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THE ANALYSIS OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTH

December 29, 2009

By Dr. Gary S. Day

Science has become the best weapon of all the fields of study for the critics of Christianity.  Because of science technology has boomed and life has become in some sense easier to live because of the gadgets developed.  Educationally, the fields of science, medicine and technology offer the more lucrative jobs.  And is some sense, science is worshipped as the answer-all for life’s woes.

Statements like, ‘Science has disproved the Bible or shown that it is outdated,’ though it is an incorrect statement, it gives science an aura of authority that exceeds its boundaries.  However, since science has contributed to a great increase in knowledge about life in general, questioning science and taking a stand for the truth of the Bible as being God’s Word becomes difficult.   But it would not be, if what is ‘science’ is properly understood.

First of all, the notion that science is a single, absolute and unified collection of truth, needs to be dismissed from our thinking.  It is not.   Scientific knowledge is a collection, from many categories of information whose truths are not equally true, tested or established; and some might even be untrue.

So, what is science?  First it is a name given to accumulated knowledge in our quest to understand the world in which we live on earth and in the universe.  To fully understand and grasp a definition science and its branches of activity requires an understanding of philosophy.  Secondly, science is a name given to the collective methods used for gaining objective knowledge and insights about the universe, which become more refined with each passing generation.

Technology is the name given to the practical application of science information in order to make useful products, like computer chips.  Science and technology are mutually dependent for growth. 

The branches of science are of two categories, the exact sciences and the non-exact sciences.  The exact sciences are physics, chemistry, biology, botany, etc.  The non-exact sciences include history, sociology, and the humanities disciplines.  The differences are in the degree of informational certainties, the exact sciences having more definiteness.  And in the exact sciences some branches are more exact than others; chemistry is more exact than zoology, physics more so than botany.  The same is true with the non-exact sciences, some being more easily influenced by subjectivity.

Each discipline has differing methods for study available to them, and the methods of one field of study in not valid for another field.  For instance the measurement of mass in physics has little bearing on historical analysis.  The only thing common to all methods of investigation is logic, which can be defined as a study that: 1) supplies the norms and standards to evaluate truth; and 2) is the discipline that separates true conclusions from false ones.

A more detailed understanding of the branches of science and their interrelationships will help in identifying biased attacks against the Bible.  Though a comprehensive examination is not possible here, the approximate picture given below will be sufficient for the present purposes.

All scientific knowledge is based on logic and mathematics, which in turn lays down the rules of an objective interpretation of the world.  Logic and mathematics are called the Normative Sciences because they give the norms and standards by which objective deductions can be made, and every deduction has to conform to logical and mathematical stipulations before it is accepted as true.  And based on the Normative Sciences are the Physical, Historical, and the Sociological Sciences.

The Physical Sciences, such as physics and chemistry plus many other branches, explain much about what goes on around our daily lives: turning milk to curd, drying clothes, medicines, radio, television, etc.  Information gathered by these sciences tends to be more reliable than with other sciences because they are repeatable and mathematics can be more easily applied to them; therefore better predictions can be made.  If a phenomenon is not re-testable and repeatable, then it belongs not to the Physical Sciences.

The Biological Sciences study living organisms, but due to the higher amount of descriptive content these sciences are less exact than the Physical Sciences.

The Historical Sciences are concerned with the reconstruction of the past material existence.  They are descriptive in nature, not governed by the laws of mathematics, non-repeatable by nature, and therefore less certain than the Physical Sciences.  Archaeology is the only historical science that forms more exact descriptions.  The method of historical/legal reconstruction helps fill the gaps, but introduces some portion of tentativeness to the entire field, but informed analogy lessons the tentativeness.

In the Sociological Sciences the individual and collective behavior of people and their actions in society are examined.  The Physical Sciences are no help in predicting human behavior, for man is an extremely complex being.  There are no laboratory situations in the Sociological Sciences and predictions are difficult to check, therefore the Sociological Sciences tend to be less exact than the Physical Sciences.

However, all of the branches of learning are interconnected and dependent upon each other, yet each one is independent with the Normative Sciences being the most independent of them all.  The Sociological and the Historical Sciences are the most dependent braches of learning.

