THERE IS A RECENT CANARD that is making the rounds that belief in God would be disastrous to science. The proponent of this view is Richard Dawkins, Former Professor for the Public Understanding of Science in Oxford, UK. This view is sadly mistaken ‒ even secular writers have appreciated the fact that the view of reality that comes to us from the Christian Scriptures actually encourages the birth and development of modern science.
All evidence, including scientific evidence, is filtered through an interpretive framework ‒ a pair of spectacles, so to speak - called a worldview. Some scientists seem to assume that the facts science uncovers need nothing else and are in themselves a commentary on the metaphysics underlying the universe.
This is patently untrue. Science is a tool for discovering facts and relationships within these facts – science itself, because of its very nature, cannot provide the basis for true epistemology. The bigger question is to determine the correct worldview through which scientific facts should be interpreted in order to arrive at true knowledge. We also realize that there exists a kind of dialectic relationship between facts and worldview ‒ scientific (and other) facts do assist us in establishing a right worldview but the right worldview allows us to interpret science correctly. This apparent circularity is one of the indications that true knowledge turns on an objective-subjective axis.
BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS OF EPISTEMOLOGY
True knowledge requires a subject-object relationship. This is eternally possible in God only because He is Trinity (Matt.11:27). God has specially created humans in His image – they are the most God-like in all creation. He has therefore revealed himself to the human race through His world and His Word (Psalm 19) ‒ general and special revelation.
The Bible strongly suggests that all knowledge is, in the final analysis, relational. Our salvation is relational knowledge (John 17:3) and our knowledge of the world has relational aspects as well (as we have already seen). We shall now proceed to see how the Bible provides the underpinning on which true science can be securely built.
EPISTEMOLOGICAL ASSUMPTIONS UNDERLYING SCIENTIFIC ENDEAVOR
The epistemology under girding science can be demonstrated Science: God’s FRIEND OR FOE? To be inescapably anchored in a Biblical worldview. Behind all scientific enterprise, there are five basic assumptions without which it would not have begun in the first place:
1. A real world exists.
2. This world is rational and ordered.
3. The scientific investigator possesses a rationality that parallels the rationality of the world whereby the world can be understood and its behavior formulated.
4. Behind every finite event, there is a cause.
5. The law of uniformity of cause and effect – the same cause produces the same effect under the same conditions.
We will do well to remember that these are not scientific assumptions per se – they are philosophical assumptions about science.
WHY IS THE LOGIC BEHIND THESE ASSUMPTIONS IMPORTANT FOR US TO CONSIDER?
The assumptions given above appear to be so obviously the case that one rarely thinks beyond them. But if we look carefully, these are conclusions reached inductively because we have seen these aspects of natural behaviour occurring without exception (so far)! An inductive argument (in logic) is one in which we proceed to make universal conclusions on the basis of particulars observed. By definition, the conclusions are only probable ones, the degree of probability depending upon the extensiveness of the samples. Logically, conclusions that are certain can be drawn only in deductive arguments – where the major premise is a universal and the conclusion is a particular.
It may be pertinent to point out that all “laws” of science are probable ones, always inviting us to fine-tune our findings as our capacity for observation and measurement improves. Thus, for example, Newtonian understanding of space and time had to be revised based on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – the latter is seen to have greater explanatory power than the former. Physicists are constantly working now to further improve upon and, if necessary, modify Einstein’s assumptions.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY IN SUPPORT OF THESE ASSUMPTIONS?
The opening chapters of the Bible state, in no uncertain terms, the basis for the above assumptions as rooted in the very character and activity of God in creation. They come to us in the form of a narrative – not principles – in which the Creator-God sets His human creation. Let us deal with them one by one: 1. The Bible describes God creating the universe by His word. This is in marked contrast to some forms of Hinduism, for example, which holds that the god of creation dreamt creation into existence. The main difference is that a word is outside the speaker (objective) whereas a dream is inside the dreamer (subjective)! Creation is outside of and distinct from the Creator. Strong support for the objectivity of creation can also be found in a number of verses in Genesis 1 in which God names various entities that He creates: day, night, land, oceans, etc. (vv.5, 8, 10).
We can therefore be absolutely sure that these are for real – and not part of some cosmic illusion as New Age philosophy suggests! Similarly, John 1:1-3 suggests much the same in naming the creative Agent to be the Logos – the Word. 2. The Logos, as Creator, stamps His logic upon His creation; we may therefore expect creation to behave reasonably. 3. In creating us humans in His image, God has imbued us with rationality to understand His world; this is further underlined by the fact that He gave us the authority to “have dominion” over His creation (Genesis 1:26-28). 4.
