Saturday, September 29, 2007

Suspicious of Science?

People occasionally express doubts about the findings of science. Let's examine why this is true. Some scientists are metaphysical naturalists. They neither believe in the supernatural nor do they believe in the existence of the God of the Bible. Their work of discovery and application is based on natural laws operating, according to them, in a totally natural world. Such scientists, practitioners of good science, have many wonderful achievements to their credit, expanding our knowledge and enriching our material lives. Their achievements do not depend on whether they embrace supernaturalism or naturalism.

Other scientists are methodological naturalists. They believe in the supernatural and the existence of God. However, the science methodology operating in today's community of scientists does not permit them to include any supernatural considerations in their explanations of reality. In brief, they practice their science AS IF God neither exists nor ever existed. Because God's natural laws operate regardless of our belief or disbelief in Him, we have all enjoyed much benefit from scientists' discoveries.

In the last two centuries science has gradually become more and naturalistic and secular. There are both positives and negatives associated with this trend. Many Christians have taken notice and some, unfortunately, have become antagonistic toward science. Christian faith and scientific discovery should be allies, not enemies. The discoveries and achievements of science are gifts lovingly enabled by the Creator of this universe, the author of all natural laws operating within it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What about Naturalism?

Naturalism is the term given to a major worldview category. One form of naturalism is atheistic materialism. Because of confusion in terminology, naturalism is sometimes misunderstood. A word with a "nature" prefix has a positive connotation. After all, most people love nature. Some people prefer "natural" foods and may even pay a higher price for foods in the organic produce department. Who could fault such honest, healthy preferences?

Scientific naturalism is another story. This is the view of many scientists that nature (the physical world) is all that exists, and NOTHING supernatural exists. The science community is committed to making discoveries about the operation of our natural world from a naturalistic perspective. Science has raised our living standards using discoveries about how natural laws operate, most certainly something for which to be thankful. We've cured diseases, enhanced crop production, and produced labor saving and entertainment devices using advanced technology. What could be wrong, therefore, with naturalism?

The problem centers in its practical denial of any supernatural cause or effect -- a virtual denial of the existence of God. We must distinguish between methodological and metaphysical naturalism. All scientists, Christian or not, operate with a naturalistic methodology. From a worldview perspective, the ramifications of either form of naturalism operating are wide ranging.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Science Awareness

Some Christians are not aware of how science works, not to mention what science has discovered. Since roughly the 16th and 17th centuries, through the contributions of dozens of innovative science pioneering giants, a formal "scientific method" has developed as an effective means of discovering truths about the natural world. Before that, Aristotelian science ruled, mystical and speculative, supported more by the power of pure argument than by anything resembling the experimental discovery and formal process science we know today. In the last five hundred years, the development of scientific method has been one of man's foremost achievements. It has become known as the scientific revolution.

Scientific method is empirical. That is to say, it is based upon experience and experiment, observation, measurement, hypothesis, testing, and verification as a means of discovering truths about the workings of our sphere of existence. Some people have manipulated or distorted the discoveries of science in order to advance their special agenda. Others have diminished its legitimate findings for the same purpose. Still others have restricted or expanded the scope of legitimate scientific method to promote their particular worldview.

Practitioners of science are often agenda-driven. Philosophers of science often mold public opinion about what science is, and what its accomplishments are or should be. In future posts we will examine some of these trends and how they impact our Christian worldview.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The 2-D Discussion...Days

In the previous post we pointed out that denial of any physical death before Adam's fall permits YEC believers to preserve their concept of an earth just a few thousand years old. It is then easy for those believers to propose creation days of only 24 hours duration.

Hebrew "yom" (day) had three literal meanings in the ancient Hebrew language -- the daylight period (12 hours), the noon-to-noon period (24 hours), and a long, variable time period. Young earth Christians sincerely believe their 24- hour interpretation conforms to scripture. In many scriptural contexts they are correct. However, that interpretation is only one of three permissable interpretations of "yom." For the correct interpretation we must rely on other evidence. Old earth Christians recognize hundreds of reliable, independent scientific proofs to help them determine the creation timeline of our 13.7 billion-year-old cosmos and 4.5 billion-year-old planet Earth. Their interpretation of "yom" as a long period of time harmonizes with modern scientific discoveries.

When Christians interpret controversial questions such as those involving creation, they must make every effort to ensure their interpretations of scripture and science are correct. One cannot be wrong, and of course, both cannot be wrong. God's people are instructed to study in order to discover the truth of a matter (Prov.15:28, Rom. 12:2, I Thes. 5:21). Our truth search must be diligent.

Some Christians, myself included, might prefer to have more detailed scriptural accounts of creation events. In God's wisdom, we are given a rather brief account in Genesis. Why? Perhaps God is encouraging us to use the benefits of study and the power of the minds He has given us.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The 2-D Discussion...Death

Young earth creationist believers support their belief system by adhering to what I'll call the "2-Ds" -- death, and days. In this post we'll deal with the issue of death.

The expression "No death before the fall" is a capsule summary of this support pillar for belief in a young earth. Young earthers claim that in the "paradise" of the Garden of Eden there could have been nothing so unpleasant as death before Adam and Eve first sinned, not even the death of the tiniest insect or microbe, because death was an outcome of Adam's sin. Romans 5:12, speaking of sin, states " this way death came to all men..." The message of scripture is that the primary tragedy of Adam's sin is man's spiritual death and alienation from the loving Creator God. The later end of Adam's earthly life, along with all of his descendants, is a tragedy of secondary importance by comparison.

Earth's history expressed in the fossil record cries out of bountiful life followed by death on a massive scale. This death occurred countless trillions of times over several billion years. Past deaths of microbes, ocean plankton, and plant life now provide us with a plentiful treasure trove of natural resources -- mineral deposits and fossil fuels. Physical death, therefore, has its upside! Who can question God's divine wisdom?

By denying any death before Adam's fall, YEC adherents help preserve their concept of a very young earth. To acknowledge the deaths of trillions of creatures in earth's distant past one would have to recognize the earth is very old, as in billions of years. To deny that death and earth's enormous age are intertwined is to deny the truth of thousands of different types of scientific evidence. All of this scientific evidence points to the same conclusion.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Old Earth Creationists...Evolutionists?

Recently a young earth friend pronounced me an evolutionist because I believe life has existed on this earth for hundreds of millions of years on this 4.5 billion year old planet. He did not understand that for several decades, leading evolutionists have recognized and acknowledged a number of geologically sudden appearances of new forms of life at widely spaced intervals after long periods of little change. Generally, new forms of life on earth appear rather suddenly after major extinction events.

Leading evolutionists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould gave this phenomenon a name several decades ago - punctuated equilibrium. The term is more descriptive than explanatory. Creative theories to account for such rapid, step-like appearance of new species have been proposed, but the theories are not well developed. The theories do not come with convincing supportive evidence.

What do these sudden appearances of new life at widely spaced intervals suggest? They suggest supernatural action by a Creator more clearly than evolutionary processes. They also suggest the "days" of Genesis 1 may indeed be long periods of time. Possible supernatural intervention cannot even be expressed openly by the purveyors of evolution, because it is contrary to the naturalistic explanations held to be necessary by most paleontologists.