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Theology and Natural Science: Epistemological Issues Beneath the Surface

 

Various Epistemological Arguments for Scripture and Truth—against (Natural) Science and Other Uncertainties, or

 

Adam and Eve Are More Real Than HAL[1]

 

***Paper accepted and presented at Houston Baptist University, April 5, 2014 for their annual conference.

In pursuing my interests in philosophy over the past four years, I eventually found my way to philosophy of science.  Its study has been intriguing and eye-opening.  First, it raises profound issues for the study of epistemology at its core.  Natural science, as “scientism,” is too often considered the source of truth for our modern day, at least generally in social and political discourse. This authority is far more assumed, than real, when philosophy of science is engaged with any serious understanding.  Second, the large majority of philosophers and scientists in this field are not Christians and therefore have no reason to provide an epistemological assistance for Christians in natural science-Creation issues.  Thus, I am puzzled as to the lack of reference to this area in current debates.   Thus, I would like to address this debate from issues of epistemology and philosophy of science, especially a proposal concerning the notion of faith.

 

Natural Science and the History of Scientitia and Episteme: A Sleight of Hand

 

Introduction to “science.” In modern discussions, “science” is short-hand for “natural science.”  While this shortening seems innocent, it masks significant issues in epistemology.  An earlier name for natural science was natural philosophy, even well into the 19th century.  It was a branch of philosophy, carrying all the vagaries, speculations, and substantial disagreements of philosophy that are well known today.  One must enter the community of philosophers of science to see these substantial falsehoods and disagreement.  For example, The End of Science by John Horgan is a of notable philosophers and scientists across a broad spectrum of beliefs in natural science and philosophy today.

 

History of scientitia. Further, the word, “science” is short for the Latin, scientia,which has a long and more general background.  For example, the “sciences” among the Middle Age Scholastics were medicine, law, and theology.[2]   And, theology was “queen of the sciences!”  Further back, Augustine of Hippo used the term scientitia, as he discussed his considerations of epistemology.  By an historical and grammatical reduction and sleight of hand, natural science has replaced this broader concept of science which had been defined as a serious and systematic study of any subject.  By this, perhaps unintentional but nevertheless misleading, misdirection, natural science has gained a independent claim to knowledge and truth that is entirely and completely unwarranted either in its philology or its definition within a history of language and epistemology.

 

xx--Monolithic. (As I am writing, the I note my use of “monolithic” and “monotheism.”  Scientism seeks to become the only source of truth, whereas the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the only source of truth.)

 

Episteme.  Initially, there was episteme of the Greek philosophers, obviously the root of “epistemology.”  Plato described in his divided line, a process whereby opinion (doxa) could be advanced to faith (pistis), then to understanding (dianoia), and finally to truth or knowledge (episteme).[3]  Episteme (Greek) became scientitia (Latin_) with the change of the universal language of the West from Greek to Latin.  Thus, from the beginning of Western scholarship, “science” had a much broader usage and a more diligent process to arrive at true knowledge than is present today.  This broader application has been lost with the reduction of “natural philosophy” to “natural science” to simply “science.”  This change has given additional false credence to natural science in today’s world.

 

The Origin of the Modern Notion of “Science”

 

The essence of science.  Today, “science” tries to hide personal biases. But, natural science is dependent upon the faith-beliefs of those who are doing the theorizing or experimenting.  Those explicit beliefs then become acceptable to  a group of persons with the same beliefs, sufficiently held to form an authority of science, as described by Thomas Kuhn in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  But, natural science is “methodological naturalism”—a process that assumes a closed universe and no existence of the supernatural.  By abbreviating “natural science” to just “science,” this secular divide was obscured.  This hiddeness was not likely intentional, although the directed secularism of first positivism, and then logical positivism, certainly fomented this abbreviation, as there was no need for the “natural” because “nature” was all that existed with God excluded.  A prominent example of this bias is that seen in the evolution vs. creation-science controversy which we will visit later.

 

Note synonyms: premises, assumptions, axioms, basic beliefs, foundational beliefs, starting points, simple beliefs, prejudices, first principles, etc.

 

Nuts and bolts of science.  Thus, there is certain and unavoidable conflict of the most basic premises!  Scientism assumes a closed universe—nothing supernatural exist, while biblical theology assumes a universe created by the supernatural God, sustained by Him, and occasionally miraculously interrupted by Him.  There is conflict from the epistemological foundations—no God vs. God.  There is conflict of “cause” by way of explanation.  “Nature” has established regularities, called “laws,” that govern the universe.  God has created these regular patterns in the universe by which man can discern patterns that allow him to create technology.  There is the traditional and ongoing conflict over miracles.  There is the conflict over telos—purpose to God’s intended conclusion vs. no purpose and a random process without purpose.  There is perhaps the greatest conflict in ethics and politics (to which science can make no claim—more on this latter issue later).

