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Science and Scientific Materialism


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What often is touted in the name of "science" is really an unscientific philosophy sometimes called "scientific materialism".

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Science and Scientific Materialism

  1. 1. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 1 Developing a Biblical Worldview Science and Scientific Materialism By James C. Wright, J.D.
  2. 2. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 2 Science and Stewardship  The scientific method was developed by Christians to fulfill our mandate to be stewards of God’s creation. • God created humanity to oversee and care for the earth and all it contains. Gen. 1:28 • For example, Adam was given authority to name (interpret) the animals. Gen. 2:19-20 • The heavens, even the heavens, are the Lords; but the earth hath he given to the children of men. Psalm 115:16
  3. 3. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 3 Science is a Blessing . . .  Science emerged only under a Biblical worldview as Christians sought to be faithful stewards of creation  It has produced great blessings as scientists have understood the richness and wonders of creation • Examples: Medicine, transportation, communications, information technologies, agricultural revolution
  4. 4. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 4 . . . And a Great Danger  Apart from the Biblical doctrine of stewardship (to serve), science can be a great danger  Science can run amuck • Examples: Human cloning, euthanasia, pollution, genetic enhancement of deadly pathogens  Science needs a Biblical worldview to both enable it and to set proper ethical limits
  5. 5. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 5 Scripture and Nature “[L]et no man ... think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficience in both.” Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the father of the scientific method
  6. 6. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 6 The Scientific Method  The scientific method was developed by Sir Francis Bacon  Based on inductive reasoning (hypothesis, experimentation, observation, reproducibility and conclusion)  It rejects deductive reasoning from “a priori” first principles
  7. 7. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 7 A Biblical Worldview Science could only emerge from a Biblical worldview  Classical Age: Greek philosophy viewed pure thought and ideas as more “real” than the material universe. • Deductive method from first principles derived from pure reason  Medieval Age: Reality known through deductive reasoning from “a priori” first principles derived from a blend of Greek philosophy and ecclesiastical tradition and dogma. • Catholic church (and early reformers) attack the ideas of Copernicus and Galileo
  8. 8. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 8 A Biblical Worldview Science could only emerge from a Biblical worldview  Non-Western Worldviews: Polytheism and pantheism provide no basis for believing in consistent laws or order throughout the material universe.
  9. 9. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 9 Science and the Reformation  Science was an out- growth of the Reformation: • Ultimately, the Reformation valued an unencumbered pursuit of truth through both Scripture and science, free from ecclesiastical tradition and dogma • As a result, Reformation thinkers were willing to challenge medieval dogma and attitudes in all areas • Affirmed that both special revelation (Scripture) and general revelation (creation) disclosed God’s nature
  10. 10. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 10 Biblical Roots of Science  Science arose from Christianity’s attempt to understand God's creation - the natural world. • Science is only possible if the material universe is orderly, governed by a common set of laws throughout, and human reason is able to inductively comprehend those laws. • These assumptions arise from a Biblical worldview, rooted in God as the creator who made the universe as a reflection of his own unchanging character and who made man in his image (reason, creativity, ability to perceive order and understand creation).
  11. 11. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 11 Sir Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727)  The beauty and regularity of creation could only “proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”  “The Supreme God exists necessarily, and by the same necessity he exists always and everywhere."  “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being.... This Being governs all things . . . as Lord of all.”  “Atheism is so senseless. When I look at the solar system, I see the earth at the right distance from the sun to receive the proper amounts of heat and light. This did not happen by chance.”
  12. 12. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 12 The Fallacy of Scientific Materialism  Science can only know, and is limited to, the realm of material cause and effect.  Therefore, some mistakenly conclude that those limits define all of reality.  The great danger is when there are no objective ethical limits – it becomes “science” run amuck
  13. 13. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 13 Scientific Materialism “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” -- Carl Sagan, Opening to Cosmos
  14. 14. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 14 Scientific Materialism  Scientific materialism is not scientific!  It rejects the inductive scientific method because it is a deductive philosophy that defines reality based on unproven a priori assumptions (e.g., there is no God and all reality is material).  It does the very thing it falsely accuses Christians of doing – a priori deductive reasoning!
  15. 15. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 15 Follow the Evidence . . . “[I]n natural philosophy (i.e., science), the investigation of difficult things by the method of analysis, ought ever to precede the method of composition. This analysis consists in making experiments and observations, and in drawing general conclusions from them by induction and admitting of no objections against the conclusions, but such as are taken from experiments, or other certain truths.” Sir Isaac Newton
  16. 16. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 16  The scientific method is incompetent in the realm of the spiritual (non-material) and the miraculous (non-natural cause and effect).  It can neither prove nor disprove spiritual reality or supernatural effects (e.g., miracles).  Science, however, can recognize God’s impact on nature. • Design indicates a designer (the genetic code, the order of the cosmos) • First causes (the “big bang”) But Know Your Limits . . .
  17. 17. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 17 God is Not the Author of Confusion Special revelation (truth through Scripture) and general revelation (truth through creation) ultimately should agree because the both arise from a God who is not author of confusion, and because both reflect the consistent and orderly nature of God. “For I am the Lord, I change not.” Mal. 3:6
  18. 18. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 18  If there’s a conflict, Scripture trumps science because it is direct revelation as to both material and spiritual reality; of natural cause and effect and the miraculous.  In contrast, science is limited to the material realm of cause and effect (although it can point to God).  Where there is an inconsistency, we either don’t fully understand the material universe of cause and effect, or we don’t fully understand Scripture. Scripture and Science
  19. 19. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries ( 19  In the quest to know God and his creation, we need Scriptural as well as scientific humility.  In humility, we need to be willing to re-evaluate not only scientific dogma, but also theological tradition on issues where Scripture is silent or ambiguous.  We need to encourage our youth to pursue the sciences, while avoiding the fallacies of scientific materialism.  We must discern between true scientific method and the philosophy of scientific materialism. Scripture and Science