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Natural Science: Summary Principles

Creation principles have not been addressed here except as they impact the natural sciences directly. Those Summary Principles of Creation are listed under their own category. However, there is considerable overlap between science and creation. In a real sense, those principles and these form a unit because they cannot really be separated. Yet, for purpose of emphasis and modern arguments they are best separated.

Discussion of these Summary Principles. The full discussion on this site of these Summary Principles has not yet been written. However, the following sources cover many, if not most of them: Science and Technology and The Nature of Science.

The following are not necessarily arranged in any priority of order.

1. Etymology and history of the word, “science.” “Science” is being used here consistent with the modern denotation that “science” means natural sciences. However, readers should understand that historically and etymologically, “science” refers to the systematic study of any subject. For example, beginning in the Scholastic period of history, theology was the “Queen of the Sciences,” which demonstrates its superior position among all the other “sciences” and natural science itself. The term “modern science,” is synonymous with natural science.

Objectivity and subjectivity in the natural sciences. At first glance, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and engineering do not appear to be affected by philosophical or religious beliefs. However, this glance is misleading. All sciences are inductive conclusions made from observations. By definition, induction does not arrive at truth. For induction to be truth, it would have to have observed every particular phenomena in the universe an impossible task. So, inductive (empirical) conclusions are limited to those observations actually made: that is, the construct of the experimental design. The workings of chemistry are actually based upon physics (behavior of electrons, protons, shell valences, etc.). Physics makes such conclusions as the “Big Bang” or some sort of “grand unified theory“ of the universe. Such theories defy the simplest forms of “common sense,“ much less qualify for serious reflection as worthy knowledge, much less “truth.”  For more explanation here,  Science and Pragmatism as Truth and The Pragmatic Test of Truth.

Again, these natural sciences have great function and utilitarian value, but they come nowhere near qualifying for truth, which never changes and is always reliable anywhere and everywhere in every time period of history

Psychology, medicine, sociology, anthropology, and economics are highly subjective. They are behavioral sciences, having to do with the behavior of man. Biblical values impact directly on what is right and wrong in their theory and practice. Ignoring Biblical principles will greatly affect their function.

2. Authoritative Bible. The Bible, as God’s Word to man and as truth, is always authoritative over any statements by science where both address the same issue. Properly understood, there is never any contradiction between science and Scripture. In many areas, the Bible a has far greater application in science than may be apparent from a casual consideration of the Bible itself or the attention that other Christian scholars have given it.

3. Science is not truth. The method of science is to discover the mechanisms (God’s laws) of the universe and apply them for the good of mankind. This method does not discover truth because all its operations are theory or experiment. Theory, by definition, is not truth. Conclusions by experiment are strictly limited to the conditions of the experiment, and therefore, not universally applicable. For example, no vacuum exists in nature at sea level to make the (very useful) “law” of the speed of a falling body (over time) a universal truth.  Discussion of Science as Truth

4. Value and Ethics. “Science cannot determine its own value... By science bombs are made and cancer may be cured. Most people think that bombs and medicine are good to have. But, there is no experiment that proves their goodness.... can any experimentation demonstrate that either the destruction of cities (and life) or the extension of life is good?” (Gordon Clark, Philosophy of Science…, page 95). Such values come from God’s Word. Technology within itself is a-moral, that is, has no inherent morality within itself. Its morality is determined by sources outside of itself by the intent and purposes for which it is used.

The cultural and moral force of technology. Technology does bring a strong tendency to erode values. Adding numeric values to social and psychological studies gives them an appearance of objectivity that they do not have. The advancement of technology in any area is not an advancement of cultural progress (which should be defined only by Biblical values). For example, computers with greater speed and storage will be necessarily be used for the “good” of mankind. A general and immediate availability of a wide range of information (television, computers, etc.) increases one’s susceptibility to a sinful response to temptation because in prior times one would not be exposed to that information. See Postman, Technopoly… for his great review of the problems of technology. However, his proposed solutions are not Biblical.

5. Pragmatic Value or Operationalism. To state that science does not determine truth is not to diminish its great pragmatic value. But, that greatness can be for good or evil (as in #3 above). Alfred Nobel regretted the invention of dynamite because he developed it for its great potential in construction, but armies used it to destroy human lives and property, often under the direct of dictators with evil agendas. The same science that places communication satellites in orbit can be used for “smart bombs.” See The Nature of Science.

6. Modern science and the Reformation. While modern science cannot absolutely be said to have been caused by the Reformation, there are strong reasons to believe that it was. (1) The beginnings of modern science began in the same century as the Reformation. (2) Many, if not most, of the early scientists were Bible-believing Christians. (See Christian Scientists.) (3) Neither the Greek nor the medieval concept of nature invited the diligent examination of nature that constitutes modern science. (4) According to the Reformers, nature was a revelation to be studied, as special revelation was to be studied. As God was intelligible, they expected that nature would be, also. For more on this subject, see Christianity and the Rise of Modern Science.

7. Nature is God's general revelation. As God has revealed Himself in His special revelation, the Bible, He has revealed much of Himself in His general revelation of nature. As men are to study the Bible to know and understand what God has chosen to reveal of Himself, men are also to study nature in order to know the creativity of God and apply that knowledge for the welfare of mankind. As men learn to worship in special revelation, so science should also evoke man’s worship of nature as the creativity of God. As “the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever,” the chief end of science, as one of man’s occupations, would be the same.