 

Many Christians, including myself, have said, “There is no conflict between science and the Scriptures properly understood.”  But, there is conflict, as I have described—infinite, irresolvable conflict of the most basic premises.  The only way to avoid conflict is “methodological supernaturalism.”[4]  Not much would be lost, and much would be attained, by this process.  Miracles are sufficiently rare in number that they are easily recognizable.  Then, instead of “natural laws,” there would be the laws of God’s creation, or better, the regular and recognizable patterns of the created universe.[5] 

 

Scientism, as Logical Positivism, Struck Out Early in its History On Its Own Premises

 

Logical positivism.  In the early 20th Century a group known as the Vienna Circle and others began a challenge to the world that was called “the verification principle” (VP).  They were an impressive list of recognized scholars which included Moritz Schlick, Hans Hahn, Gustav Bergmann, Rudolf Carnap, Hebert Feigl, Otto Neurath, Frederick Waismann, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.  The verification was a “denial of literal or cognitive meaning to any statement that is not verifiable,” says Simon Blackburn in his Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.[6] That is, if one could not run an experiment, then it had no truth value to it.   Thus, “truth” claimed a foundation in empirical methodology—the so-called “scientific method.”  The intent of the VP was to discredit any metaphysical claims beyond science, especially any religious or other authoritative claim. 

 

The movement was eventually crushed.  “First, it shared the traditional problems of radical empiricism, describing the basis of knowledge in experience.”[7]  This problem is the fallacy of induction, which even David Hume, an avowed atheist clearly and thoroughly attacked.  “Secondly, it depended upon one logic for science, or in other words a confirmation theory with a unique authority, yet no such structure, and certainly no basis for its authority ever came forth.”[8]  Karl Popper with his falsifiability principle and other scholars soundly ended this movement at least by that name.[9]  Thus, logical positivism attempted physical certainty while it had its foundation in a metaphysical claim.  Nothing has really changed today except that logical positivism has simply become “science,” thus again masquerading its metaphysical (and thus religious) grounding.

 

Michael Polanyi.  In 1948 Michael Polanyi, a world renowned physical chemist, reacted to the claims of science that it was objective and true.  He said, “Modern physics has demonstrated the power of the human mind to discover and exhibit a rationality which governs nature, before ever approaching the field of experience.”[10]  He goes on to show that the person is involved at every step of the “scientific method.”[11]  The person abstracts his hypothesis, formulates his method, chooses his parameters of measure, what data to collect and what to reject, and then make conclusions from his experiment.[12]  There is no objective or universal standard by which all these judgments are made!  Polanyi cites the development of crystallography (one of his own fields of expertise) in which classifications are constructed from observations for a preliminary study of crystals.  Thus, “each individual crystal is taken to represent an ideal of regularity (and) all actual deviations from which are regarded as imperfections” (emphasis mine).  In other words, crystals that do not fit pre-supposed patterns are placed outside the system!  Anyone familiar with classifications of plants and animals know that some individual things defy exact placement.  There is the mammalian duckbill platypus.  There is the Ginko tree which has its own phylum.  And so forth.

 

Polanyi uses terms, such as, “faith,” “tautology,” “authority,” “calling,” “tacit knowledge,” “belief,” “conversion,” “personal commitment,” “community,” conviviality,” “hermeneutics,” “intuition,” “randomness,” and “tradition,” that are usually identified with liberal studies, social sciences, and religions, rather than the “objectivity” of natural science.  Indeed, he calls his epistemology, “personal knowledge,” as the “person” suffuses all scientific thinking.  His approach only confirmed uncertainties brought about by Werner Heisenberg’s observations and the more recent developments in the unpredictable nature of chaos and quantum theory.

 

I have focused on Polanyi, because he has possibly the most thoroughly worked out epistemology of science.[13] But, he is not alone.  There are a great many philosophers of science who are consistent with his thinking in various parts and at several levels: Paul Davies, Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend, Alexandre Koyré, Daniel Dennett, Noam Chomsky, Roger Penrose, Thomas Kuhn, and Nancey Murphy are only a few.  While none really agree completely, they all demonstrate that science is far from the objective and fixed source of truth that is commonly assumed and proclaimed in science departments in high schools, colleges, and universities.  It is in the “halls of academia” that the myths of science as truth are mythologized, not in the more soundly conceived ideas of philosophers of science.

 

Polanyi is not overtly Christian.  There are occasional and sometimes surprising references to Christian themes, but certainly no case can be made that he is advancing any religious agenda.  His Christian theology is superficial, inconsistent, and minimally related to his epistemology.  But Christians can make great use of his ideas.  First, his thinking can illuminate Scriptural and personal beliefs and how they function in practical applications.  Second, he virtually destroys science as a monolithic, objective, and certain source of truth or knowledge, making it instead into a “personal calling” of “discovery.”  Bible-believing Christians need not fear any scientific pronouncements that would affect their theology, as science is only another authority whose evidence is to be weighed along with other important authorities.[14] 

 

                                                                                                                                      ,

Understanding Faith

 

Let’s see if I can help us understanding faith and apply it to issues in modern science.  Early in my Christian journey, I sought to have a better understanding of faith Theologians did not help with their vague terms of assensus, fiducia, and notitia. My first insights came from the notion of – for lack of a better term, “generic faith” or “everyday faith.”  I have faith that I can drive my car to my destination without an accident or the car breaking down.  I have faith that my alarm clock will go off, as it should without a power failure.  I have faith that my house will not burn down, as I sleep.  I have faith that my wife will be faithful in all the ways that she should.  I have faith to remember how to tie my shoes when I put them on.  Faith, then, might be any decision that is based upon assumptions about knowledge and expected outcome based upon that knowledge. More formally, faith is based upon one’s premises, presuppositions, and basic beliefs. 

 

Interjection….  The many faces or synonyms of “assumptions”…  As Polanyi would note, these come from within the person.

