The draft of our Science for all Christians essay collection is ready just in time for class! This booklet will be used in CHEM/BIO 180 “First Term Seminar” for freshman science majors.
The collection is organized around four main themes. Here is an introductory passage I wrote for the “Understanding Scientific Truth” section of the booklet:
The God who reveals himself in Scripture and in Christ is the same God who created and sustains a universe that is laid “before our eyes like a beautiful book” giving witness to its maker1. From this confession, we recognize that meaningful knowledge can be gained through the study of the physical world. It also means that God is the author of all truth, whether that truth is found in God’s words or works.
Growing out of this view of the relationship between God and the created order, scientific inquiry has become an incredibly powerful way of exploring and making sense of the world around us. In fact, in a modern culture deeply shaped by science and technology, scientific paradigms are increasingly claimed as the only means of gaining knowledge or absolute truth. You may even feel a tendency to view the technical, scientific content of your courses as the “most real” purpose of a college education.
Yet this type of scientism exaggerates the role of science while also missing its potential richness. Science is first and foremost a human activity, shaped by the culture in which it is embedded. This has some important implications for how we are to interpret the results of science (or “scientific truths”). First, scientific knowledge does not proceed only by the accumulation of a growing catalog of facts about the world, but also upon the development of explanatory frameworks about how parts of the world behave and interact. Second, science is subject to its own “cultural contradiction”2: it operates in a constant state of change, re-invention, and overthrow of existing paradigms. Today’s theory is always at risk of becoming tomorrow’s cautionary tale.
The tension between the incredible explanatory power of modern scientific paradigms and ongoing paradigm change is representative of a longstanding debate about what kind of “truths” science provides: to what extent are scientific results reflecting an actual objective reality? To what extent are they simply a human tool for perceiving, ordering, and predicting our interactions with the world?3. In any case, science provides a unique way for humans, as image-bearers, to participate as co-creators of meaning, to promote and develop the material world for the flourishing of humankind and the rest of creation, and to increasingly understand a physical universe created by a loving God.
1Belgic Confession, Article 2; Ps 19:1-2, 97:6, 104; Rom 1:19-20, Heb 11:3, Acts 14:15-17, Job 38ff
2Lorraine, D (2016) When Science Went Modern, The Hedgehog Review, 18(3)
3This can be characterized as the debate between realism and instrumentalism.