Why Science and the Supernatural Don’t Mix

Science, evolution, intelligent design
Photo by jurvetson


In our last article in this category on Understanding Science, we answered the question “What is Science?” I quoted a definition by Stephen S. Carey, author of “A Beginner’s Guide to Scientific Method”. On page 5, he defines science as “that activity which aims to further our understanding of why things happen as they do in the natural world [emphasis added]. It accomplishes this goal by applications of scientific method – the process of observing nature [emphasis added], isolating a facet that is not well understood and then proposing and testing possible explanations.”

Supernatural vs. Natural

I added emphasis to his points about “natural world” and “observing nature” to make a point about a common conflict Christians and Non-Christians have on the topic of science. 

We seem to get into fights with scientists anytime we (Christians, theists) want to explain things through SUPERnatural means. We get into conflicts when we push to have Biblical, supernatural Creation included in public school science classes. 

To be clear, I believe in the supernatural; the power of God that exists beyond the merely natural. I “know” it exists, even if I can’t scientifically prove it. 

And I totally get that if you are limiting the definition of science to that which is naturally explainable and testable, then supernatural explanations fall outside the scope of what science is designed for. 

Does that mean science is impotent to explain the world as we know it? I believe science is genetically handicapped by not considering ALL possible explanations, but it is by no means impotent. And I would say the same thing about Christians and our theistic beliefs. If we exclude scientific knowledge and explanations from our understanding of the world, we are also voluntarily handicapping our ability to understand the world better.

Although science and faith don’t mix very well, we should not ignore science or fail to embrace the study and discovery of things that it CAN test and explain.

Although science and faith don’t mix very well, we should not ignore science or fail to embrace the study and discovery of things that it CAN test and explain. We should not turn a blind eye to things that science has informed us about. 

It does not end with Science

Where I draw the line at is thinking that science is the end-all, be-all of human tools to understand our world. I don’t believe it’s the ONLY source of reason and intelligence we should embrace. I believe an understanding of our natural world is enhanced by a Christian, and yes…a supernatural and spiritually affirming world view. 

In fact, in my view, as Christians who believe in a supernatural power beyond ourselves, I believe we have the ability to contribute greatly to the ever-increasing understanding of our world. We can do so by embracing the power of science and the scientific method IN ADDITION TO embracing our God and the explanations provided by a spiritually inspired Bible. 

But maybe we just shouldn’t call such natural+supernatural inquiry “science” since doing so causes so much commotion within academic scientific circles. That term, as defined by Stephen S. Carey, might just not be comprehensive enough to do the job. Maybe we should call it something more evolved than science. Maybe we should simply call it the search for truth; being open-minded and “free thinking” enough to pursue and validate ALL truth explanations, regardless of where that truth might lead us.

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  1. says

    “An understanding of our natural world is enhanced by a Christian, and yes…a supernatural and spiritually affirming world view. ” What a great way of explaining things. We posted this article on our site. Keep up the good work!

  2. says

    As we further uncover physical laws, chemical laws, and all other laws that a scientist will use to define the natural universe– we further uncover God’s tools. It is these tools He uses in His work as the creator and sustainer of the universe. When scientists get around to figuring it all out, we must not be surprised to learn that these are also the tools that God uses as creator and sustainer of the multiverse.

  3. Ian M. says

    I agree that “scientism” seems to function as an inhibitor to the proper understanding of our world. It is most unfortunate that this position tends to label its proponents as “anti-science” or worse. If one understands that we all, naturalists and super-naturalists alike, are struggling with our worldviews founded on presuppositions, we would be able to see the valid points of each one of us. The annoying habit of the naturalisst to assume that their position is, somehow, based strictly on “facts” and not presupposition can find its reflection echo in the super-naturalist’s insistence on acceptence in the wider culture. If I may be so bold, I would like to share the 5 presuppositions of Christianity and use them as support for the fundamental thrust of the essay above… 1. God exists 2. God reveals Himself to every person 3. When God reveals Himself to a person, the person is immediately exposed (to himself or herself) as a sinner and an enemy of that Holy God and life, itself, continues only at His whim. 4. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, god reveals that He is good and merciful an wants me to live fully. 5. I now live in the trust of that revelation of God in Jesus Christ One can easily see that these kinds of presuppositions have no place in a naturalist’s arsenal of ideas through which he may do his science. If the scientist includes these presuppositions, he can do wonderful science within the bounds of the revelations of God in his life. They can mix only in the pursuits of a scientific life if the presuppositions are included and cannot if they are excluded.

  4. Robert W. says

    Science deals with reproducible observations. Any observer using exactly the same methods will make the same observations. God reveals himself in us in a way that is not observable or measurable by science. Thus, religion falls under philosophy, not science and the 2 should not be confused. Science tells us how. For those of us who believe, religion tells us why. The scientist has to continually adjust his world view in light of new observations. We can’t hold on to a model of how things work when it is disproven by experiment and observation. Christians tend to hold onto a biblical model (yeah, I’ll open the can of worms and say Genesis) even when it is disproven by observation. Scientists need to learn to allow our religion to color our philosophy but not our observations. Christians need to learn to accept those observations and, where they seem to contradict a literal interpretation of the bible, seek the deeper truths that are still there. My God is the creator of a universe, perhaps a multiverse if current thinking is correct. He saw 14.3 billion years ago that we would be here now and would need his Son. It my eyes, that only makes Him greater.

  5. Ken says

    Good article. Although real science and theology don’t always go hand in hand there is one thing for sure, they have something very much in common. The are both in search of truth. No Christian should be afraid to indulge in the sciences.

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