 

It is this generic faith that is not often recognized by Christians.  By isolating “faith” to religious belief, the dependence of all human knowledge on faith is obscured.  A definition of faith, then, for any area of scholarship would be: the predisposition to act according to one’s knowledge[15] with an expected outcome that may or may not occur according to Reality.  All reality and experience is interpreted by these personal beliefs

 

More particularly applicable here, all natural science is based upon personal faith or the faith of a community of scientists which does not differ from other forms of personal or community beliefs.  The “scientific method” is based upon faith at each step of its process.  The experimenter has faith in the knowledge that he possesses from other scientists.[16]  He has faith in his experimental design.  He has faith in his measurements.  He has faith in his staff to be honest and diligent in their work.  And on and on.  The whole process is faith-based.  Again, Michael Polanyi:

 

The critical[17] movement of the last 300 years (the Enlightenment Project, if you will—Ed) has tried to sanction the acceptance of science while avoiding any explicit declaration of faith, which was contrary to its basic program. I believe that this attempt has failed because it is logically mistaken, and that, consequently, it can never succeed at all. I hold that we have good reasons for preferring science to magic or astrology, or (what is of greater practical importance) to the perversion of science imposed by Stalinism on the territories under Communist rule. But I suggest that these reasons can never be adequately stated without a personal affirmation of belief on the part of the speaker.

 

A neutral analysis of science as a system of beliefs should always use the word 'science' and 'scientist' in quotation marks, in the way the Soviet Academy refers to bourgeois 'science' and bourgeois 'scientists'. The confident use of any expressions including the word 'science' or its derivatives like 'scientific method', 'scientific observation', 'natural law', etc., convey the writer's belief in a certain body of allegations, in the rightness of a certain procedure for “ at such allegations and of confirming them, without his ever having taken the responsibility for affirming this belief. The use of the scientific idiom by writers of scientific method establishes in fact from the start a tacit understanding between them and their readers on the trustworthiness of the method which they are setting out to analyses.[18]

 

Applications to science.  This sort of “personal” choice (faith) exists even in subatomic theory.  There is the uncertainty brought about by light being both a wave and a particle.  There is quantum uncertainty.  There is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.  There is Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and belief that light is the only constant in the universe—in spite of some challenging observations.  Polanyi’s book is filled with examples of such “choices” in all areas of science.  Even in mathematics, Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems destroy any notion of a complete proof in mathematics, the foundation of all sciences.  A simple example can be seen in geometry where the beginning student assumes (i.e., has faith in) axioms which are not, and cannot, be proven.  Thus, geometry provides a well-known example that all sciences are faith-based, whether called axioms, presuppositions, premises, intuition, or something else.  Indeed, Gödel stated that “the notion of provability is weaker than the notion of truth.”[19]  -- Every person should ponder that statement carefully for its powerful implications.

 

The Enlightenment Project of the Enlightenment attempted to base all knowledge on reason was itself an act of faith.  Rene Descartes “believed” in his cogito and his “clear and distinct” ideas.  Immanuel Kant “believed” in his categories, his critiques, and separation of noumena and phenomena.  Georg Hegel “believed” in his Begriff (Reason).  Frederich Nietzsche believed in his geneology of morals, his Obermench, and his “will to power.”  We have seen how the Logical Positivists “believed” their empirical methods.  But, interestingly and disastrously, these philosophers would not allow “belief” in authorities other than themselves, such as, Scripture, tradition, and other authorities.  Such is the irrationality of the rationalists!

 

Faith groups.  Christians buy into this separation of “reason” and “faith” when they allow themselves to be called a “faith-group.”  All groups, including the supposed “hard” sciences, are based upon faith, less soundly based in human conceptions over against God’s revelation of Himself in the Holy Scriptures.  --- As an aside, the idea that all –isms are faith-based is one of the most, and perhaps the most, crucial issue of our time.[20] 

 

A brief aside on the “working” of science.  The reader may be wondering how it is that science has achieved so much, when it is also “faith-based.”  As evangelicals, we recognize that faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).  But generic faith, and in particular scientific faith, is also a gift.  Faith is a means to act without certainty; it is a functional knowledge.  I do not have to know how  electricity works; I only need to know sufficient characteristics to harness it and not get killed in the process.  I do not need to know how an internal combustion engine works to drive my car.  I do not need re-learn how to tie my shoe or any other of hundreds of skills; I have faith that I know and function accordingly. 

 

Scientists do not know why gravity exists, but they can plot the course of space ships by understanding its properties.  They do not know why electrons and other subatomic particles act as they do, but they can know their properties sufficiently to produce electricity from nuclear power and split the atom. 

 

So, faith is a gift to function as a Christian, a nuclear physicist, or simply to tie my shoe.  If certainty and total knowledge were necessary, one could only be inert, motionless, and incapacitated.  Praise God for this wonderful gift in salvation and every action of life.

 

 

Evolution: A Science that is Murky at Best

 

((**See ICR website, article cited by Gish that says that science cannot address the past.

http://www.icr.org/article/nature-science-theories-origins/ ))

 

There seems to be a prevailing idea that evolution is a solidly reasoned, widespread concept, especially in scholarly circles.  What other reason would otherwise sound-thinking Christians even consider its tenets?  Well, the fact that evolution is usually referred to as “the theory of evolution” should give a clue as to its dubious status.  “Theory” is just a belief that is proposed to be “proven” by the evidence. 

