Christians are anti-science. At least, so goes the baked in assumption of our age because, it is said, that science is fundamentally at odds with religion and particularly with the creation accounts of the Bible. Further presumed is that Christians doubt science anytime it clashes with the Bible, and that Christian thinking hostile to science is of primitive and unreasonable roots and should be dealt with accordingly. That is, that such thinking should be dealt with by having all religious ideas scrubbed from the public square.
This stereotype that Christians are anti-science is perhaps best encapsulated by Joel Achenbach’s article, Why do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science which predictably, after describing the Catholic Church’s past sins in clinging to flat earth ideas, projects such religious resistance forward on to modern religious people when science is said to confront their deeply held religious beliefs – even when such people are educated in advanced science. He writes:
Even when we intellectually accept these precepts of science, we subconsciously cling to our intuitions—what researchers call our naive beliefs. A recent study by Andrew Shtulman of Occidental College showed that even students with an advanced science education had a hitch in their mental gait when asked to affirm or deny that humans are descended from sea animals or that Earth goes around the sun. Both truths are counterintuitive. The students, even those who correctly marked “true,” were slower to answer those questions than questions about whether humans are descended from tree-dwelling creatures (also true but easier to grasp) or whether the moon goes around the Earth (also true but intuitive). Shtulman’s research indicates that as we become scientifically literate, we repress our naive beliefs but never eliminate them entirely. They lurk in our brains, chirping at us as we try to make sense of the world.
Interestingly enough, Achenbach leaves out how scientists themselves will subconsciously cling to their native beliefs when new scientific discoveries clash with their deeply held scientific beliefs. Such was the case of Sir Fred Hoyle, a giant in astrophysics in the mid 20th century and a huge proponent of Steady State Theory. It was Holye, who until even his death in 2001, rejected The Big Bang Theory believing that it was irrational to conclude that the universe had a beginning despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This was largely because Hoyle feared the religious implications the Big Bang and that his critics might have a scientific leg to stand on after all. Hoyle’s deeply held scientific views show that even scientists, though having no underlying religious basis for their objections, are not impervious to exhibiting “native beliefs” that fly in the face of overwhelming evidence, even in cases when one’s scientific literacy couldn’t be higher.
Despite this glaring omission, Achenbach’s article is instructive in getting a glimpse into the current cultural hostility against religion. We even see the irony in his own article that bears this out. In it, Galileo is highlighted as a good example where the Church erred in the face of science, but the irony is is that at the time, Galileo was but one man against the Establishment. He was the minority view and the Church and it’s hired scientific guns were the established majority. Fast-forward to today and we see no less fervor from the Scientific Establishment to silence minority dissent in the areas of Neo-Darwinian Evolution and Climate Change, despite the work of scientists such as Michael Behe in the case of evolutionary theory and recent temperature tampering scandals casting serious doubt on the validity of the science of climate change. The science is anything but settled in these areas, just as Steady State Theory was anything but settled despite the scientific community’s overwhelming embrace of it just 75 years ago, and yet today we have Achenbach using Galileo’s minority as validity of established science though gaping holes have been exposed.
I point all this out, not to give science a black eye but to make this point: Christians do not reject science or the scientific theory. We embrace science in so far as it can reach. What we don’t embrace is science as the infallible vehicle for finding truth – particularly when it treads from the natural into the philosophical. So we don’t look at science as the final arbiter of truth anymore than we would any other fallible human being. Science is constantly evolving in knowledge, and as such, often gets things wrong – even great scientific paradigms such as Steady State Theory. And this is what is particularly troubling when critics mock Christians for “doubting Science” simply because of a majority of modern scientists have either bought off or bought into a prevailing theory.
Another disturbing trends is that the scientific community acts as if there is no distinction to be made between trusting the scientific method or trusting the scientific body on big questions – such as the origins of life particularly when so many holes are gaping and so many questions are begging by the fantastic theories proposed.
A classic example of this is Neo-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory. As a Christian, I do not doubt that micro-evolution is true. Variations within a species is a documented fact and I no reason to doubt it. Species have variations within them and species can adapt within the confines of the species. But what I do doubt is speciation. Galapagos finches have adapted to their environment, but that’s no reason to conclude they could become dragons or horses (or whatever you fancy) in the next million years. The issue is that with modern Evolution theory a fact variations within a species is blown out of proportion as proof of something far more fantastic and mathematically improbable.
Another example of the great license science takes with lower proofs is extraterrestrial life. Today, alien life is presumed because of the vastness and planetary diversity of our universe though the proof has eluded us. Personally, I have no stake in whether alien cells are detected on the moon’s of Saturn or whether biological microbes exist in the ice of Mars and hold no opinion on whether any such proof will or will not be found. But what I do see is that the presumption of alien life based on certain ingredients found on (relatively) nearby moons are suddenly used as proof for alien life everywhere though it has yet to be found.
So is Science reasonable? And is it reasonable for champions of science to demand scientific proof from religion when often times they fail to hold their peers to such a standard when they pontificate about multiverses and common ancestors and do so to such lengths that their wild theories become baked in as fact?
Personally, I have no doubts that the underlying collection, analysis and observational methodology of science. I think the scientific method is sound. But I do have my doubts as to whether or not scientific experts should be the final arbiters of truth about everything when they are often caught leaping to unsupported conclusions from lesser facts that cannot support such assertions. To often the leap from science to scientism is taken. So if the question is whether Christians think plain science is reasonable, then the answer is yes. But if the question is whether scientism is reasonable, then the answer is no, particularly given its underlying hostility to Christianity.