A common charge against Christians from atheists is that we are anti-science. We’re science hating, no nothing backwards rednecks who get all our knowledge about the world from an ancient book written by ignorant bronze age goat herders…or at least that’s how they would put it. But is this charge really true? Do Christians hate science? Moreover, what could possibly make an atheist see us this way?
Is it because some of us believe in a young Earth?
I think part of this accusation stems from the fact that many Christians shun the scientific evidence for an ancient universe and Earth. They believe, based on their interpretation of the word “Day” in Genesis 1 and based on their calculations of the genealogies in Genesis 11, 1 and 2 Chronicles and in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, that the entire universe and in fact, human history, are no older than about 6,000 years old. But the scientific evidence overwhelmingly points away from young earth creationism, right?
Well, I agree with the atheist that the scientific evidence for an old universe is pretty powerful. That’s one of the reasons why I’m not a Young Earth Creationist. I’m an Old Earth Creationist. I believe the “days” in Genesis 1 can plausibly be interpreted to be long time periods. I also think that there are gaps in the genealogies which would allow humanity to be a maximum of 100,000 years old and a minimum of 6,000 years old. I’ve other articles on this blog defending this position such as “Several Reason To Think That The Creation Days Are Long Time Periods”. There are many Christians like me who accept the vast majority of what modern secular science tells us about the universe we live in, for example, my friend Richard Bushey of ThereforeGodExists.com is an Old Earth Creationist, William Lane Craig of ReasonableFaith.org is an Old Earth Creationist, apologists Lee Strobel, Frank Turek, Norman Geisler, John Ankerberg, and Sean Mcdowell (son of the apologist Josh Mcdowell) are all Old Earth Creationists.
Because of this, I can watch a secular science program on television without that much discomfort. I don’t find most of what they say incompatible with my Christian faith.
So even if it were true that being a young earth creationist made you anti-science, worst case scenario would be that only some Christians are anti-science rather than all of us. At worst, it would only mean creationists who hold to the calendar day view of creation are anti-science. But that charge wouldn’t apply to us Old Earth Creationists.
Is it because we disavow evolution?
Although I accept the dates for the Earth and the universe (14 billion years for the universe as a whole, 5 billion years for the Earth), nevertheless, I do disavow Darwinian evolution. I don’t believe that all life descended from a single celled organism in a warm little pond millions of years ago that, through natural selection acting on random mutations, eventually became the entire animal kingdom. I do think that micro evolution occurs, just not macro evolution. I gave my reasons for disavowing macro evolution in the article “Why I’m Skeptical Of Darwinian Evolution”
But does that make me anti-science? Am I anti-science because I don’t accept Darwinism? Why would that be? Do we have to agree with EVERY. SINGLE. Scientific theory that falls out of the mouth of a scientist? As already stated, I accept most of what secular scientists say regarding the way the universe works. I accept The Big Bang Theory, atomic theory, germ theory, Einstein’s theory of general relativity, heliocentrism, I accept that the universe and the Earth are billions of years old based on several different dating methods etc. etc. etc. The only things I find myself in disagreement with are Darwin’s theory of evolution, and the multi-verse theory.
Why do the atheists think I have to kowtow to everything Stephen Hawking or Neil DeGrasse Tyson says in order to be pro-science? I have a brain of my own. I can think for myself. If I don’t think the evidence warrants a certain theory, I would irrational to believe it anyway! As my blog’s very name suggests, I have a “Cerebral Faith”. I use the brain that God gave me. Disagreeing with one or two scientific theories does not make a person anti-science.
I repeat: disagreeing with one or two scientific theories does not make a person anti-science.
Do Miracles Stifle Scientific Advance?
I’ve heard others argue that if we believe that miracles can occur, that some things can’t be explained naturally, then that would bring science to a complete halt. After all, if you’re faced with something you can’t understand and you throw up your hands and say “God did it”, then what’s the point of any further investigation? You’ve made up your mind; God was behind this.
In other words, the naturalist is concerned that if we attribute something to the supernatural and it really isn’t supernatural then we run the risk of finding out the truth. We run the risk of missing a natural explanation if a natural explanation is really behind the phenomenon we’re observing. I am not unsympathetic with this concern. However, I don’t think that the mere belief in God or miracles would necessarily halt the advance of science.
I think that we can adopt certain criteria that can be helpful in ruling out natural causes and inferring a supernatural cause when or if such a miraculous occurrence happens. We want to have a system of methodology that will NEITHER prohibit us from recognizing the supernatural (if/when it occurs) while also not missing a naturalistic answer if a naturalistic explanation is the best. I think these criteria are good ones to use in the search for truth.
