Sunday, April 13, 2008

Open and Closed Science

The American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) is an organization of scientists who are Christians sharing a common fidelity to the Word of God and a commitment to integrity in the practice of science. Craig Rusbult is chairman of ASA’s Science Education Commission. He has written a description of what he terms “open” and “closed” science. It highlights the problems inherent in the naturalistic restrictions under which professional scientists must work.

“Open science” is liberated from methodological naturalism (MN), even though it begins with an MN position. That is, all scientists start their work in pursuit of natural explanations for events or natural solutions for problems. If evidence and logic point to an end of the road for natural explanations, on rare occasions a scientist using open science would be willing to consider an explanation which does not force him to a naturalistic conclusion. For instance, the genetic code stored in the DNA molecule has no precedent in naturalism, since all codes are the product of a mind. Open science would allow possible supernatural causation as a topic for further research. The scientist would not be restricted to naturalism as the only explanatory option. But alas! Professional scientists do not practice open science. They practice “closed science.”

In “closed science” the opening assumption in any investigation is that all phenomena in nature are and have been natural occurrences. Therefore, any investigation must end with a naturalistic conclusion. This is an example of circular reasoning. It results in a true conclusion only if the original assumption is true. In previous posts we have established that science deals only with natural causation. But many science professionals have extended this idea to embrace the “nature is all there is” position. Unfortunately, even if a scientist uses the finest evidence and logic, any suggestion of supernatural intervention in the natural world or any kind of miracle at any point in time is unscientific by definition. In the mind of the public, unscientific has acquired a negative connotation.

We have extolled the many benefits of science in previous posts. The activities and discoveries of science, which can be seen as God-gifted, are mostly in the natural realm using God-ordained laws of nature. Our prayer for the future of science is for a movement toward open science where our gifts of logic and rationality do not exclude consideration of the reality of a Creator and His impact along the timeline of cosmic and biological history.