8. God’s design of the universe and man’s laws that describe this design. God created the universe to function according to properties of matter, motion, and energy. Gravity, centrifugal force, acceleration of bodies approaching each other, the boiling point of water, inertia, and many other properties within nature are according to His design. The only reason for these properties is that He designed them into His universe. These properties give a precision and orderliness to the universe that makes it predictable and useful for mankind to live and work there.

As man has discovered these properties, he has formulated laws that sufficiently approximate these properties to allow him to benefit and function more fully within this orderliness. Nature functions according to God’s design, not according to “laws” which are only descriptions of those properties.

9. Gods Providence and His immanence in His creation. One tenet of the Reformation was the Providence of God; that is, that He is immanently present in His Creation and determines all events “according to the counsel of His own will.” Further, He is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). Increase Mather (1639-1723) wrote of God’s activity in the thunder and lightning and terrible majesty of storms, as well as, in all the events of men and nations. Modern Christians need to recover that sense of God’s unfailing and constant presence. The operations of the universe are not solely because of their inherent laws and properties, but God’s present activity in them. (Increase Mather, A History of God’s Remarkable Providences in Colonial New England (Back Home Industries, 1997, reprint of original from 1856).

10. The universe is broken. Both the universe and the life of all creatures have been impaired such that disease, death, extinctions, imperfections in structure, and other such calamities are the results of changes in properties and processes decreed by God upon an originally perfect universe because of the Fall of man (Genesis 3:14-19; 1 Peter 1:24-25; Hebrews 1:10-12). (Used with minor changes from the Coalition on Revival’s Sphere Document on Science, #16.)

11. Laws and properties of nature. All laws of nature exist because God designed them that way. For example, the law of gravity exists because God designed two bodies to attract each other. There is no inherent property in these bodies to cause them to attract each other outside of God’s original design. Therefore, all “ultimate” laws and properties in nature reside in God’s design and ongoing Providence.

12. Technology for warfare. “Because at any time we may be required to resort to military defense to preserve our lives and liberty, it is acceptable and proper for a Christian to use science and technology to develop weapon systems essential to the defense of his country.” (Also, from the Coalition on Revival… Science, #19)

13. Pollution and husbandry of animals. The Creation Mandate to “rule” and “subdue” all of God’s creation does not include inevitable and unlimited pollution; cruelty to, and extinction of, animals; or irresponsible management of the earth’s resources. Man must be subject to all of God’s laws that govern in these areas. However, in current times, the evidences of modern science concerning these areas are being skewed to promote an agenda that is inconsistent with all God‘s ordinances that govern man and nature. Abuses of nature that have occurred do not mandate that they be corrected by un-Biblical (immoral) means. All peoples, Christians in particular, ought to pursue an understanding of the best science that can be known in these areas and apply them within the constraints of all Biblical law.

14. Global warming. An honest review of all the information available on global warming shows that the evidence is inconclusive. To base political, social, and legislative policy on such science is dishonest at best, and tyranny, at worst. See Michael Crichton’s novel, State of Fear (HarperCollins Publisher, 2004). For a solidly conservative, scholarly, and Biblically accurate study of this issue, see Cornwall  Alliance: For the Stewardship of Creation.

15. God is evident in nature. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). The rest of the verses in this chapter of Romans demonstrate the link between man’s understanding of nature and his behavior. It is the link of the natural and the supernatural, of the physical world and the world of ethics, and of the causes of health and life and disease and death. It is a link of God’s immanent activity among men and in nature according to man’s thinking and behavior.

16. The civil state and science. The role of government is to “reward good and punish evil” (Romans 13:1-5). It has no role in either the funding of science or conjoint efforts with scientists for development and research (scientific socialism) except in the development of weapons for police work and warfare.

17. Miracles. See Creation Summary Principles.

18. Natural death of living organisms. Natural science cannot account for the death of organisms that are able to propagate, but only live for a limited period of time, even when not assaulted by some outside force. The processes that propagate and sustain life fail over time for no known natural reasons. Genesis Chapter 3, accounts for the death of living creatures.  All creation is under God’s curse because of man’s sin.

19. More information is not the solution to cultural problems. “Our most serious problems are not technical (nor scientific), nor do they arise from a lack of information.” (Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender …, page 119). The solution is the full application of the Bible to all areas of worldview.

20.  There is no such thing as computer science.  There are people who are mathematicians, "but call what they are doing computer science."  There are those who are "working on something like the natural history of computers.  Then, there are "hackers, who are trying to write interesting software."  (Paul Graham, Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age, Sebastopol: CA: O'Reilly Media, Inc, 2004, page 18-19.  Website: www.paulgraham.com )

Endnotes

1). “Operationalism” is a word suggested by Gordon Clark (Philosophy of Science… page 93). I suggest “pragmatic value” or “functional value.” “Value” shows its great utility to be used for the good of mankind. “Pragmatic” or “functional” shows its application. But, neither of the three terms allows science to approach the notion that it is “truth” or can determine what is right or what is wrong.

2) Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, (Vintage Books/Random House, 1993).

 

Further Reading

Clark, Gordon. Philosophy of Science and Belief in God. Trinity Foundation, 1964.

Davis, John Jefferson. The Frontiers of Science and Faith. InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Henry, Carl F. H. Horizons of Science. Harper and Row, 1978.

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

Morris, Henry. Biblical Basis of Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.

Rushdoony, R. J. The Mythology of Science. www.chalcedonstore.com


 

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