Proper Christian approach to science

Status
Not open for further replies.

Geneapo

Puritan Board Freshman
Main questions: What's a healthy approach to science from a theological perspective? Should we believe anything coming from science? Should we be suspicious of science? Why? What about big scientific institutions? Are they authoritative? Is it acceptable to deny their claims?

_____________

Why am I asking this?
I believe we can all agree the Coronavirus/COVID19 crisis brought widespread relevance to discussions that previously were restricted to relatively small groups of the population. One of the reasons for this is a growing distrust in global institutions, big companies and media outlets by a big part of the population, while at the same time another big part of the population reinforces their trust in those same institutions.
Open any social media and you will see people from these two groups debating over and over again agaisnt each other about things that just months ago few people cared about.

Just to name some of the never ending debates I've seen in social media in the last few months:
Big scientific institutions - are they right or wrong?,
Hydroxychloroquin - should it be used without (supposedly) scientific proof?,
Alternative theories(such as "plandemic") - are they reliable or not?,
United Nations and World Health Organization - are they really trying to save lives or just playing politics?,
and many others.

The reason because I wrote this is because, at least here in Brazil - and I believe the exact same thing is being observed in the US and all over the world, not only the average population is divided on this, the Christian people in general and more specifically the Reformed people are also very much divided when it comes to this issue.

Many Christians have been taking a pro-science approach. Basically they believe everything that comes from mainstream science. One example of a Christian institution that takes this position: Biologos and all their followers.

On the other hand, many Christians have been taking an anti-science approach. Bascially they are suspicious of everything that comes from mainstream science. One example of Christian group mostly taking this position: Signers of "The Statement on Social Justice & The Gospel".

Both groups provide theological arguments backing up their beliefs on this particular subject. My question is: What's a healthy approach to science from a theological perspective? Should we believe anything coming from science? Should we be suspicious? Why? What about big scientific institutions? Are they authoritative? Is it acceptable to deny their claims? Please stick mostly to theological arguments.
 
Last edited:

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Start with Theology (a science) as the queen of the sciences. All other sciences must be built upon the queen of sciences.
 

Geneapo

Puritan Board Freshman
Start with Theology (a science) as the queen of the sciences. All other sciences must be built upon the queen of sciences.

What do you mean by that exactly? I believe you meant it in a way kind of related to Sola Scriptura, in the sense that everything labeled as science should be filtered through theology(which is also science). If that's what you mean then I'm fully agreed. However that's not what one of those groups is doing, which is the reason why I made this thread.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have written a brief introduction to this topic - particularly with reference to origins, but many of the same issues emerge:

A couple of quick takeaways:
"Science" covers a wide variety of topics, from inorganic chemistry experiments, to weather forecasting, to forensic investigations. You can't take a "one size fits all" approach to all of these different fields of study. Some are very empirical and inductive. Others more speculative

"Science" doesn't reach conclusions, make definitive statements, etc. Scientists do. All data is interpreted data. (Of course, the same is also true of theology).

Theological understandings will be more or less relevant to different kinds of science. Orthopedic Medicine tends to be non-controversial among people with very different theological perspectives, because there is a generally agreed definition of what a healthy set of bones looks like. Psychology will be much more controversial because of different understandings of what a healthy psyche looks like.
 

Geneapo

Puritan Board Freshman
I have written a brief introduction to this topic - particularly with reference to origins, but many of the same issues emerge:
I will definitely read your book, thank you for sharing.


"Science" covers a wide variety of topics, from inorganic chemistry experiments, to weather forecasting, to forensic investigations. You can't take a "one size fits all" approach to all of these different fields of study. Some are very empirical and inductive. Others more speculative

"Science" doesn't reach conclusions, make definitive statements, etc. Scientists do. All data is interpreted data. (Of course, the same is also true of theology).

I fully agree with these quotes.

Maybe I should have been more specific in my introduction to this thread: How should we deal with science coming from big scientific institutions? Should we view them as authoritative?
Context: I've seen this mostly on Twitter - A sizable group of Christians, including pastors with influence, has claimed it is a type of gnosticism and/or idolatry to believe in anything other than big scientific institutions say. How do we deal with this situation? Are they 100% right? Are they 100% wrong? Are they partially right?
(I edited the introduction to include these questions)
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Iain's distinction regarding the different types of science is helpful here. I would think secular immunologists and Christians largely share the same definition of physical health and have similar end-goals for people when it comes to health. So I am inclined to listen to what they have to say without dismissing them simply because they represent "scientific institutions."
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
Gnosticism is probably an unhelpful charge to throw out; people who are skeptical about the pronouncements of big science are rarely motivated by early Greek philosophy. Part of the challenge is that some of the claims are very difficult to evaluate, even by experts in the field. Another problem is that sometimes science is used by others to draw conclusions that are not strictly scientific. My background in Electrical Engineering builds in a certain level of skepticism towards the pronouncements of scientists who never get their lab coats dirty, since we had to actually build the thing and make it work!

For example, it's not hard to demonstrate in a laboratory setting that wearing masks cuts down on the spread of certain kinds of diseases. Or that the further away you stand from an infected person the less likely you are to catch their disease. Science can often even put approximate numbers on those benefits (though these are all calculated in idealized settings). But the decision to impose a requirement on all people to wear masks is a political rather than simply scientific decision. Other factors - such as the availability of masks for medical professionals, what exceptions will be allowed, etc - come into play. The science also can't tell you whether you should distance by 6 feet or 3 feet or 25 feet. But sometimes we shouldn't need science to tell us that we'd be safer in general if we follow certain guidelines.

Or take global warming. Science can measure things like the global average temperature and demonstrate that (on average) it currently seems to be rising. It can tell you that if you cut back on global emissions of Carbon dioxide that will generally have a cooling effect. It can't tell you exactly what action you should take in light of that - should you cut back your personal use of your car? Should you ban cars altogether in your country? In the world (which organization exactly is going to do that?). Those are difficult political decisions that are not simply about the science but about an evaluation of what is important in society - something reasonable people might have differences of opinion about.

Sometimes the science is plain wrong, and at others the conclusions drawn from it are inappropriate. I'm old enough to remember the concern about global cooling back in the 1970's. It now appears that the data was not properly interpreted at the time. That doesn't mean that the current concern over global warming is necessarily misguided, but rightly or wrongly it does give a certain pause.

I would recommend that people seek to develop a basic grasp of what science actually is and how it works (as well as the basics of statistics, the most abused branch of mathematics - no one ever said "There are lies, damned lies and calculus!"). Sometimes that will make us more skeptical of the pronouncements of scientists, sometimes it will encourage us to believe what seem to be reasonable inferences drawn from adequate data. (Sometimes it will make us more skeptical of the pronouncements of Christians about science too!) These are usually complex topics, and it is often difficult for non-specialists to form clear ideas of the truth. The answers will rarely be found on twitter, to be sure!
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
I realize there are pros and cons to Abraham Kuyper and specifically his view on common grace. I did find his book Wisdom & Wonder Common Grace in Science and Art to be extremely insightful. Note he takes an older definition of science which includes theology as the chief of the sciences and that knowledge must be approached as an integrated whole. (The original concept behind universities.)
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
What do you mean by that exactly? I believe you meant it in a way kind of related to Sola Scriptura, in the sense that everything labeled as science should be filtered through theology(which is also science). If that's what you mean then I'm fully agreed. However, that's not what one of those groups is doing, which is the reason why I made this thread.

I was answering your first question. Theology defines, checks, etc. all terms, means, etc. of all other sciences. So I believe we agree.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top