1: There is no natural explanation for the phenomena, and there is no hope of ever coming up with one. We’ve ruled out all possible natural explanations.
2: The phenomenon is well known to be impossible under natural conditions (e.g a talking donkey, a man coming back to life after being dead for 3 days, creation out of nothing).
3: The event has never occurred before or has occurred sense.
4: The Event Occurred In A Religious Context.
If we operate in examining something that needs to be explained in this way, I think you can see that it avoids the two extremes that both sides of the debate often accuse the other side of. Atheists think that if we believe in the supernatural at all, then that will stop scientific knowledge from advancing (i.e we’d miss naturalistic answers). Theists accuse naturalists of having a methodological approach that will blind us to supernatural acts if they occur. Either approach can potentially cause us to miss the right answer when observing a phenomena or an event. That’s why I think a “soft” methodological naturalism is the way to go. This way we don’t become blind to miracles if they happen before our eyes, but we don’t explain everything away as some spiritual occurrence.
CRITERIA 1: THERE IS NO NATURAL EXPLANATION FOR THE PHENOMENA, AND THERE IS NO HOPE OF EVER COMING UP WITH ONE. WE’VE RULED OUT ALL POSSIBLE NATURAL EXPLANATIONS
The first criteria says that we’ve ruled out all possible natural phenomena to explain the event. None of the naturalistic scenarios for the event in question make any sense, they’re implausible, lacking in explanatory power, explanatory scope, etc. Every single naturalistic explanation proposed to explain the event fails in plausibility, explanatory power, explanatory scope, it appears ad-hoc, etc. Based on the fact, that we’ve exhausted all potential non-supernatural explanations, I think we’re justified in inferring a supernatural cause if it succeeds in explanatory power, explanatory scope, and plausibility in contrast to the natural explanations we’ve tested.
I think we all would agree that you shouldn't come to a supernatural conclusion until you’ve ruled out all other naturalistic explanations. If a natural explanation can account for the phenomena that you are trying to explain, then we should go with that explanation if it’s plausible and reasonable. For example, suppose I’m driving home from work and spot that a tree has fallen onto the road. What caused the tree to fall over? Could an angel have pushed it over? Could a demon have pushed it over…or perhaps the ghost of a woodsman who lived nearby but died recently and his ghost still roams the wood that’s on the route to my house? Sure, that’s possible, but I would never come to that conclusion if there were other natural explanations that could account for it. For example, termites may have been eating at the wood for quite some time, eventually eating away so much wood that the tree could not support itself, thus resulting in it toppling over. It’s also possible that lightning could have struck the tree and caused it to fall over. The lightning explanation becomes even more plausible if a thunderstorm had been brewing on my way home. Strong wind may have knocked the tree over (also plausible if a thunderstorm had been brewing while I was driving home). So clearly, because there were non-supernatural explanations that could account for the fallen tree, I reject the conclusion that an angel knocked it over (even though as a Christian, I believe in the existence of angels).
But let’s say you’re sitting in a room and a paint brush starts levitating in the air. It floats over to the wall and scribbles “Get out or die! Signed, Morty The Demon”. Given that this has never happened before or has happened since and since there are no plausible natural explanations to explain it (and also the fact that whatever this thing is produced a specifically complex message), I think we’d be justified in inferring that this was the work of “Morty The Demon”. So no, I don't think that any event or phenomenon can be explained by the intervention of God. If we're careful, we can recognize the supernatural when it occurs while also not seeing the supernatural where it isn't there.
Most Christians attribute things to natural causes before concluding that it was supernatural. Sometimes Christians attribute things to God even though they can be explained naturally, but we don’t say it was a MIRACLE. Instead this was divine providence. Divine providence is when God works through natural processes. A miracle is when God overrides the laws of nature to produce an effect that couldn’t possibly occur under natural circumstances.
The fact of the matter is that miracles are rare events. That’s why they shock us when they occur. Even in The Bible, the only times where miracles were really actively occurring were during the lives of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and in the Acts of the Apostles. For a large number of even biblical history, you had divine providence taking place, but no miracles. Therefore, on the basis of Bible, I think we should not be expecting to see a miracle around every corner.