 

First, there are widely divergent views of evolution.  Jonathan Wells comments on ten “icons”—the commonly referenced “facts.”

 

Some of these icons of evolution present assumptions or hypotheses as though they were observed facts; in Stephen Jay Gould’s words, “incarnation of concepts masquerading as neutral descriptions of nature,.”  Others conceal raging controversies among biologists that have far-reaching implications for evolutionary theory.  Worst of all, some are directly contrary to well-established scientific evidence.  Most biologists are unaware of these problems.  Indeed, most biologists work in fields far removed from evolutionary biology.  Most of what they know about evolution, they learned from biology textbooks and the same magazine articles and television documentaries that are seen by the general public.[21]  (my emphasis)

 

Wells entire 338-page book thoroughly documents assumptions, myths, and outright fraud. 

 

The fly-leaf of the 2nd edition of the book, Darwin Retried,[22] Norman Macbeth states:

 

Classical Darwinianism has slowly been abandoned piece by piece, but the public has not been informed of what has happened.  If queried, Darwinists will say that their theory does not provide a satisfactory overall account of the evolutionary process and, in any case, theirs is the best theory available.  But it has become increasingly evident that there are serious difficulties even with neo-Darwinianism, and many mysteries involving selection, micro-change, and other matters remain intractable.

 

Macbeth was privileged to attend meetings of the Systematics Group of the American History of Natural History where he heard

 

many frank and vigorous discussions…. (that) were not governed by dogma and were not respectful about traditional views on evolution.  (The attendees) were all sure that it had occurred, but they did not pretend to know how…. Gould and Eldredge … stated eloquently that the profession has utterly failed in regard to macroevolution; several philosophers … agreed … that natural selection is a tautology.  Practically every point in (my first edition) could not be documented more fully…. (and) not one biologist in ten can understand the mathematics of Fisher an Wright. ”[23]

 

Like, Wells’ book, all its 178 pages show the disagreements and flimsy-to-non-existent evidence for evolutionary theories.

 

As I stated above, the strongest protagonists of evolution are science departments of high schools, colleges, and universities—many of which are “Christian.”  They present evolution as though there are no problems with its theory and a consistent account throughout the natural sciences.  They indoctrinate students for 12-16 or more years in this false and speculative science.  Thus, by indoctrination they achieve what natural science cannot: a claim of the solid evidence of its truth.

 

It seems incredulous, then, that Bible-believing Christians with seemingly little knowledge of the great evidence against evolution, that they are not only willing to challenge the Genesis account of origins, but challenge New Testament reiteration and confirmation of Genesis teaching.

 

The Idea of Authority

 

Augustine, as Descartes was to ponder, more than a thousand years later, was assumed to have an epistemology that was irrefutable.  He did not find it in Manichaeism because their scholars could not answer his questions.[24]  After his conversion, he struggled with the idea of the authority of the Bible.  How could “authority” (a persons’ opinion, the position of a particular scholar, a consensus, etc.) be this ultimate epistemology?  But it gradually dawned on him that we live almost the entirely of our lives by authority, that is, faith in others.  Most of what we know comes from “authorities”: our parents, our teachers, books, conversations with others, and scholars of all sorts.  We plan a trip by the “authority of a map.”  We invest by the “authority of economic authorities.”  We marry on the “authority of our choice of mates.”  We have children on the “authority of what a family is and ought to be.”  Thus, as Augustine began to see the ubiquity of “authority,” what was so strange about accepting the “authority of God” speaking through the Scriptures?  Why, that means just fit with everyday life, and the scholarly world, as well.  Then, if one considers that God is speaking and authenticating Himself, well then, what is the problem with Scripture being the ultimate and final authority?  This supernatural book is, then, a “natural” authority.  That is, a book written to understand and govern man’s “nature.”

 

There are two points here.  First, there is the prevalence of authority at all levels of knowing . Go back to our discussion of faith where knowledge was central to faith.  Authority is one kind of knowledge upon which faith is based.   It is a strange application of epistemology that anti-Biblicists demean the consideration of the Bible as “ultimate authority.”  As Paul Tillich pointed out, “ultimate authority” is simply where our greatest faith lies.  Atheists have ultimate authorities.  Communists have ultimate authorities.  Hindus have ultimate authorities.  With all the massive evidence of historical, archeological, epistemological, and traditional arguments for Scripture, why place it under special rules of challenge from which these other authorities are excused. 

 

Second, the Christian faith inescapably rests upon the Biblical authority of its 66 books.  The individual (Christian or not), council, or church that begins to tinker with what is and is not Biblical authority, apart from these 66 books that are traditional, orthodox, and agreed upon by Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox, has departed from Christianity.  When the totality of Scripture is not accepted, the authority of that person or group has become has become the canon, instead of the canon of Scripture.

 

Natural science is just one authority.  As we have seen, popular and scholarly usage has separated it from its place among other the speculations of philosophy and its limiting domain of the “natural” world, not to mention all the epistemological problems pointed out by modern philosophers of science.

