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Science and Technology: A Brief Review

The marvels of modern science are awesome to behold and to use. This very chapter is only possible by the computer and the Internet, surely two of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century. I am sure that each reader would have his own favorite. There is the simple plastic straw, which as McDonald’s size, one can suck down a whole milkshake in record time! There is the microchip that makes every appliance and gadget “programmable” and adaptable (but not necessarily easier to use!).

Perhaps, at the top of the list would be manned space flights and interplanetary exploration. Space travel for people is at our doorsteps, fulfilling the dreams of young boys and astronomers who have ever gazed and wondered at “what is out there” for generations.

So, what does The Book that dates back several thousands years and written in cultures foreign to the “modern scientific mind” have to say about such science and technology? Actually, to presume that an omniscient God would not have known all that has been and will be developed is to make God smaller than He is -- for He is omniscient!

Science Cannot Determine Its Own Destiny

The first worldview principle towards science and technology is that neither can determine its own destiny, that is, what will be developed and how it will be used.  Science, by its own nature of hypotheses and constructs, cannot select what will be developed or investigated. No one would argue that any industry or society has unlimited resources (time, money, equipment, and researchers). They are limited by budgets. Thus, inescapably choices of research and development have to be made. Those decisions are not made by the science or technology department, whether in business or government.

In business, the marketing department is likely to make those decisions, that is, what will grow the business best. In government, the budget analysts make those decisions. I am simplifying this process somewhat, but the point is that the producers and researchers develop their budgets and submit them to a “higher authority” who will determine whether they will get the funds to proceed. The scientists do not make these decisions.

These decisions come face to face with ethics: what is right or wrong in worldview (that is, Biblical righteousness).  In business, virtually always the decision is made on what profit the company can make. In government, decisions are made for a variety of reasons: the greatest good for the greatest number, the greatest good for the best lobbying group, the greatest good for those deemed “worthy” (the elderly, the poor, the homeless, the crippled, the minority, etc., etc.). (The reader should note that medical science is included here.)

Now, any student of biblical worldview will recognize the “value” words above: “profit,” “good”, “greatest,” and “worthy.” No area of science or technology within its own areas of expertise has any principle to govern such a decision. Choices are made on values outside the science and technologies themselves.

Thus, the dilemma that is sometimes encountered by Christians and other moralists with the gigantism and wonder of modern science is false. Experimental and applied science can neither determine their own direction, nor even their own continued existence. Forces (values) outside of themselves will always do that for them. A pure worldview of science and technology does not exist!

Any Development of Science and Technology Is Strictly A-moral

There is no science or technology that within itself is either bad or good (moral or ethical). The science of the atom can be used to generate electricity for thousands of people or it can be used to kill and maim thousands in a horrible way. The science of smallpox can eradicate it from existence or unleash disfigurement and death. The automobile gives great freedom to people around the world, but also kills tens of thousands and injures far more. Genetic engineering has the potential to cure ravaging diseases or create an army of superman soldiers.

Perhaps, these examples will suffice to demonstrate that no technology within itself is to be feared. As the Bible tells us, “the heart is deceitfully wicked.” The evil is in individuals, groups, or government who are in positions of power to use science and technology to achieve their own goals.

What Is Science?

More than a century ago, theology had been considered for centuries as the “Queen of the Sciences."  (See below.) In that sense, Noah Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 is helpful. Science is:

1. In a general sense, knowledge, or certain knowledge; the comprehension or understanding of truth or facts by the mind. “The science of God must be perfect.”

2. In philosophy, a collection of the general principles or leading truths relating to any subject. Pure science, as the mathematics, is built on self-evident truths; but the term science is also applied to other subjects founded on generally acknowledged truths, as metaphysics; or on experiment and observation, as chemistry and natural philosophy; or even to an assemblage of the general principles of an art, as the science of agriculture; the science of navigation. Arts relate to practice, as painting and sculpture…

3. Art derived from precepts or built on principles…

4. Any art or species of knowledge...

5. One of the seven liberal branches of knowledge, that is, grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music.

