What is Science?

Science, evolution, intelligent design
Photo by jurvetson

 Christians are viewed as having a superficial or even non-existent understanding of science and the world we live in. Non-Christian, humanist, atheist “free-thinkers” would even go so far as saying we turn a blind eye to the world and the scientific knowledge that is to be gained by scientific inquiry. 

Although I believe this general characterization of Christians to be pretty accurate, it certainly doesn’t correctly define us all. There are plenty of Christian scientists in the world, countless Christian science teachers, and prominent Christian professors who are able to balance a knowledge of God with the human knowledge discernible through the sciences.

Christians and Science

But, beyond an academic environment, the general population of Christians are from my vantage point less informed than non-Christians about science, the scientific method, and the principles behind scientific study.

But, beyond an academic environment, the general population of Christians are from my vantage point less informed than non-Christians about science, the scientific method, and the principles behind scientific study.

 And so, I’d like to start by teaching what little I know about the subject, gleaned from others more knowledgeable than I, in hopes of raising the bar on what everyday Christians know about science. And if you are a scientist, feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong on something using the comments below.

Science is…

Let’s start this multi-article series with a proper beginning. Let’s first answer the question: “What is science?” Then, we’ll go deeper and deeper over time. Sound ok?

 What is Science? I’m going to quote from Stephen S. Carey, who is the author of “A Beginner’s Guide to Scientific Method”. Stephen Carey taught logic, philosophy of science, and philosophy of religion at Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon.

 On page 5 of his book he defines science as “that activity which aims to further our understanding of why things happen as they do in the natural world. It accomplishes this goal by applications of scientific method – the process of observing nature, isolating a facet that is not well understood and then proposing and testing possible explanations.”

I thought this was a pretty good opening definition. And in future articles, I’ll cover various aspects of this definition, an overview of the scientific method, and important topics like causation and correlation and examples of good and bad science.

Embrace Science 

I believe as Christians, we are well served by trying to understand why things happen as they do and testing possible explanations. God gave us this world and He gave us our human minds and intellects. I believe we can glorify Him by using such God given abilities to contribute to our human understanding of the world around us. 

Science isn’t the only tool in our toolbox, but it does have a valuable purpose and place, and it’s not something we Christians should shy away from. Instead of sticking our heads in the sand, let’s strive to know God AND our world better. When it comes to understanding our world better, scientific inquiry is a pretty good tool for the job. So, join me as we begin to grasp this tool called science and become apprentices at using it in ways that make a positive impact in our collective human experience.

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  1. Robert W. says

    This is an excellent topic Brad. As a scientist, I’m interested to see where you go with it. I think you’re off to a good start.

  2. Starr says

    I’m looking forward to these articles. The more I learn about this universe we live in, the more I see God’s hand in it. Science and Christianity complement and affirm each other. While science has its limits, since it can only increase our understanding of a part of reality, it is still important. To view the world through only the lens of science or only the lens of religion instead of binocularly through both lenses is to miss out on a depth of understanding. There’s a quote I’m fond of by Richard Feynman from The Character of Physical Law: “Everything in physical science is a lot of protons, neutrons and electrons, while in daily life, we talk about men and history or beauty and hope. Which is nearer to God — beauty and hope or the fundamental laws? To stand at either end and to walk off that end of the pier only, hoping that out in that direction is a complete understanding, is a mistake.”

  3. Charles Neill says

    This will be an interesting ongoing discussion, I have a background in Physics and professional Computer Science geek/technerd, I embrace logic in all forms. Many of my colleagues do not understand that Christianity and secular science can not only coincide, but MUST compliment each other; Good ethics come only from God. Secular science cannot prove God exists, nor can it disprove He exists. It cannot prove that love exists, yet we ALL know love does exist. It cannot prove beauty, but we all know what is beautiful and good. Science alone cannot tell us exactly what a human being is, but we all do. It is the inestimable gift of God that makes us Human, and we all know this deep down. Without God in our lives, we are all a worthless collection of atoms stumbling about from day to day looking to fill our lives with the next fix. With God in our lives, we know the true priceless sacred value of each life, born or unborn.

  4. David Hill says

    I have been intrigued with God’s Creation and how He made it, to work so perfectly. Interestingly, it seems to me, our natural world can be explained through the prism of the Eye of God much more precisely than through the more widely taught theories. Good topic for discussion.

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