 

Now, Christian, with this background, why should natural science have an authority that supersedes Scripture?  Why should your Biblical theology be challenged by this disguised pretender?  Why should your objective[25] Biblical faith be minimized over against the subjective and passing objectivity[26] of natural science?  On epistemological grounds alone, you have moved from The Solid Rock to shifting sand!  When one adds the theological grounds discussed by Madueme, one has to ask, just what is there to recommend changes in orthodox theology?[27]

 

Knowledge in Community: Indwelling in a Convicted Manner

 

Science, community, and paradigm. Thomas Kuhn speaks of paradigms that exist among a community until such time as “shifts” occur, as happened in the movement from Newtonian science to that of Einstein’s relativity and quantum unpredictability.[28]  Michael Polanyi discusses “scientific consensus,” “established authorities,” and “competent authorities” which established the natural sciences for a particular time period and must undergo a “breaking out” or “conversion,” as the “shift” that Kuhn describes.  The scientific community, then, becomes the “authority” for acceptable science.  By now the reader should be noting the comparisons of science and religious knowledge: faith, belief, authority, conversion, and community. 

 

While inerrancy does not have universal status in Christendom, particular tenets reside in a community that is a local church and denomination.  To be an authentic member of such a community, one has an allegiance to that community.  One should have investigated the soundness of the tenets of that community before joining and in continuing membership.  It is not exactly an “us and them,” but a commitment to one’s community is necessary to authentic faith and practice.  Thus, outside information such as science should have to “prove” itself in a profound way to counter that community’s beliefs.  In other words, one’s convictions should override all but the most profound evidence from “outside.”  Not unlike the new “decisions under review—unless there is “overriding” evidence “on the field,” present interpretation should not be overridden.  I fear that too little commitment and investigation may be behind some of the current movement to accept natural scientific pronouncements over one’s community of Biblical interpretation and belief.

 

 

There Are No Ethics in Science—No “Ought” Can Be Claimed from An “Is”

 

Whether achievements by modern science are “good” or not, natural science cannot speak—natural science is mute.  Because science can—does not mean that it should.  This silence is sometimes called the naturalistic fallacy.  There can be no ought from an is.  Even David Hume, an enemy of Christianity, noted this impossibility.  So, when we say “achievements” or “progress” of modern science, we are appealing to authorities outside of science to make moral conclusions about science.  We should never go to scientists to ask them whether something should be achieved, and yet we do every day.  The Nobel Peace prize resulted from the ambivalence that Alfred Nobel had over his invention of dynamite—a substance that could level mountains for roads and dam lakes for hydraulic electricity or kill hundreds of human beings in a single blast.  Was the invention of dynamite “good” or “bad.”  Science cannot tell us; only human values can, and values do not come from natural science.

 

 

Natural Science Is a Methodological Fallacy

 

Science observes small parts of the universe, but never the whole universe.  Yet, it makes universal pronouncements.  Gravity is the same on the moon as on earth.  The possibility of life on earth means that life is possible on other planets.  Lowering cholesterol promotes health.  The velocity of light is constant throughout the universe.  Radioactive decay has in the long-time past and will precede at a predictable rate the far-off future.  And so on.  However, unless one can go back in time and examine every inch (atom?) of the universe at every moment of time, one cannot be absolutely sure of anything in science—a methodological fallacy or the fallacy of induction.  Check any basic textbook on logic.

 

 

The Christian and Scientific Knowledge.

 

Science is current paradigm.[29]  Scripture is fixed as text, but not as interpretation.  Science and Biblical theology used different language and different concepts.  Let each attend to its own!

 

As reported by Alister McGrath, “Augustine was deeply concerned that biblical interpreters might get locked into reading the Bible according to the scientific assumptions of the age.”[30]  We should as well. The Church-Galileo incident should remind us of that in two ways.   First, Biblical theology should not be tied to scientific paradigm, as Augustine warned—to do so is to muddy both worldviews. 

 

I suggest that Christians back off the creationist debates, both being grounded in scientism, and Old-Earth, New-Earth.   Science is a shifting paradigm that never achieves the status of truth.  Let the scientists debate.  Give the freedom to all Christians to stake their own positions.

 

 

Definitive Lines Must Be Drawn

 

Within the context of all that I presented there, definitive lines must be drawn.  (1) The line must be drawn at inerrancy, but we need a new definition (concept) of inerrancy.  Referral to the original autographs is necessary, but inadequate.  We have the inerrant text today, as proven over and over again.  Differences among the better and best manuscripts are minimal and almost never affect doctrine.  Let us proclaim the immensity of the agreement on Planet Earth of the 66 books of the Bible that are agreed upon by Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and Protestants alike.  The problem is not inerrancy, but interpretation and agreement on epistemology—both method and foundational issues. 

 

I will make an attempt at this formulation, but certainly willing for others to state it better.  The current statement of the Evangelical Society, concerning Scripture, reads, “"The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.”  A change, as I have proposed, might be “The 66 books of the Christian Scriptures that are traditionally accepted among the orthodox as God’s only infallible truth in objective form, conveyed to modern man through extant manuscripts.”  There could be other important words, like “ultimate authority,” “final authority,” “governing authority,” “controlling authority,” etc.  Each Christian body may have to decide on different nuances. 

 

Further, our creeds ignore their own epistemological foundation.  I suggest the minimal addition to  The Apostles’ Creed with “Through the Holy Scriptures, I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”

 

The Old Earth and Young Earth Christians need to shift their emphasis from (natural) science, as an uncertain authority, to that of Biblical inerrancy.  They should join hands against scientism, positivism, and atheism, instead of claiming that some form of evolution today is an evangelistic means to the intelligentsia of today.

