Why do we get knee-jerk reactions from some people of faith to anything dealing with science?
It has been a few years since I took chemistry and physics at a university, so I don’t remember a whole lot of content. However, I do remember how science works.
Science moves from hypothesis to theory to law. A hypothesis is an idea that is not proven but leads to further study or discussion.
An old article from New Scientist magazine was dredged up in an online forum I visited recently.
The content focused on footprints found near a volcano that were thought to be more than 325,000 years old and the oldest human footprints ever found at that time.
This brought an immediate reaction from folk who had not read the article. The defenders of God and a literal reading of Genesis immediately took offense.
One wonders why they were focused on a 10-year-old article, when recent reports have made similar claims about even older footprints. Their reaction would likely have been the same, though.
At the very beginning of the disputed article, the writer says, “If the ages of the trails are confirmed, they could be the earliest known footprints of our Homo ancestors.”
This is a hypothesis. The footprints may or may not be human or be as old as first thought.
A theory in science is an idea or set of ideas that is intended to explain facts or events. As such, it is open to further inquiry and possible changes.
For example, there is Einstein’s theory of relativity. It is not a law because further study is needed to replicate Einstein’s hypothesis and discover those elements that are invariable.
On the other hand, there is the law of gravity. Gravity is a phenomenon that so far as is known is invariable under the given conditions.
Those of us who are not scientists should not be dismissive of scientific pronouncements, especially when presented in popular media.
There are many devout Christian scientists, so we should not disparage science as a field of study.
Our problem is not with science, but the naturalistic philosophy that underlies many, if not most, scientific conclusions.
Naturalism says matter is eternal. It suggests that there is nothing supernatural, and nature and our place in it are all there is. Naturalism says the organic evolved from the inorganic.
These are philosophic statements and not scientific ones, for science cannot demonstrate these claims by scientific method. The claims of naturalism are philosophic hypotheses and not scientific laws.
My point is that we should not try to prove science by the Bible or prove the Bible by science.
We can deal with naturalism as a philosophy that is opposed to Christian thinking, but we should not frame the discussion as Christian faith versus scientific study.
A naturalist says the universe happened by chance, the Christian says God created it.
The naturalist says there is nothing supernatural, but I would say there is the supranatural – as opposed to supernatural.
This word means transcending the natural order and that is the claim Christianity makes. God is both emanate and transcendent in nature.
Both naturalism and the idea of God are hypotheses and require faith. Which hypothesis makes the most sense? Which hypothesis leads to a greater understanding of man in relation to the universe?
This is where our battles and concerns should lie.
William Hooper is professor emeritus of music at Southwest Baptist University Bolivar, Mo., and senior adult pastor at First Baptist Church of Bolivar.