The first verse of the Bible lays the ground rule for causality – “In the beginning, God [The Infinite First Cause] created the heavens and the earth [The finite effect].” This distinction between cause and effect is systematically maintained in the Bible. In fact, even within the Uncaused Cause – the Triune God – there is a real distinction between the Father and the Son which is the philosophical-theological basis for all true distinctions in the created order. There is a tendency, in recent times, to refer to the indeterminate behavior of electrons at the quantum level (where the distinction between cause and effect is seemingly erased) and then extrapolate it on to the macro-universe. The conclusion? There is no real distinction between cause and effect and thus cause and effect are all one – the undifferentiated oneness that is the foundation of all New Age philosophy. The justification for this extrapolation is never clearly made out – not to mention the fact that if the distinction between cause and effect is non-existent, all scientific enterprise will cease! Genesis 1 also makes out a clear case for distinctions within the created order (vv.4 ,6 ,7, 18). 5. When Noah gingerly steps out of the ark, he finds a world that is markedly different from the one he left. God promises him a world where day and night, summer and winter, seed-time and harvest will follow a regular pattern (Genesis 8:22). Because this is underwritten by the word of the sovereign Lord, we can expect the same effects to follow the same causes under the same conditions. It may be worth noting that while empirical science flourished in various ancient world civilizations (as already stated), modern science with a conceptual framework is an extremely recent phenomenon that can be traced geographically and temporally to the Reformation – this fact has been generally recognized by philosophers of science. The much-touted conflict between science and Christianity is an imaginary antithesis that has little evidence to back it.
WHAT DO SCIENTIFIC FACTS SAY IN SUPPORT OF THE BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW?
The correspondence between assumptions underlying the scientific enterprise and the view of reality propounded by the Bible cannot be dismissed as a coincidence. Time and time again, the grounds on which science has made progress are seen to support Biblical presuppositions:
1. One of the facts of science repeatedly investigated and found to be true is the finiteness of the universe. This idea has not been popular in scientific circles. Sir Arthur Eddington, the reputed British physicist is reported to have said, “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning to the present order of Nature is repugnant to me.”Scientists who are atheists are aware of the immense philosophical and theological implications of this notion. Einstein himself grudgingly accepted “the necessity of a beginning.” His general theory of relativity (1915) theoretically established the fact that the universe was finite. This has been subsequently confirmed by a number of observations by astronomers. Points where all known laws of physics break down cannot be avoided. These points are called “singularities” and it has been proven that, under very general conditions, solutions to Einstein’s equations will always contain a singularity.
2. Einstein demonstrated that space and time are relative to each other – Newton held that these two were absolutes and one could be measured against the other. (It should also be noted that space and matter are interchangeable terms – so, when we describe the universe as expanding, we do not mean that it is expanding into pre-existing space, but expanding as space.) It is significant that the Bible begins with the phrase, “In the beginning…” rather than “Once upon a time…” Thus, space-time begins at creation.
3. The first and second laws of thermodynamics are indirectly supported in the Bible. The first law states that matter (or energy) can neither be created nor destroyed. At the end of creative activity, the Bible states in Genesis 2:1-3 that the work of creation was finished – the institution of the Sabbath makes it clear that there was no further work involving creation of matter/energy. The second law states that the universe is inexorably heading towards heat-death.
All energy will cease to be available for useful work as entropy reaches a maximum and there will be no more work, no activity, no life – the universe will have reached a uniform temperature. This is implied in what God says to Adam after his disobedience, “With the sweat of your brow you will toil…” (Gen.3:17b-19). Output will always be less than input and efficiency will be less than 100%; the difference is wasted as entropy. It is only the return of Christ and the redemption of creation that will prevent this from happening (Rom.8:19-22; Rev.21:1, 2). 4. Einstein viewed the “high degree of order” of the universe as a “miracle” rather than something “we are authorized to expect.” The case for this “miracle” is strengthened as every increase in knowledge further demonstrates the fine-tuning of the universe.
1. Personal Knowledge – Michael Polanyi.
2. Anthropic Cosmological Principle – John Barrow, Frank Tipler, John Wheeler.
3. Our Universe: Accident or Design? – David L. Block.
4. Lettres à Maurice Solovine (1956) – A. Einstein.
5. Forty Minutes with Einstein - J. Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (1956)
6. One World - John Polkinghorne.
7. Wrinkles in Time – George Smoot. From Copernicus to Newton, it was not deism but Christian Theism that served as a principal factor helping the scientific enterprise reach self-sustaining maturity. - Stanley L. Jaki
Author: L.T. JEYACHANDRAN hails from Tamil Nadu in South India. He graduated from PSG College of Technology, affiliated with University of Madras (Chennai), and later received a Master of Technology degree in Structural Engineering from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chennai. L.T. worked in several parts of India for 28 years as a Senior Civil Engineer with the Central (Federal) Government. The last position he held was that of Chief Engineer in charge of 13 states of India in the Eastern Zone while based in the city of Calcutta. L.T. discovered the meaning of new life in Christ Jesus during his undergraduate college days. He has been involved in preaching the Gospel in conferences and is well known as a Bible expositor. He is a keen student of theology and comparative religions, and also interested in the study of Indian and foreign languages. He is knowledgeable in both Hebrew and Greek and is thus able to handle Scripture effectively in his ministry. He took early retirement from the Government in November 1993 to join Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in India and functioned as Director of Ministries there till December 2000. In that capacity, he had been training leaders in seminars for Christians and conducting open forums for people from other faiths. He also served as a Bible teacher for RZIM and other conferences. Since January 2001, L.T. has been working as Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific branch of the same organisation, based in Singapore. He and his wife, Esther, have two children and four grandchildren.