What is Scientific Apologetics?

The first rule of scientific apologetics is getting over the Modernist fallacy that there is any legitimate showdown between Science and the Bible. The episode of Galileo and the Catholic Church was a disparity between the new findings and Aristotelian physics. Similarly, nearly every legitimate discovery of modern science points us back to the biblical cosmology. The only remaining questions of discrepancy are over biology and geology; and that is only if we accept Darwinism and/or uniformatarianism. A good four-step outline of approach to scientific apologetics is laid out by J. P. Moreland in his book Scaling the Secular City. We will summarize it in here:

1. Clarify the nature of science.

2. Clarify the limits of science.

3. Explore models of integration between science and theology.

4. Examine the evidence where the two seem to contradict.[1]

Our description of scientific apologetics will follow this outline. Subsequent articles will draw out more fully each of these four sections.

What is the Nature of Science?

Science studies nature. By observation, hypothesis, experimentation and recording of empirical (i.e. sensory) data, we can describe the way the world regularly works. If there is anything beyond the natural world, it will not be studied by the scientific method. That is not to say anything bad about science. It is just that metaphysical questions are not its business. Now suppose someone says that, “Nature is all there is—therefore the thing that science studies (nature) is the highest thing because it is the only thing!” Such a claim is a metaphysical statement. The task of the apologist will be to show why this is incoherent. That is why we move to our next step.

What are the Limits of Science?

The above view, often called Naturalism, holds that no super-natural cause can be allowed into scientific inquiry since (as we all agree) science only studies nature. The crown jewel of this kind of thinking was the twentieth century principle of falsifiability. A statement could only possess objective meaning if its object could be (in principle) falsified in the lab. There is a very clever sleight of hand taking place here. The basic trouble with it is this: If we cannot observe Supernature causing nature, then, for that same reason, we cannot observe Supernature not causing nature. The principle is incoherent. A strict empiricist can never meaningfully show how a supernatural cause cannot have a natural effect. Moreover, what we do know about infinity—both in linear cause and effect, and at the quantum level—demands a Supernatural efficient cause for every single effect in nature. This has been demonstrated in the Cosmological Proof. The upshot is that there cannot be an actually infinite regress of causes. One reason is that science would breakdown—i.e. the very same “science” that the naturalist thinks disproves theism. In these two ways (there are others) we can see that philosophical naturalism is illogical. Its principle of method is incoherent and it would “cause” science to break down. Therefore, the physical sciences are only possible within the larger context of theology. But what do the two have to do with each other?

How Do Science and Theology Intersect?

In setting forth a model of integration, I will eschew the debate between old and young-earthers; not because I think that question unimportant, but because I believe there is a model that both parties can agree upon. It is quite simple. God speaks his word and, by that same power, speaks into existence the world. His word and his world will never contradict. However, a word of warning is in order. The fact that these two never contradict does not mean that the two give us the same information or that they are presented to the finite mind with the same clarity. The symmetry of the word and the world is self-referential. It says nothing about our ability to properly synthesize the two. Hence the principle is not a license to begin interpreting texts of Scripture through the lens of the ever-changing paradigms of the sciences. On the other hand, we can and we must interpret all of the other lower disciplines (including science) through the lens of theology. The reason is this: If Christianity is true, then “all things” [Col. 1:16-20] are essentially theological things. While both Rome and the Fundamentalists did this improperly, the culprit was paganism and anti-intellectualism, respectively. The problem was not that theology was the queen of all sciences.

What Has Science Actually Shown About God?

For the past century and a half, virtually everywhere science moves, we are forced to move back to the opening words of Genesis. As the agnostic physicist, Robert Jastrow reluctantly confessed, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak. As he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”[2] Only two pins are yet to fall: Darwinian evolution and (possibly) Uniformitarian geology. I say “possibly” on that second point because it is debatable whether or not that issue actually challenges the literal structure of the Genesis account. Old-earthers will say no, young-earthers will say yes. The basic reasoning is that if the earth is older, then there is more time for evolution to occur. That is not necessarily the case. At any rate, significant cracks in the Titanic of macroevolution have been spreading over the past two decades. The need for the Gould-Eldridge theory of Punctuated Equilibrium attests to this. There is a growing desperation to cover up the fact that the classical picture of natural selection working out a common descent through slight, successive modifications, is in disrepair. In summary, the book-end discoveries of the Big-Bang and the Second Law of Thermodynamics give us the picture of a universe that had a real beginning and will have a real end. The hopes of the old atheists have been dashed. Now is the time for the Christian apologist to strike and to provide a suitable alternative research program.

Recommended Resources: William Dembski, Intelligent Design; Henry Morris, Scientific Creationism; Del Ratzsch, Science and its Limits; Hugh Ross, Creation as Science

 


[1] J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 1987); p. 186

[2] Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (Norton, New York 1978); p. 116

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