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Christianity as a Foundation for Science. Dr. Loren Haarsma Calvin College Christian Educators Association International Conference, July 25, 2003

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Christianity as a Foundation for Science

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    1. Christianity as a Foundationfor Science Dr. Loren Haarsma Calvin College Christian Educators Association International Conference, July 25, 2003

    2. When we study the universe scientifically, it increases our sense of beauty and awe. Image Credit: NASA, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    3. Conflicting voices tell us what the relationship between science and religion (in particular, Christianity) ought to be. • Fundamentally in conflict? • Separate realities that have nothing to do with each other? • Use science to prove claims of Christianity? Many students have uncritically absorbed some of these claims

    4. As a result, simply by teaching good science… • Many students will see the science as completely disconnected from their faith. • Others may perceive the science you teach as an attack on their faith. • Others may perceive the science as an attempt to promote a particular faith.

    5. One approach for dealing with the conflicting claims:Understand how one’s worldview(and, in particular, how the Christian worldview) can serve as a foundation for doing science and why science works.

    6. Use science to prove claims of Christianity? For this talk, set aside the problem of scientifically and theologically flawed attempts to “prove” Christianity using results of science. Leave that for another talk, another conference….

    7. Science and religion in conflict? P.W. Atkins, “The Limitless Power of Science” from Nature’s Imagination, ed. J. Cornwell, 1995, Oxford University Press “Science and religion cannot be reconciled, and humanity should begin to appreciate the power of [science] and to beat off all attempts at compromise. Religion has failed, and its failures should be exposed. Science, with its currently successful pursuit of universal competence … should be acknowledged the king.”

    8. Science and religion in conflict? • Yes, there have been and are conflicts of ideas, but it is too simplistic to see these as conflicts between science and religion per se. • Scientific and religious ideas always have philosophical, cultural and historical contexts • Some apparent conflicts are due to faulty logic.

    9. Apparent conflicts and faulty logic requires or implies a religion a scientific fact Example: • Christianity requires the Earth to be fixed • Science proves the Earth moves • Therefore, Christianity is false Possible responses to the flawed conclusion: • Reject the scientific claim • Reject the arrow (the “requires” line of reasoning)

    10. Christian framework for approaching apparent conflicts: the “Two Books” metaphor: Nature & Scripture Belgic Confession Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God We know him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity… Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.

    11. God Author of Author of Nature Necessary Agreement Scripture Human Interpretation Interpretation Human Theology, Philosophy & Hermeneutics Potential Conflict Science & Philosophy The “Two Books” metaphor: Nature & Scripture

    12. God Nature Scripture Science Theology The “Two Books” metaphor: Nature & Scripture A tool for resolving apparent conflicts between science & theology • Hope: • Nature and Scripture are both from God and must agree (all truth is God’s truth) • Strategy: • don’t throw out one and keep the other (don’t ignore some of God’s revelation) • keep pursuing both science and theology until the underlying unity of Nature and Scripture becomes clear

    13. Science and religion in conflict? • While specific scientific claims (or philosophical claims motivated by science) might conflict with specific religious claims, there is no general conflict between science and religion. • Different religions might deal in different ways with specific conflicts. • The “Two Books” metaphor provides Christian framework for dealing with specific conflicts.

    14. Science and religion unrelated? Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History v.106, March, 1997 “No such conflict [between science and religion] should exist because each subject has a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority…. The net of science covers the empirical universe: what is it made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value.”

    15. Science and religion unrelated? Nancey Murphy, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faithv.45, no. 1, p.33-34 “There is what we might call methodological atheism, which is by definition common to all natural science. This is simply the principle that scientific explanations are to be in terms of natural (not supernatural) entities and processes.”

    16. Science and religion unrelated? Philosophical Naturalism: A worldview which claims that supernatural entities do not exist. Methodological Naturalism (or “methodological atheism”): A tool for conducting limited investigations and limited truths, which restricts itself to seeking explanations only in terms of natural (not supernatural) processes. Some scholars propose that science, by definition, is Methodologically Naturalistic

    17. “Methodological Naturalism” is a misleading term • The term overly restricts what “science” is. Scientific scholarship, more broadly, includes: • Process of science (scientific method) • Discoveries of science (how nature works) • Basis for science (why science is possible) • Philosophical, ethical, religious inferences of science (meta-scientific questions) • Motives, ethics, goals of doing science One’s worldview strongly affects one’s approach to the latter three categories.

    18. “Methodological Naturalism” is a misleading term (Psalm 104:19-21, NIV) The moon marks off the seasons and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Note: the same events are described in terms of natural events and divine action.

    19. “Methodological Naturalism” is a misleading term 2) The term falsely implies God’s absence from “ordinary” events. The Biblical perspective is that God is just as much in charge of events which happen “naturally” as miracles. God is not absent from events which we can explain scientifically; rather, natural laws describe how God typically governs creation.

    20. “Methodological Naturalism” is a misleading term 3) The term falsely implies that science must necessarily deny the possibility of miracles The most that science can do is determine whether an event is scientifically “explainable” or “puzzling.” Theologically: A scientifically “puzzling” event is not necessarily evidence of a miracle, just as a scientifically “explainable” event is not evidence of God’s absence.

    21. “Methodological Naturalism” is a misleading term 4) The term falsely implies that science is more compatible with the worldview of Philo-sophical Naturalism than other worldviews. • To do science, you must make certain worldview assumptions. • These worldview assumptions cannot be deduced from science itself, but arise from culture and religion. • Worldviews which are very different can sometimes share a subset of assumptions which are a foundation for doing science

    22. Worldview assumptions necessary for science • Events in natural world typically have (immediate) natural causes. • Linear (not circular) view of time • These natural causes and effects have regular, repeatable, universal patterns. • We can, at least partly, understand these patterns • Logic and theory are not enough; experiments are needed. • Science is worth doing.

    23. Natural events have natural causes. Linear view of time Causes and effects have regular, universal patterns. We can understand these patterns. Experiments are needed. Science is worth doing. Creation is not pantheistic. Time is linear, not circular. God governs in ways consistent, not capricious. We are made in God’s image, suitable for this world. God’s creativity is free; we are limited and fallen. Nature is God’s creation; we are called to study it. Worldview assumptionsChristian necessary for sciencebeliefs

    24. Christianity as a foundation for science • A Christian does not have to pretend to be an atheist to do science (“methodological naturalism”). Science arises naturally from a Christian worldview. • Christianity is not a separate realm from science, but provides a fundamental foundation for how and why we do science. • A scientist does not have to be a Christian to do science, but must hold this subset of worldview assumptions. • Scientists of many religions can work side-by-side to study the properties, functioning, and history of the natural world. • Discussion about these meta-scientific assumptions at the foundation of science can open the door to “worldview” conversations, and can open student eyes to the role of “worldview” in their lives and education.