This story was originally published as part of the fall edition of The Master’s University Magazine. Read the full magazine here.
By Dr. Ross Anderson, professor of biochemistry
How many times have you heard phrases like “follow the science” or “the science is settled”? These appeals show up everywhere in news and conversation, because our culture tends to look at science as the only reliable way to know something.
But as believers, what place should science have in our worldview? And what does it look like to teach and practice science in a way that honors Christ?
Before we answer those questions, let’s start with something more foundational.
Science may be defined in several different ways. According to Google, science is an intellectual and practical activity that involves studying the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world. This is done through observation and experimentation.
At The Master’s University, we view the practice of science as a process that involves what is commonly referred to as the scientific method.
Sir Francis Bacon, a Christian and young–Earth creationist, is credited with formalizing the way in which modern science should be practiced when he articulated the scientific method.
Bacon believed that we should study nature by examining evidence that proved the existence of God. Indeed, many of the scientists of his day practiced their science with this mindset. The scientific method involves making systematic observations of some aspect of nature, followed by formulating hypotheses to explain the observations. Hypotheses should then lead to experiments to aid in eliminating competing hypotheses — all with the idea of getting closer to the truth of the matter.
As any historian of science will attest, the practice of science and its consequent technologies had spurts and starts in the Far East and parts of the Middle East, but it really blossomed in Europe, where the church (Roman Catholic) fostered a strong belief in God as Creator and Lawgiver.
It was observed that the creation was following a certain logic, orderly and governed by laws, and therefore amenable to study and making predictions. Many believed that the study of the creation, whether physical or biological, would allow them to better know the Creator. Johann Kepler aptly stated this when he said we are “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” Thus, science as we know it today was and is possible only within the framework of the Christian worldview.
Unfortunately, most in the scientific community have elevated science to such a lofty status that it has become a religion for them. This is commonly referred to as naturalism or scientism.
Scientists, according to former Berkeley law professor Philip Johnson, have become the new dispensers of truth. They have supplanted the theologian or church pastor. This sentiment was captured well in a statement by Anthony Standen (1950) in his book “Science is a Sacred Cow.” It opens like this:
“When a white-robed scientist, momentarily looking away from his microscope or his cyclotron, makes some pronouncement for the general public, he may not be understood, but at least he is certain to be believed. No one ever doubts what is said by a scientist. Statesmen, industrialists, ministers of religion, civic leaders, philosophers, all are questioned and criticized, but scientists — never. Scientists are exalted beings who stand at the very topmost pinnacle of popular prestige, for they have the monopoly of the formula ‘It has been scientifically proved …’ which appears to rule out all possibility of disagreement. Thus, the world is divided into Scientists, who practice the art of infallibility, and non-scientists, sometimes contemptuously called ‘laymen,’ who are taken in by it.”
Each professor in the science department at TMU is dedicated to teaching that God’s Word is the ultimate source of truth. Not prominent scientists of the day.
I believe that the single most important issue confronting the teaching and practice of Christ–honoring science is the teaching of evolutionism.
Allow me to briefly address this with two quotes.
“Evolutionary theory is, in the minds of many biologists, the foundation on which all biological science is built. … Philosopher J. Collins has written that ‘there are no living sciences, human attitudes, or institutional powers that remain unaffected by the ideas…released by Darwin’s work’” (Miller and Levine, 1995, Biology, p. 313).
“In the century since 1859, the Darwinian model of nature has come to influence every aspect of modern thought…. The entire scientific ethos and philosophy of modern western man is based to a large extent upon the central claim of Darwinian theory that humanity was not born by the creative intentions of a deity but by a completely mindless trial and error selection of random molecular patterns.” (Denton, M., 1985, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, p. 357).
If Darwin’s ideas have impacted virtually all of man’s endeavors, as these two statements suggest, then this theory, of all theories, should be placed under the greatest scrutiny. When it comes to teaching “values,” educators insist that young people learn to think for themselves and hear the best arguments for and against established opinions. If students are encouraged to question even the most well-established ethical and moral precepts of society, why not question even the most well-established scientific precepts?
Martin Luther said it best when he stated:
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest expression every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace, if he flinches at that point.”
I believe that the single point where the church has flinched is in the battle over the minds of men. They have allowed the secular world via science to dictate what truth is and how it can be known — only through science. Indeed, we often hear the phrase “follow the science” used by politicians of today whenever they want to get the people to follow. Indeed, ever since Darwin’s seminal work, people have embraced evolutionism as it provided a way to explain the world without reference to a designer, without God, and it provided “scientific” justification for many of the sinful compulsions of men.
There are basically two types of science: the historical or origin sciences and operational or experimental sciences. The historical sciences would include paleontology, much of geology, forensics and much of astronomy. These disciplines deal with unobserved and unrepeatable events and thus are not amenable to the scientific method.
This is not to say that certain techniques and technologies employed by experimental science cannot be used to study past events. But when it comes to analyzing the data and coming to conclusions, the researcher is left with subjective, imaginative ideas based on his or her worldview.
The operational sciences include biochemistry, chemistry, much of biology, and physics, which deal with observable and repeatable events and are amenable to the scientific method; they are more objective and not based heavily on worldview. It is these latter sciences that have given rise to all the various technologies and medicines we are so familiar with.
Few people seem to recognize that there is a difference between the two types of science. This, in part, is deliberate as the scientific community wants to conflate the two types, leading people to think that evolution is based on objective data gathered through operational/experimental science and not based on subjective imagination.
