Several of my recent posts have been negative toward scientists: reductionists, Ethan Siegal, Stephen Hawking, Sam Harris, and “neuro-pseudoscientists.” I was sensitized to this recently when (for unrelated reasons) I ran across a comment Jordan left here a couple years ago:
You’re so pessimistic, Tom. I wish you’d post something positive about science once in a while.
I responded to that at the time, but it’s worth re-visiting. Do I have such a totally negative view of science? More importantly, is this typical of Christian thinking? My answer has two parts.
First, I have never heard of any thinking Christian who has anything but the highest respect for science. I’m recovering still from arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Am I grateful for medical science? Of course. Am I grateful for electronic information and communication science, for transportation, for all the science that makes my home comfortable and safe, for meteorology, for biology? Why not? Do I appreciate what we’ve learned about physics and cosmology? All my life I’ve been an avid reader in these topics and much more.
To varying degrees, this is typical of Christianity, the intellectual and spiritual home of great Christian scientists from Brahe to von Braun to Collins, not to mention dozens more greats I can’t take time to list.
But this is not a science blog. I don’t mind linking to interesting advances in science, and maybe I could do more of that, just as I could link to interesting news in, say, entertainment. Most of the time, though, I need to focus on matters that have an impact on Christianity. Usually that’s not science, but the kind of things I have typically focused on: scientism, the belief that only scientific knowledge is knowledge, and only scientifically-accessible reality is real. When someone like Sam Harris or Stephen Hawking says science makes God unnecessary, that’s an attack on truth that needs an answer. Believers need to know why such challenges need not threaten them, even though they seem to carry some intellectual authority; they need to know just how groundless such attacks are.
What about my position on Intelligent Design–is that anti-science? Not at all, for the challenge ID makes to evolutionary science is a challenge within the sciences, not against science. It’s only “anti-scientific” for those who think that science is necessarily naturalistic, which is an unscientific position to hold, not to mention philosophically unsupportable.
I am not negative toward science, and neither is Christianity. I am opposed to falsehood and illogic masquerading as science, especially where it impinges on the truth of Christianity. I think that’s a positive position, not a negative one: it’s positive toward truth and good thinking.
Note: I wrote this post on the morning of February 14, and scheduled it to appear later so that it would not crowd the previous posts. I did not know then that discussion on two threads would arise with a commenter named Katherine, or that part of that discussion would be related to the topic of this post. I am appending this note prior to this post’s scheduled publication time to clarify that situation, just in case there is any question (for instance, why I make no reference to that discussion in this post). I am making no other changes to this post.