In judging the reliability of various types of information scientist use different technical words, such as hypothesis, conjecture, opinion, interpretation, school of thought, approximation, theory, deductions, data, observations, facts, laws, etc.  In terms of reliability, the extreme categories that these words fall into are extremely reliable and unreliable.  The rest would fall somewhere in between.  For example, words like ‘fact’ would fall into the extremely reliable category, while words like ‘opinion’ would fall into the unreliable category.  Classification of these words are easier if you place them in one of  two types, Theories and Facts.  Facts are reliable and beyond any doubt.  All other information or categories of words that are not one hundred percent sure are classified as Theories.  It is important to know that only the Facts and Laws of science can be used for a meaningful exchange between science and the Bible, and the Christian Apologist must set this as a condition for any discussion of the Bible and science.  The reason for this is that the attacks on the Bible labeled science are always based on theories, and never on facts!

As has been mentioned before in the article “Proof or No Proof,” scientific model-making must be understood to differentiate between scientific fact and theory.   Scientific models are used in a somewhat illegitimate way to attack the Bible because Christian Apologists many times do not understand how they are used in scientific investigation. 

The globe is a model of the earth and many things can be learned by studying it that could not be done on a flat map.  The scientific model works in the same way.  When studying complex subjects, such as the atom or the universe, models are necessary.  Both the model and the reality are studied, and the model is modified to correspond as close as is possible to the reality that the model represents, after repeated testing. 

The two types of models are the Qualitative or Descriptive Models and the Quantitative or Mathematical Models.  The Descriptive model-making is used in historical, legal, and logical reconstructions of past events.  Various descriptive models are made that correspond to the information on hand, and then the researcher eliminates all those models that are impossible, arriving at just a few or only one model that is closest to reality.  The more complex subjects have to be studied with the help of the Quantitative Model.

Quantitative Models have a definite mathematical relationship with the phenomenon it represents.  There are several types of quantitative models. The legend on a map has a scale representing the distance it covers is one.  Purely mathematical equations are another.  Language, traffic flow and climate change can all be represented by the Quantitative Model.  The models of physical objects, like atoms and molecules are often quite reliable, while quantitative models for language social behavior and weather are less so.

Although model-making is an inseparable part of modern scientific inquiry, the model itself is not the actual truth.  It only represents the truth of a matter.  In complex studies, a model is only a possible representation of truth, for there may be many other explanations of the same phenomenon.  The best that one can do is to decide which model seems to be closer to the truth.  For instance, the Theory of Evolution and Scientific Creation are both models of science that try to explain the origin of life and its associated phenomenon.  All that the evolutionist can claim is that the evolutionary model represents one possible way, not the truth.

In order to tell which of these models come closest to representing reality, both models have to be tested.  The model that can do the following would be considered the superior one, that is to say the one closer to reality:  1) The maximum number of observed phenomena related to life should be able to be explained by the model; and 2) The model should be able to make the maximum number of predictions about phenomena related to life, but not observed so far.  In the comparison of these models, the Scientific Creation Model is superior in every way.

It must be remembered though that models have a very limited role to play in the debate between the Bible, Science and Logic, for they do not represent the final truth, and so cannot be used to question statements in the Bible.

Historical studies are different from material science studies.  Material sciences rely on repeated experiments, while the historical sciences cannot be studied by replication.

Examples of historical investigations are the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and archaeology.  Though students are given the impression that the origin studies are part of the material sciences because they for convenience sake are handled by the cosmology and biology fields, the truth of the matter is that these investigations are actually non-repeatable and are historical in nature.

The historical narratives of the Bible cannot be scrutinized with the help of the physical sciences, for historical sciences can only be investigated with the methods of historical research, and they are not the same as those in the physical sciences.  So, whether Jesus came out of the grave, did Moses or King David exist, etc. are questions that fall into the realm of historical research.  A clear understanding of the differences between the historical and the physical sciences is necessary before any meaningful discussion is possible.

To sum this all up, remember that science is made up of facts, theories and models, but only established facts and laws can be used to examine the Bible.  Ask of the Bible critics position, is it based on fact, theory or model?  Once this is clear the rest is easy.

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