(Webster’s Note - Authors have not always been careful to use the terms art and science with due discrimination and precision. Music is an art, as well as, a science. In general, an art is that which depends on practice or performance, and science that which depends on abstract or speculative principles. The theory of music is a science; the practice of it an art.)

For the location of the website where Webster's 1828 Dictionary may be found, see Reference at the end of this article.

This rather long quote is necessary, for “science” has become distorted in its meaning. (The person who is not interested in precise definition will never be competent in any area of knowledge, including his or her Christian experience. I make no apology for this approach) Re-phrasing Webster’s “1”, we could say that “science is a systematic knowledge of any subject” (as theology was the queen of the sciences). But, “science,” today, as it is generally, and even formally used, applies to such subjects as physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, and mathematics or all lumped together as “the sciences.”

Herein is a serious problem of distortion. First, today’s use of “science” strongly implies that any subject matter outside these disciplines is not “scientific,” and therefore is a lesser form of knowledge. Second, “science” includes both the exact disciplines of physics, mathematics, and chemistry with the much-less-exact disciplines of biology and medicine. My medical training began over 40 years ago. I have seen diagnoses change markedly and new ones developed. I have witnessed significant changes in treatments, and in some cases, the exactly opposite treatment is recommended for the same disease process! Such is the nature of medical “science.”

Perhaps, the worst example of this subtle inclusion of exact sciences with the life sciences is psychology. Psychology has several hundred theories of explanation and treatment. To say that psychology is a science is to generalize the word beyond any meaning at all. It would be more accurate to say that psychology is a very large group of theories with little experimental evidence. It will not compare to the precisions of physics, for example. Thus, psychology and the other life sciences receive a greatly substantive standing that is false, simply by their inclusion in the general category of science.”

So, each discipline must be evaluated as to its scientific validity on its own merits. Theology, as it was seriously practiced at the time of Noah Webster, should again be the “Queen of Sciences,” for indeed, all natural revelation (including man’s theories and experiments) must be evaluated in the light of God’s Revelation. For a person or scholar who is a Bible-believing Christian not to make this evaluation is the most serious blunder to be made in ethics (or any worldview area).

After the above was written, I found this "classic definition" of science by Carl F. H. Henry: "any clearly defined subject matter that yields valid knowledge communicable from mind to mind and from generation to generation."  Thomas Aquinas named theology as "the queen of the sciences."  (God, Revelation, and Authority, Volume 1, page 202.)

Science as Function vs. Truth

Epistemology and a philosophic discussion of truth is beyond our scope here. However, it is central to the commonly accepted authority of science today. Simply, truth is reality; any subject or object in all its relations to everything else in the universe. The quick student will recognize that only God can know truth by this definition. That is one point. The second point is that because God has revealed Himself and other matters in His Word, we can know the truth that he has revealed. We can know no other truth.

(Again, I take great leaps in a philosophical discussion, but I believe that I have stated these two points accurately within philosophical and epistemological certainty. See the following reference for a greater explanation of these leaps.)

Thus, science does not produce truth. Science is either theoretical or experimental. Theory is never truth by its own definition. It is hypothetical.

Now, we are to the crux of the matter. Experiment does not produce truth by its own design. What does a scientist do in setting up an experiment? He sets rigid guidelines by which the experiment will be conducted. He must be precise, limit variables, and attempt to anticipate everything that might go wrong. Thus, any results that he achieves will be limited to his experimental parameters. The results, then, dear reader, is not truth.

Truth is all things in relation to all other things in the universe (above). Scientific results are only related to the conditions of the experiment. Note the contrast here. Truth relates to the entire universe; science is limited to its severely (relative to the universe) limited design. Science can never be truth by its own limitations. It is very narrowly and specifically applied to the conditions of the experiment.

Take the simple formula for a falling body in the footnote above. Its design is limited to an object falling in a vacuum. Please tell me where a vacuum exists on earth at sea level, where the formula applies. Nowhere. That limitation in reality is true of all scientific experimental results.

Now, here is the bottom line, science has great practical value, but it is not truth. The formula for a falling body and many other laws of gravity, propulsion, motion, etc. are sufficiently practical to send a manned mission to the moon and back, but none of that information is truth. Thus, the gigantically pragmatic value of science has been grotesquely distorted to be truth when it is actually only experimental results within a strict paradigm.  See operationalism.