 

(2) A line must be drawn at science determining essential doctrine.  Peter Enns and others have challenged the orthodox position that Adam and Eve were not literal persons.  Romans is quite clear that there were a “first Adam” and a “second Adam.”  Romans does not have the interpretive problems of Genesis 1-2.  To suggest that Adam was not a literal Adam is destroy the “second Adam, no other than Jesus Christ Himself.  The fallacies of science are not even necessary to stand concretely against his heresy,[31] but certainly when these fallacies are made a part of the picture, the ridiculous claim of there not being a literal Adam is seen in its naked light (pun unintended, but realized).

 

There are other lines to be drawn.  The origin of matter is necessary to evolution, a metaphysical, not a scientific claim.  Big Bang, string theory, or whatever must start with something.  The question that Leibniz asked, “Why is there something rather than nothing?, cannot be answered by science.  Horgan has suggested that a much stronger line can be drawn on the origin of life than attacking evolution.  I agree.  The former is a metaphysical claim; the latter is scientific theory.  Another, perhaps, even stronger line is “consciousness” and “self-consciousness.”  This reality challenges physicalism at its core and has vigorously eroded it greatly.[32]  On so on.

 

Evangelical Christians could make far stronger arguments against their adversaries from concepts in the philosophy of science than they can in arguing science against science.  Natural science has many weaknesses, and scientific creationism in all its forms is only weak epistemology.

 

The strongest line can be drawn at ethics.  As already stated, natural science can make no claim to ethics.  Therefore, given a level playing field, Christianity has the most definitive and prevalent claim to right and wrong.  There are only three ways to invoke an ethical position: totalitarianism (might enforces its concept of  “right”), vox populi (the rule of the majority), or bowing the knee to accepted authority.  In the West, and in view of the mixed religions and philosophies of the East, Christianity by any reasonable methodology has the greatest claim.  When “Thus says the Lord” is proclaimed, all other claims fade into the background.  The social sciences (psychology, sociology, etc.) can only report “what is,” they cannot make a claim to what is “normal” and “right” without going outside their science to metaphysical claims.

 

A great problem in Christian ethics is that Christians often have little idea of what their ethic is and should be   I have no space to discuss that here, but may be found in some brevity at my website, www.biblicalworldview21.org.

 

The more important work is worldview: Biblical application to economics, personal and corporate ethics, and politics. 

 

We Need to Recognize the Great Opportunity

 

Science has never been more bereft of foundational answers, and thus more inclined to supernatural (metaphysical, speculative) matters.  What is an atom?  What is light?  What is an electromagnetic field?  What is a black hole?  How can matter and anti-matter exist together?  How can there be multi-verses?  Is the speed of light a universal constant?  What is the relationship of cause and effect, especially in chaos theory? 

 

John Jefferson Davis has given us a great example of orthodox theology encountering cutting edge science in the book, The Frontiers of Science and Faith.[33]  Nancy Pearcey and Thaxton in The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy[34] have given us the history of science and much of the philosophy of science that affected its course.  Michal Polanyi and his followers have given us greater understanding of the nature of faith, as well as the “faith” that resides broadly and deeply in natural science.  And, there is more, much more in the philosophy of science to more than counter the weak scholarship of evolutionary science, dilettantes such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens,[35] and even recognized authorities such as Stephen Dawkins.

 

Perhaps, the final question to consider is whether a science of the Bible can be developed?  (1) Well, certainly a “natural science” could not be developed because the Bible knows no such metaphysical position.  Methodological naturalism is the procedure of modern science.[36]  Only methodological “supernaturalism” would be possible from the Bible.  All natural and supernatural entities are created and sustained by the ultimate “supernatural” Being.  (2) Biblical science would be deductive.  Empiricism, the modern scientific method, is inductive.  Experimentation is not possible, since the Bible is a fixed source.  So, any “science” would to be understood in the worldview of the authors, since they were limited to descriptions that could be understood in their time.  Any extrapolations to modern science are fraught with translation difficulties that would be tenuous at best.  (3) Then, there are the varying genres necessary for interpretation: narrative, poetry, proverbs, speeches, allegory, metaphors, and others that are not translatable to an application of science, as we know it.  And so forth.

 

While I do not rule out a “science” of the Bible, it is fraught with many difficulties.  I have not yet seen a Biblical science that takes all these difficulties into consideration.  And, do we want to?  We must defend Biblical authority on issues of epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics until our dying breath, but is a Biblical science really useful?  Has not the empirical method that which God has given us to subdue the earth, even with its fallacies, proven its utility?  Christendom could use a more thorough and practical emphasis in theology and ethics.  Let natural science discover its technology, and let the Scriptures govern its ethical use to the glory of God. 

 

Conclusion

 

I have tried to add to the framework of Genesis-science-Biblical-theological discussions from historical, epistemological, and philosophy of science issues.  Both “young” and “old” earth sciences are still subject to the various fallacies of science.  The greater issue is the epistemology of the Bible, as authority and faith.  Here, science h as a lesser claim than does inerrancy.  Both are based upon believing assumptions.  It is peculiar that persons in the community of Biblical faith would so easily capitulate well exegeted and traditional theological positions, such as a real person named Adam, to the faith of science.  And, perhaps, scientific claims of evangelicals are sometimes overstated, as the necessity of a 24-hour day in Genesis 1.  In this complexity of ideas, some clarity exists.  “To God be the glory.”  If we do not love our brothers and sisters, we deny being Christians (I John 4:19-21).  That natural science excludes supernatural considerations, not by “evidence,” but by definition.  That inerrancy and orthodox theology may need new formulations without blurring sound Biblical truth.