There are basically two types of evolution: microevolution, and macroevolution. The former involves the study of small changes in gene frequency over time within a population existing in the present. Macroevolution is based on the idea that small changes in one kind of animal or plant, in time, leads to large changes, or one kind of organism changing into another kind. Microevolution is more operational science and amenable to use of the scientific method, whereas macroevolution is not, it is historical. Conclusions drawn from microevolutionary studies are more objective, whereas those drawn from macroevolutionary studies are subjective and based on worldview. Here, again, there is a deliberate attempt to confuse people by using only one word, “evolution,” to describe the two very different processes.
There is a blind, uncritical adherence to evolutionism. It has become an anti-God religion. The apostle Paul calls us to fight against all ideas that are raised up against God. We are amid a battle, not one of religion vs. science or science vs. science, as some would say, but religion vs. religion, worldview vs. worldview. Following Paul’s mandate, we teach our students about evolutionism as well as all its flaws in our courses at TMU. We teach that it really is a religion raised up against the God of the Bible. We teach students to question the precepts of men and to show how the study of creation can be God-honoring and that creation is best explained through a biblical worldview which does not a priori rule out design and a designer.
Many will teach that there is a designer, but not teach who the designer is; that’s left up to the student to figure out. At TMU, we unapologetically teach that the Designer is the God of the Bible.
I think that all people have a desire to learn and know more about the natural and physical world in which they live. I believe the practice of science, particularly God–honoring science, is really a calling. For a Christian practicing science, it is a way of better knowing our Creator and allowing us to have a greater appreciation of Him.
Unfortunately, most people practicing science today are not Christian. A recent poll of members of the prestigious National Academy of Science revealed that about 95% are self-professed atheists. Both the atheist and Christian study the world around us to satisfy the curiosity we all share in learning and knowing. Scientific study also provides the grist for the many technological advances we have today. The scientific endeavor for the Bible–believing Christian additionally provides a way of introducing the gospel to unbelievers and providing support and strengthening confidence in the gospel for the believer. Practicing science for the Christian is another way of honoring God, for he or she gives all the honor and glory to God by acknowledging Him in all his or her thinking.
Kepler warns us of our tendency to “glorify our own minds instead of giving God the glory.” The atheist practicing science, on the other hand, goes against Kepler’s warning and honors self; God has no place in their thinking. Unfortunately, today many believe that true science can only be practiced through a secular evolutionary framework. Indeed, all scientists are strongly encouraged not to invoke the supernatural in any explanation of what is observed or discovered. When one does not acknowledge God in their thinking and explanations, it leads many to use science to justify their sinful cravings and desires. For example, when Darwin published his infamous book, “On the Origin of Species,” many saw it as scientific justification for such ideas as slavery, racism, promiscuity, euthanasia, genocide and abortion, to name a few.
In TMU’s Department of Biological and Physical Science, we believe strongly that it is important for our students to know that science as we know it today was fostered only in a Christian environment, and that much of the science and technology we enjoy today is based on the observations and experiments done by Bible–believing Christians who came before us. As Sir Isaac Newton once said, in the sciences “…we stand on the shoulders of giants.”
We are often told that “real” science can only be done with a belief in evolutionism; creationists cannot do “real” science since they have not embraced evolutionism. This is nonsensical and an attempt to discourage and disparage creation scientists.
Again, an honest look at the history of science would dispel this notion. Take, for example, some well-known scientists who were/are young–Earth creationists who practiced God–honoring science:
Those are just a few.
One of our required core courses is Origins. This class addresses one of the distinctives of TMU: that the Earth and everything in it were created by the God of the Bible approximately 6,000 years ago, and that there was a single couple, Adam and Eve, on the newly created Earth. In this course, we clarify many misconceptions regarding evolution and creation and clearly show that a belief in evolutionism is an anti–God religion masquerading as science.
In every course, we discuss the evolutionary and creationist views. In this way, students are exposed to both views and taught how to think through the many extravagant claims of the evolutionary community.
An important ability in the natural and physical sciences is getting to the heart of a problem. To do this, however, you need to have a certain amount of basic background information to serve as a foundation upon which to build. Additionally, you need to be able to reason and think critically. This is learned through experience, and our courses are designed to provide this experience.
Ultimately, we encourage our students to pose questions, research background information, and propose strategies for answering questions. In short, we teach the students to teach themselves, for only then do students truly become educated.
Laboratory research is an excellent educational tool that can be used to expand and deepen our understanding of nature. To this end, several professors in our department are actively engaging TMU students in original research projects, leading to the publication of papers in peer-reviewed journals and preparation of posters which are then presented at undergraduate research conferences. In 2016 and 2019, our students received awards for best poster and poster presentation.
These activities, combined with our Senior Seminar course, teach students how to do research, read and digest scientific literature, and present it to their peers.
Each professor in our department, as much as possible, integrates the natural sciences with the physical sciences, and vice-versa. This ultimately leads to a greater breadth and depth in understanding. The interrelatedness of these disciplines reveals how God has beautifully designed form to fit function at the level of the whole organism. This is particularly important in today’s scientific climate, where Christians are pressured from all sides to adopt the secular worldview of life.
Students studying the various scientific disciplines at TMU are blessed in that professors have the freedom to show how the hand of God is at work throughout the various disciplines, thus providing an alternative, more accurate view of life and the world around us.
Only then can we use science to defend and contend for the Word of God.
Learn more about TMU’s School of Science, Math, Technology, and Health here.
The Master’s University and Seminary admit students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.
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