Any reader new to this discussion will have to work at this matter. You will likely need to read other books. (See Recommended Reading). Most moderns are so ingrained in being unable to think philosophically while being indoctrinated with false reasoning that this process is indeed difficult.

So, here is the contrast. On the one side is the only truth available to mankind, The Holy Scriptures. On the other side is science, which can neither speak to its own ethics while limited to theory and an artificial construct (experimental design). It is the omniscient, “only wise God,” vs. a-morality and man-made design.

Once more, we must give great credit to the functionality of science, but we cannot give it either a status of truth or any credence to speak to morality. Science has nothing within itself to gain status of either of these latter roles.

The Scriptures as the Cause of Modern Science

By any system of chronology, mankind lived on earth for thousands of years before the practices of modern science were developed. Why did not science appear earlier? Surely, the causes were multi-factorial, but two points should be made.

First, the large majority of the scientists who laid the foundations for modern science were Christians: Leonardo da Vinci, Johann Kepler, Francis Bacon, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Samuel F. B. Morse, Rudolph Virchow, Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, and Gregor Mendel (to name only 13 of 52 listed by the late Henry Morris). Thus, there is no conflict between faith in God and the Bible and modern science. In fact, the opposite occurs. Faith in the One who “is the same today, yesterday, and forever” gives confidence to explore the wonders of His creation.

Second, the knowledge of the Bible in the hands of the common man changed a worldview that had boxed and fixed science for more than 1500 years. The Greeks saw the universe as fixed and limited the elements of fire, water, wind, and earth. The Scriptures showed a universe created by God who fixed its laws and made it predictable. The Bible energized men to create instruments (for example, the telescope, microscope, and stethoscope) to see and hear things that were never possible before.

While these developments are commonly attributed to the Renaissance, what occurred simultaneous with the Renaissance? The Reformation. As God’s laws for the church and society found new meaning and application, His laws were being discovered in nature by His people (above) that were foundational to modern science.

Only the monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Mohammedism) describe a universe created and inhabited (immanent and omniscient presence) by God according to fixed laws and holding a knowledge that is broad and deep, as a fitting testimony to its Creator.

Summary Statements

1. The values that determine what science will do, and where it will be applied, lie outside of the scientific world.

2. Science and technology within themselves are strictly a-moral. Their morality is determined in how they are applied in the lives of people.

3. In its modern use, “science” has a denotation of truth, when in actuality, it is either theory or limited to a precise experimental design. “Science,” in its historical and accurate use, can be applied to any area of systematic study.

4. The Holy Scriptures, systematically applied, should once again be the “Queen of the Sciences.”

5. The great functionality of science and technology belie their claim to truth (#3 above).

6. Most of the great, early scientists were Christians, and their Biblical worldview led them to great achievements in science.

Study Questions

1. What criteria are used by industry and governments are used to determine what scientific studies will be done and applied to mankind? Name more than were cited above.

2. Is the science of the atom beneficial or harmful to mankind? What are your ethical principles that determine your answer?

3. What is the historical and accurate use of the word, “science?” What is truth? Try to wrestle with how truth may be known. Remember that truth never changes, as God never changes.

4. Why did modern science develop when it did? Is modern science incompatible with the Scriptures, all of which were written from 1000-3000 years ago?

Recommended Reading

Clark, Gordon. A Christian View of Men and Things. Unicoi, Tennessee: The Trinity Foundation, 1952.

Clark, Gordon.  The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God. Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation, 1987.

Davis, John Jefferson. Frontiers of Science and Faith. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Horgan, John.  The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age.  New York, NY: Broadway Books, 1966.  Secular philosophers and scientists discuss their own limitations and expectations of modern science.  This book gives insights to scientists' own concerns that usually do not get media attention.  It is valuable as a resource for Christians with arguments from secularists themselves.

Moreland, J. P. Christianity and the Nature of Science. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989.

Rushdoony, Rousas J. The Mythology of Science. Nutley, New Jersey: Nutley Press, 1967.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary


 

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