 

Abraham Kuyper said that challenges to Scripture were always to be welcomed, as its gold of truth was only mined more deeply and broadly.[37]  The 21st century has the potential to be the greatest advance of Christianity in its 2000-year history.  There has never been a greater opportunity for the advancement of evangelism and evangelical theology.  Will we manage the situation Biblically, scholastically, and in grace and kindness?

 

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The following are personal notes to my presentation.  The reader may or may not find them helpful.

 

 

____French lady philosopher of science who gets it right.

 

Agassi, Joseph.  The Continuing Revolution: A History of  Physics from the Greeks to Einstein.  New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968.

 

Davis, J. J.  The Frontiers of Science and Faith.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

 

Le Fanu, James (M.D.).  Why Us?  How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves.  (London, England: Harper Press, 2009).

 

Other books noted in the text and footnotes above.

 

Notes: 

 

1.  Only one battle… on conflict: what is truth (knowledge, wisdom).  What is the Bible ontologically, epistemologically, and ethically? 

 

2.  See the above books.

 

3.  See you own “fencing the issues” in the old-young earth debates. (Copied below.)

 

4. 

 

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Fencing the Issues with Hans on his dissertation outline

 

Hans,

 

The early chapters of Genesis are indeed difficult.  Believe it or not, I went through a time of re-examining 6-day creation.  I did not find it as compelling as theologians and scientific creationists make it out to be.  Much of what JJ (that’s what I will call Dr. Davis, affectionately) says I have considered.  I have met him several times and he grew up in Macon, GA.

 

I have been studying logic and language lately, which is timely for this review.  I will not go into great detail, but you can query me in response if more is needed on some aspect. 

 

There are some guiding principles that need to be kept in mind.

 

1.  The Bible is God’s revelation, inerrant and all that.  In my analysis, and in agreement with Gordon Clark (GHC), it is the only truth that we will know in this life.  Everything else has some relativity and probability.  It is an objective source, subjectively interpreted.  (See #4 below.)

 

2.  That these issues around creation ever came up is the pressure of evolutionary “science”—pure and simple!  While we want to be honest with the “facts” of science, we have to realize that the only reason such issues abound is an atheistic, hell-bent-to-disprove-God attitude.

 

3.  (a) Science is empiricism, ever changing.  The evolutionists don’t agree themselves.  Creation scientists do not agree.  Several times JJ makes reference to what was thought “then,” what is though “now,” and what we will think “then.”  (b) Science is a paradigm, re: Kuhn, Polanyi, etc.

 

4.  (a) So, without going further.  Empirical science is “iffy,” and Scripture is truth, and the gulf is probably unbridgeable.  (b) Scripture is not a science book.

 

Now, the problem becomes what Scripture really says.  That is a language-hermeneutic problem.  The language does allow some laxity, as JJ suggests.  I don’t buy the yom “proof” of 24-hour days, but I think that one is on thin ice to go against 6-day literal, calendar day (not exactly 24 hr.) creation for the reasons above and:

 

5.  “In the beginning…” of what?  Space, matter, energy, AND time.  And, time began with “evenings” and “mornings.”  Throughout Scripture, especially in reference to the 4th commandment, the readily apparent reading of Scripture is a literal day.  All that is great evidence to overcome with “mere” science.  If you want probability, I would estimate in the 99.9 percent range.

 

Let me add a few new wrinkles.

 

6.  In our conversations and following, I have decided that dualism is a test of orthodoxy.  Simply and plainly, that is what the Scripture teaches.  I would like to be an idealist, and I can speculate that as a philosophy.  I can build an evidential base for it, but it would still be speculation.  God has posited the spirit world and the physical.  Man is both.  Jesus Christ was both—the Incarnation seals it.  Dualism.

 

7.  We should look at the “worldview” of those who differ on 6-day creation.  When JJ says something, we ought to evaluate.  But, if Barth or Bultmann says something, we have to remember that it is coming from their worldview.  That does not mean that they are wrong, but they are less likely to be right.

 

8.  The genealogies beginning with Genesis 5 have to be taken as literal years.  Period.  100 percent.

 

9.  We have to remember that Adam was the most intelligent man that ever lived.  Even post-Fall, he was not a descendent of generations of the noetic effects of sin.  So, as far as man’s intelligence is concerned, he is devolving, not evolving.  Technology blinds us to that fact.  There is considerable evidence that people are less able to learn today.  Of course, modern education is a factor as a “dummer downer.”  But, it seems JJ assumes the evolutionary scenario of man evolving to become more intelligent and more “civilized,” but I think that he errs here.  The anthropologists do not like to admit it, but the most backward tribes of the world have a vocabulary that is incredible and exhaustive… not simple.

 

Note the hunter-gatherer scenario on page 147.  That’s pure atheistic evolution and anthropology!

 

10.  The differences between young earth creationists and Christians with longer time frames should be more tolerant.  It is not axiomatic that “old earth” Christians are going to throw out Biblical inerrancy, just because of this one issue.  (However, most strong Bible believers are young earth.)  There does need to be more grace and kindness here. 

