The non-scientific foundations of science

There are so many today who believe that science is the one form of truth of which we can be sure. You hear it all the time. If the scientists say it is so, it must be. It is even becoming fashionable to question the legitimacy of politicians who take issue with certain scientific theories. But before atheists begin to toss aside those who have views that they don’t agree with I think it is important that they recall that science itself doesn’t have scientific foundations.

The philosophical foundations of science

Science is based on philosophical foundations. These foundations cannot be subjected to the scientific method, and therefore are not provable as science. They are philosophical assumptions, and we all have these assumptions before we even get to talk about science. These assumptions include:

  • The existence of a theory independent, external world
  • The orderly nature of the external world
  • The knowability of the external world
  • The existence of truth
  • The laws of logic
  • The reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth gatherers and as a source of justified beliefs in our intellectual environment
  • The adequacy of language to describe the world
  • The existence of values used in science (e.g. “Test theories fairly and report tese results honestly”)
  • The uniformity of nature and induction
  • The existence of numbers and mathematical truths [1]

Personally, I find it amazing that people are so quick to brand Christianity as anti-scientific, while holding to a worldview that struggles to explain the basis of these philosophical points. Those who try to use science to explain it’s philosophical foundations tend to say science hasn’t explained it yet but will. But one cannot resort to science to explain it’s foundations – that is circular reasoning – one must explain these from a philosophical perspective.

Christianity and Science

It is no accident that the scientific revolution was borne from a Christian worldview. Kepler, Galileo, Newton and many of the others credited with the scientific revolution believed in the God of the Bible. Those who didn’t (and there weren’t many of them) were deists but who still borrowed heavily from Christianity (e.g. God as creator, morality, etc). The Bible gives us reason to believe there is an external world that is orderly, etc. In fact Keplers discovery of elliptical orbits was based on his understanding that God is a God of order and therefore there must be a good reason why the orbit of Mars is 8 minutes different to that of a circular orbit (as they were assumed to be). Indeed, he found elliptical orbits were a very good reason for the innacuracy of early copernican orbits.[2]

Does Christianity oppose science? No more than it did at the beginning of the scientific revolution. Why then, do so many Christians oppose theories such as evolution? Because the philosophical foundations for theories like evolution are naturalistic. They assume a closed box system – one without a personal creator or moral entity, and so Christians disagree not with the science per se, but with the philosophy the science is trying to prove. This doesn’t mean there isn’t anything in evolutionary theory that isn’t correct, Christians have no problem with evolution within a species which was what Darwin founded his macro-evolutionary theory on. The problem is not the science it is the propping up of science to support a false worldview. Christians everywhere agree with the scientific value of gravity, relativity theory, computer science and biology. Other than a small number of areas, Christianity embraces and provides the foundation for science.

What does atheism’s opposition to theism on the basis of science amount to?

So, if science came out of a Christian worldview and is well supported in a Christian world-view, what is it that atheists are opposing when they say that those who believe in God are anti-science? They are opposing those who oppose the naturalistic world-view they themselves hold to. In a remarkable turn of events over a 160 or so year period the new “church” (defined here metaphorically as the popular “keepers of truth”) trying to prevent “heresy” is atheistic naturalism. Which is to say that any who don’t agree with their position is now the heretic who should be vilified. Is it little wonder that free speech is slowly being killed off in the west?

This could go two ways. Either the noose is tightened and naturalism will become less tolerant of those with alternative views, leading to perhaps to persecution, or scientits (or science philosophers) will work out the problems and we’ll look back in 150 years at was was a “fad” in science (scientism) that eventually imploded on itself. Of course, there are not necessarily just two ways. But we’re already seeing signs of both these eventualities around us.

[1. Taken from “Love your God with all your mind” by J. P. Moreland, Kindle edition, L1736]

[2 See Pearcey’s “Soul of Science” for more details on this and the beliefs of those who initiated the scientific revolution]

Links to books on this site are often links to kindle editions of the books mentioned. You can support this site and the author by purchasing a wifi or 3G kindle and/or purchasing books through the links on this page.

Scroll to Top