Are You Anti-Science?

Very soon, "the practice of religion must be regarded as anti-science." With these words, another salvo was launched in the war between religion and science. The writer was John Maddox, editor of Nature, the world's most prestigious science journal--the journal that practically defines what counts as science today. And now Nature has defined religion as "anti-science." But that would be a big surprise to the people who founded modern science. Most of the early scientists--Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Carl Linnaeus--were Christians. In fact, historians tell us that Christianity actually helped inspire the scientific revolution. Consider a few examples. Pagan cultures saw the world as alive with river goddesses, sun gods, astral deities. But Genesis 1 stands in stark contrast to all that. Nature is not divine; it is God's handiwork. The sun and moon are not gods; they are merely lights placed in the sky to serve God's purposes. This teaching provided a crucial assumption for science, for when nature commanded religious worship, then digging too closely into her secrets was deemed irreverent. But in Christianity, nature was no longer an object of fear and worship. Then--and only then--could it become an object of scientific study. Another crucial assumption for science is that nature is orderly. This, too, was provided by Christianity. The belief that God is rational and trustworthy implies that His creation is rational and ordered. The early scientists described that order as "natural law." Today this phrase is so common, we may not realize how unique it once was. Yet as historian A. R. Hall points out, no other culture has ever used the word law in relation to nature. The idea of laws in nature came from one source: the biblical teaching that God is both Creator and Law-Giver. Even the experimental method of science has roots in Christianity. Since it is God's rationality that orders nature, and not our own, we cannot sit in an ivory tower and do science by sheer rational deduction. Instead, we must do experiments and see what happens. For example, when Galileo wanted to find out whether a 10-pound weight falls to the ground more quickly than a one-pound weight, he did not argue about the concept of weight, as was typical among the philosophers of his day. Instead, he dropped cannonballs off the Leaning Tower of Pisa and watched what happened. Some historians suggest that the story of Galileo is apocryphal, but the point still stands: The early scientists were acting on their conviction that God's ways are not necessarily our ways--and that God's ways in nature have to be discovered by experiment and observation. The fact is that people like John Maddox who portray religion as "anti-science" simply don't know their history. It's up to you and me to make sure we do know our history. Your Bible study and Sunday school groups can use this special "BreakPoint" series, based on a book by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton called The Soul of Science. Christians everywhere must learn how to defend their faith against irresponsible attacks launched in the name of science.


Chuck Colson


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