 

11.  There is the issue of “life.”  What gives life?  You may create all the chemicals that make up a human being, but what gives them life?  I think that life comes from the Spirit of God.  Man can never create a living thing.  Life can only come from life.  (Added later: see Horgan’s The End of Science.)

 

Almost 20 years ago, I wrote that something must regulate the DNA; it is only a blueprint. (See Le Fanu, Why Us?  How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves.  There was the mad dash to map the human genome.  Now what?  Where are the genetic cures?  There is more to matter than matter.  We had better not forget that, as Christians.  Dualism, again.

 

Sum.  I appreciate and love JJ.  I read him for balance.  But, I am not impressed with the orthodoxy and Biblical depth and breadth of the American Scientific Affiliation (worldview) above.  Therefore, anything that they say is highly suspect.  The same holds for the Christian Medical and Dental Society and the bioethics institute where you are.

 

I grant hermeneutical problems in early Genesis, but I do not think that anything in empirical science has sufficient standing as probability and temporary knowledge to challenge anything that is generally considered to be orthodox.

 

It seems that JJ is allowing the camel to get more and more into the tent.  He does not have his “spectacles” (as Calvin would say), those Biblical teachings that are sound, in place.  He is listening to voices that do not share his worldview.

 

Again, I do not think that 6-day creation should be a test of orthodoxy, but Biblical inerrancy and other central doctrines should, including dualism.  I am not all that familiar with the literature in these areas, but it seems to me that most of these voices that JJ and others are listening to, are non-orthodox, borderline orthodox, and weak theologically.

 

Nuff said.  Query as you like.

 

Bro’ Ed

 

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August 2012

 

Indeterminacy of language… scientific language and Biblical language

 

Communities: Jewish/Christian (open universe) vs. atheistic naturalism (closed universe)

 

The Bible does not claim to be a science textbook, but it is history book.  It can give chronology and a human, divinely inspired, view of events. 

 

The concept of faith, belief: individual and community vs. objectivity

 

 


[1] The computer that takes over control from humans in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

[2] Arvin Vos, Aquinas, Calvin, and Protestant Thought, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986), 168.

[3] Most clearly presented in his Divided Line in The Republic.

[4] Alvin Plantinga, “Methodological Naturalism,” http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od181/methnat181.htm, two parts.

[5] Actually, all “natural laws” exist only in theory.  For example, the formula for the speed of a falling object exists only in a vacuum which does not exist in “nature.”  In “outer space,” objects do not fall.  Laws have practical, that is operational, value, but are nowhere true in nature.

[6] Simon Blackburn, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2008), 214.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] See below “scientism.”

[10] Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1958), 15.

[11] I have put scientific method in quotes because there is no consistent, universal “method.”  There are many “methods” within particular sciences and variations from on science to another.  For example, see J. P. Moreland, Christianity and the Nature of Science: A Philosophical Investigation, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), Chapter 2.

[12] These “personal” decisions are my own formulation, but they represent Polanyi’s and many others’ work accurately. 

[13] His system is applicable to all areas of epistemology, including theology with the exception Biblical truths that differ from his approach, such as, his idea of evolution, worship, and a few other topics.

[14] I will say more about “authority” below.

[15] The tricky part of faith is the source of knowledge: hearsay, life experience, casual acquaintance, studied conclusions, various authorities, group convictions, and Special Revelation (the most trustworthy).

[16] Formally, this dependence of prior knowledge ad infinitum is called the Duhem-Quine hypothesis. 

[17] “Critical” relates to Kant’s use of “critical” in many of his book titles and thus identifies the “modern” project of “reason.”

[18] “The Stability of Beliefs,” British Journal of Science 3:11 (November 1952), 217-332.  It may be found online here: http://www.missouriwestern.edu/orgs/polanyi/mp-stability.htm

[19] Quoted in James E. Loder and W. Jim Neidhardt, The Knight’s Move: The Relational Logic of the Spirit in Theology and Science, (Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers and Howard Publishers, Inc., 1992), 39.  This statement alone should give great courage to Christian claims for truth!

[20] http://biblicalphilosophy.org/Faith_Reason_Truth/Faith_All_Groups.asp

[21] Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?, (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing Company, 2000).

[22] Norman Macbeth, Darwin Retried: an appeal to reason, (Ipswich, MA: Gambit, 1978).

[23] Ibid., iii.

[24] B. B. Warfield, Calvin and Augustine, (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1956) 388.

[25] Scripture is objective in the sense that the 66 books exist as a fixed, unchanging source of knowledge that has existed for over 1500 years. 

[26] I am making reference to Thomas Kuhn’s shifting paradigms over time.  See below.

[27] Cite Madueme.

[28] Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1996, 3rd Ed.).

[29] Ibid.

[30] See McGrath on Augustine below.

[31] Hans Madueme, “Some Reflections on Enns and the Evolution of Adam: A Review Essay,” Themelios 37(2), July 2102.  http://thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/some_reflections_on_enns_and_the_evolution_of_adam_a_review_essay

[32] Robert C. Koons and George Bealer, eds., The Waning of Materialism, (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2010).

[33] (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002).

[34] (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994).

[35] If one want to see what one scholar thinks of Dawkins and Hitchens (which he shortens to Ditchkins), see Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009).

[36] Plantinga, “Methodological Naturalism.”

[37] This statement is a loose paraphrase, but one that I think is true to his meaning.

 


 

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