharp contrast to the Christian world view.  In a Christian world view, God is the creator and human kind was created in His image.  God commissioned humankind to be stewards of the earth and to rule over it.

In summary:

The first step to becoming conversant in the discussion of science is to learn basic terms related to the discussion.  Then learn how to the definitions analyze discussions concerning science.

Know that:

  • The secular definition of science will never acknowledge the God of the Bible. There will always be a conflict between science and the Bible.
  • Secular science is based on a presupposition of naturalism and there is no place for the supernatural acts of God.
  • It is not possible for secularists to appreciate the Bible or the God of the Bible.
  • The term science includes both applied science and forensic science.
  • The scientific consensus is only the official position of scientists in a particular field of science or applied science. Within the field there are significant variations of opinion.
  • The scientific consensus can change. However, change is gradual.

Apply the basic definitions of science when hearing scientific claims. Here are a few examples:

  • “If Christians can appreciate cell phones as a product of science, why can’t they appreciate evolution?” Analysis: Cell phones are a product of experimental science and applied science.  Evolution is theory of forensic science.
  • “Science says that the oceans are rising due global warming, why can’t just everybody accept this?” Analysis: Global warming and sea level rise are the official positions of the scientific consensus.  However, the opinions of these subjects within the scientific community are more diverse.
  • “Since science can explain more and more things, there will come a time when there is no need for a God.” Analysis: This is an argument based on a presupposition of naturalism and is to be expected from the natural man.
  • “That’s just a God of Gaps Argument!” Analysis:  The presupposition for this statement is naturalism.  At present, there may be something that is not understood.  However, in the future, there will be a natural understanding.

To be continued…….