CRITERIA 2: THE PHENOMENON IS WELL KNOWN TO BE IMPOSSIBLE UNDER NATURAL CONDITIONS
The second criteria is that the phenomenon defies the well established and well known natural laws of the universe. We can conclude that God is overriding the natural laws to make something happen rather easily. How? Simply because we know how nature works. We know that things don’t come into being out of absolute nothingness, we know that donkeys can’t speak a human language, we know that men can’t walk on water or rise from the dead. These things contradict what we know about nature. Therefore, if they happen, then they meet criteria numbers 1 and 2.
CRITERIA 3: THE EVENT HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE OR HAPPENED SINCE
For example, something coming into being out of nothing or a dead man being raised after several days. Again, The fact of the matter is that miracles are rare events. That’s why they shock us when they occur. Even in The Bible, the only times where miracles were really actively occurring were during the lives of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and in the Acts of the Apostles. For a large number of even biblical history, you had divine providence taking place, but no miracles. Therefore, on the basis of Bible, miracles are rare. So we would expect that if something happens repeatedly, it’s more likely than not that there’s some natural explanation behind that. If it happens only once, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a miracle, but it would match criteria number 3. It would only be a miracle if it matched criteria number 1 and 2 in addition to number 3.
CRITERIA 4: IT HAPPENED IN A RELIGIOUS CONTEXT
I don’t think number 4 is a requirement for concluding something is a miracle. I think if it matches criteria numbers 1, 2, and 3, then that’s enough to conclude that it’s miraculous. However, if it happens in a religious setting in addition to meeting criterias 1, 2, and 3, then that serves to further boost our confidence that it was supernatural rather than natural.
For example, if a group of people are having a demonic worship service in their home, surrounded by hexagrams, and all of a sudden a butcher knife starts levitating in the air and carves a message in the wall “GET OUT NOW….signed Morty The Demon”, that further boosts our confidence that it was a spirit that did that. Criteria 1 would say that you’ve ruled out every possibility. There are no ropes or wires, nobody hallucinated because they all saw it, scientists tested to see if magnetism could have been involved, but they ruled that out, etc. All naturalistic explanations have been tried and failed. So it meets criteria number 1. It meets criteria number 2 because we know knives don’t just float in mid air and carve messages in the wall, and it meets critera number 3; that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day. It also meets criteria number 4 because it happened when Satanists were doing rituals.
There Are Many Theists Who Are Scientists
If Christians were really anti-science, then how come there are so many theists who have degrees in scientific fields? For example, Hugh Ross has a PHD in Astrophysics and a major in physics. He’s a Christian Apologist who is the president of Reasons To Believe ministries and has written several books arguing, from science, that God exists, The Bible is divinely inspired, and that the doctrine of creation is true (he takes an old earth approach). Fasale Rana is a Christian and he’s a biochemist. He’s the vice president of Reasons To Believe. Francis Collins is a Christian and he’s a geneticist.
There are many others such as Michael Behe (Microbiologist), Jeff Zweerink (astrophysicist), Neil Mammen (engineer), Charles Thaxton (PHD in Chemistry), Gary Parker has an M.S. in Biology/Physiology, Ed.D. in Biology. And Mayim Bialik, though not a Christian, nevertheless believes in Monotheism and has a PHD in Neurobiology.
In fact, I remember a poll where the numbers were that 33% of the scientists were theists. If science were incompatible with theism, those numbers should be much, much lower.
There’s Actually Good Evidence From Science For God’s Existence
I think that not only is science compatible with Christianity, I think that it actually provides evidence for it in many areas. For example, we now have very powerful scientific evidence that the entire universe popped into being out of nothing in a cataclysmic event known as The Big Bang. All matter, energy, space, and time came into being about 14 billion years ago. Since nothing can come into being without an antecedent cause, and since the universe came into being, it must therefore have been brought into being by an antecedent cause. The cause must be spaceless, since it brought space into existence, and it cannot be within space if space didn’t exist until this cause brought it into existence. It must be timeless, since time didn’t exist until this cause brought it into existence. It cannot be inside of time if time didn’t exist until this cause brought it into existence. It must be immaterial because material objects have mass and take up space, but there were no spacial dimensions prior to The Big Bang. Therefore, since there are no spacial dimensions, if this cause were a material cause, it wouldn’t be able to exist. So it must immaterial. It must be unimaginably powerful because it was able to create the entire universe out of nothing. I also think we have good reasons for thinking the cause must be a personal cause. But I won’t get into that right now. To investigate the evidence further, click on the following links:
So are Christians anti-science? I say no. I think this charge is quite unjustified.