At the outset it should be stated that there is no “scientific method,” no formula with five easy steps guaranteed to lead to discoveries. There are many methods, used at different stages of inquiry, in widely varying circumstances. – Ian Barbour, Issues in Science and Religion


Definition of “proof” – an act of showing that something is true.”

Science CANNOT show that something is true in the sense that it is established as correct without exception in ALL circumstances, ABSOLUTE scientific proof is NOT possible. Proofs are only possible in logic and in mathematics. In those two fields, once a proposition has been proven, that proof will remain valid forever.

Examples:

Logic – I know my beliefs, thoughts, feelings and which body is mine. I have first person knowledge, (subjective knowledge of how we perceive common things in the external world. It is not transferable from one person to another), of these by direct awareness. More certainty which body is mine than that electrons exist.

Ethical – torturing babies for fun is wrong. Mercy and kindness are virtues.

Mathematical – geometry and calculus.  2 + 2 = 4. May need experience to form concept of two.

In science, if an experiment is done that contradicts a current theory, then that theory is not wholly true and must be refined or discarded. Scientific ideas CAN be DISPROVEN but, NEVER absolutely proven.

Similar to Christianity being a cumulative case based on circumstantial evidence. There is a lot of evidence, including scientific, yet, the existence of God cannot be proven.

Science makes many assumptions such as:

1. There is an external, orderly world that exists independently of our theories about it.

2. We can have knowledge of that world.

3. Language is capable of referring to objects in that world.

However, many deny these. Simply because science cannot prove these presuppositions by science.

There is so much more involving theology, philosophy and the reliability of our cognitive, (enables consciousness, perception, thinking, judgment, and memory). and sensory, (which the external world is apprehended), faculties. Especially if they make claims about truth and rationality.

Scientism – science is the very paradigm, (a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated), of truth and rationality. Scientism is the view that the hard sciences, chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, provide the only genuine knowledge of reality.

There are two types of scientism: 

1. Strong scientism -  Strong scientism states something can be known if and only if that thing is scientifically testable.

2. Weak scientism - Weak scientism states that there may be a few examples of non- scientific knowledge. But, it is not good knowledge compared to scientific knowledge.  

Both versions are false!

The strong version is self-refuting. Meaning it cannot meet its own criteria since it cannot be tested scientifically. Both versions fail to allow for the asserting and defending of the presuppositions of science.

5 things science cannot in principle explain:

1. The origin of the universe.

2. The origin of the fundamental Laws of Nature.

3. The fine tuning of the universe.

4. The origin of consciousness.

5. The existence of moral, rational, and aesthetic objective laws and intrinsically valuable properties.

Finally…

All of that to say this:

Science and theology are not at odds with each other. Simply science has its limits. We are comfortable and use Newton’s 3 laws of motion. Yet, these laws breakdown at very high rates of speed. The Higgs boson, (The Higgs is a vital ingredient in the Standard Model of physics. In 1964, Englert and Higgs (in separate papers) proposed the theory that predicted the existence of this fundamental particle), was only announced after it was determined that there was only about a 1 in 2 million chance the observation was not caused by the real phenomena being investigated.

Basically, although scientific proof is not attainable, we have a high level of confidence in scientific knowledge.


Sources:
Moreland, J.P. Christianity and the Nature of Science lecture notes, Biola University
Moreland, J.P. Scientism and Secularism
Moreland, J.P. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Science and Theology
Moreland, J.P., Craig, W.L. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview
Strauss, Michael G. Dictionary of Christianity and Science, Scientific Proof

 

 

John Mays is the Regional Director for the states of West Virginia and Pennsylvania and the Chapter Director at Marshall University. Contact johnmays@ratiochristi.org