The Tragedy of Compromise: Science and its relationship to Religion

Last time, I began to discuss the definition of religion. In many cases, I could sum up this discussion by stating that religion, in a technical sense, is similar to the modern phrase “worldview.” Today, I want to discuss the term “science,” and how it differs from religion.

Science is the study of natural law based on observing a phenomenon, forming a hypothesis to explain that phenomenon, and then testing that hypothesis (often on the basis of something that this hypothesis has predicted) to prove or disprove the hypothesis. Science is a rigorous study, but it is also a limited one. Science, for example, cannot directly comment on grammar, history, mathematics, or for that matter, issues of religion. Science can provide information that contributes to these studies. For example, astronomy provides a great deal of information that is useful to historians in aligning ancient calendars with modern ones. Yet, one cannot make a scientific case to prove that Julius Caesar existed.

As a result, in a strict and technical sense, one needs to make a distinction between science and its applications (or as some put it, “applied science”). Forensics, for example, is not, strictly speaking, a science. A murder is a matter of history because it is an event. Forensics takes scientific data and applies it to aid the criminologist gain information, which helps the detective discern between various historical theories as to what actually happened. (For example, science has proven certain chemicals react to gunpowder that is left on someone’s hand and clothing after they shoot a firearm. An application of that fact helps detectives determine that someone has discharged a firearm). Medicine similarly is an application of science (e.g. “Chemical A affects Organism B, resulting in Reaction C” is the science. If Reaction C is desirable, then Chemical A may be applied therapeutically).

With this, then, I would suggest that I disagree with some of Ken Ham’s (a man I admire greatly for his works’ sake) recent terminology describing evolution. He currently delineates “operational science” from “historical science” (the latter being a term that he found in a secular earth sciences textbook). I agree with his central point on this matter: he is attempting to communicate precisely the same points I am, but I dislike this terminology because it fails to distinguish between science (or in Ham’s term’s “operational science”) and the application of science (“historical science”). In his first edition of “The Lie” he described the debate as the science of one religion versus the science of another. This I believe is closer, but I would amend it this way, “Creationism versus evolution is the application of science to origins on the basis of one set of religious assumptions against the application of science to origins on the basis of another set of religious assumptions” – less catchy, succinct and pithy, but technically it is more accurate.

As I noted in our last conclusion: “…evolution requires one to begin with the assumption that the earth came into existence by natural process, or to put it another way: evolution requires us to assume religious naturalism.” As I also noted: naturalism begins with Hume’s arguments against miracles. This, then, is a religious distinction between creationists and evolutionists.

6 thoughts on “The Tragedy of Compromise: Science and its relationship to Religion

  1. Evolution makes no such assumption, and if it did it would not be scientific.. Even if it was firmly established that the Earth was an artificial world, and the initial set of animals were fully designed by some intelligence, science would continue to document that mutations occur in the offspring of organisms which then compete in current environmental conditions to replicate their genome, The only difference is that this process would not be applied to explain the origin of the initial variety of organisms as it is currently applied in our world in the absence of a firmly established origin model.

    • Here is the problem – Evolutionists change definitions midstream on a pretty regular basis – but might I suggest that the question is not whether mutations exist, it is not the existence of natural selection, most creationists assume both. Yet, if this is all evolutionists though evolution was, then the outcry against Behe makes absolutely no sense. Behe in his book Darwin’s Black Box is not making an argument against change or development, he makes it clear he is not a young earth Creationists. Rather, his case is that atheistic evolutionary beliefs are insufficient to answer certain questions of biology, and therefore an intelligence logically must have begun and guided whatever process caused life. Likewise, Creationist arguments to the fossil record are highly similar to Stephen Gould’s Punctuated Equilibria – yet I see no one applying the same sobriquets to Gould that they offer towards Creationists.

      Considering the aforementioned tendency of evolutionists to switch definitions in midstream, and considering the reactions, I would say I’m probably more right than wrong on this point.

      • Ignoring the slight of hand of juxtaposing atheism and evolution for the moment, you set up the classic god of the gaps scenario by putting forward that certain questions are currently unanswered by science, therefore we must default to intelligent design. I could well make the counterclaim that the question of the origin of this designer is not answered, apart from a bald assumption ala Aquinas that the eternal existence of this designer must be accepted a priori, which not only enters the field of metaphysics but is easily sliced by Occam’s Razor: A universe which is proposed as eternal to answer the same question doesn’t need a middle man..

      • Actually no,I’m not. I’m arguing that science, like grammar, history, mathamatics has a narrow focus, in sciences case with defining natural law. Whether or not natural law defines all of reality is a question of theology/philosophy.

        As to God in the gaps, Atheists basically argue Darwin in the gaps – those living in glass houses. . .

      • By the way, in review since we are getting far afield, my case on this is that naturalists, particularly in the science, have confused their philosophy (or to put it another way their religion) with science forsupport a century or so, Darwinian evolution along with many elements of psychology and sociology are influenced heavily by this confusion. Because this confusion is based in religions outside of Christianity and because Christian morality forbids synthesis with other religions, then Christianity cannot acomodate evolution. Since Christianity rests on the acceptance of a miracle (the resurrection of Christ). As I noted to counter my argument you would need to either disprove my work with the definition of religion or prove evolution by scientific means rather than the typical philosophical arguments. (At a minimum the observation of the development of a new family by means of new information being added to the genome naturally). This again is based on the definition of science as noted in most science textbooks.

        Your other recourse, the one you seem to prefer, is to disprove Christianity. Again, though you do this from the wrong place. Your attacking one of the structure’s walls but not the actual foundation – which is the resurrection. Have you checked out the articles I noted? Additionally, your comments on evolution assume the same presuppositions that I am contending are invalid.

        In my articles on the resurrection there are a few facts that are unavoidable historically:

        1. Jesus was killed by Crucifixion during the first century, probably in AD 30.
        2. He was seen on multiple occasions by multiple people, sometimes in groups, sometimes for extended periods of time in bright daylight, by both those who accepted his claim to be Messiah and by those who were disinclined to accept His Messiahship. These eyewitnesses lives were significantly changed, and early chirch history indicates most chose death over recanting their testimony.
        3 The tomb, which had been sealed by Roman guards wax empty and the body missing.

  2. 1. Conceded. However, in 30 AD, Passover began on Thursday at sundown, and was followed by the normal weekly Sabbath. That means the crucifixion began on Thursday morning, not on Friday as is commonly believed. John knows this, he has the members of the Sanhedrin stand well away from Pilate, lest they break their pre-Passover purification, and Matthew also knows this, the original text has the women visit the tome “after the sabbaths,” in plural.

    2. John says Mary Magdelene saw Jesus at the tomb. Matthew says Jesus’ mother Mary and Mary Magdelene were met by Jesus who told them to tell his brothers to go to Galilee to meet him (this is the only sighting of Jesus in Jerusalem found in Matthew). Luke has Jesus materializing in the upper room where he orders them not to leave Jerusalem. John has Peter resuming his fishing occupation in Galilee before Jesus appears to him. These accounts cannot be harmonized without the utmost gyrations in apologetics.

    3.John says Mary Magdalene went alone to the tomb before sunrise, found the stone rolled away, and then told Peter and James that his body was missing. Mark says Mary the mother of Jesus, the sister of Jesus (Salome), and Mary Magdelene went together, and encountered a man who told them he was risen. Matthew has mother Mary and Mary Magdelene go to the tomb together and witness the stone being rolled away by an angel. Luke has the stone already rolled away and there were two men who said, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

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