DURING COVID THE GOVERNMENT EXHORTED US TO “JUST FOLLOW THE SCIENCE.” When it ended up not being “science” but propaganda, many of us felt abused. The point of this essay is that Christians can always trust science— when it is in fact true science. But we can never trust “scientism.” Scientism is religion dressed up to look like science. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and many Christians lack the tools to discern the difference.
True science began with the scientific method proposed by the Englishman, Francis Bacon (1561-1626) in the 17th century. He suggested the scientific method. The scientific method begins with this crucial limiting principle—SCIENCE ONLY DEALS WITH OBSERVABLE THINGS. Soon the “Royal Society,” devoted to Bacon’s scientific method, emerged in London as a clearing house for scientific inquiry.
What is the scientific method and how does it work? Here is an example. Should a scientist note that an object dropped from a roof always falls to the ground, he has observed something. He then repeats the experiment, dropping rocks from various buildings to see if there are any exceptions. He contacts other scientists: do you know of any exceptions to this phenomenon? After sufficient time has elapsed with no observed or reported exceptions, he proposes a theory. There seems to be a principle at work. Could it be a law? Objects dropped from roofs always fall to the ground. He writes up his theory and shares it with other scientists. He is trying to determine if this is a universally applicable phenomenon, one with no exceptions, or just an aberration in nature.
After sufficient time with no exceptions, the principle leaves the stage of theory and becomes “Law.” We have observed that it is a law of nature that objects dropped from roofs always fall to the ground. He might even give this law a name, for example, gravity.
Scientism goes beyond science. It studies things that are not observable, things that are only known by faith, i.e. religion, but calls it science. For example, Astro physicists have observed a red-shift in light coming to us from distant stars. The red-shift suggests that the stars producing that light are moving away from us. We are still dealing with observable things. We are still in the realm of science.
However, when the scientist suggests, based on the redshift, that billions of years ago the universe was a small highly compacted ball of energy and matter disseminated outward by a big-bang, we are now outside of science. We are suggesting powerful past events, not observed, but assumed based upon current observations. Note: the scientist has made a faith assumption that the universe has been operating under universal laws of nature for past eons without any intervention or interruption from a supernatural being outside of nature. But, like the existence of God, this cannot be proven. It is not observable. Rather, this assumption is held by faith. It is religion. There is a name for this particular assumption. It is called Uniformitarianism.
This does not mean that uniformitarianism is false. It might be true, but the crucial insight is this. We are now no longer dealing with science. We are dealing with scientism, a religious system of faith assumptions.
Here is the problem. The scientist has not told us this. In fact, the scientist himself or herself may not even be aware that this has happened. He or she may think we are still dealing with science, but we are not. We are dealing with a religious worldview—philosophical materialism—the assumption that what our five senses detect is all there was, all there is, or all there ever will be.
When the scientific world is dishonest this way, they lose credibility. Average people begin to distrust “the science,” and that is increasingly what has happened in the West.
Another example of scientism is Darwinism. Evolution is still a theory. It is not a scientific law. In fact, just the opposite. There are increasing problems with Darwinism. Scientific evidence is accumulating that Evolution is not scientifically tenable. The problem is the failure of the scientific community to confess this. Instead, the entire scientific community treats Evolution as law, and they should know better.
Back to uniformitarianism. Thoughtful Christians reject it, and they do because they understand the limitations of science. A thoughtful Christian may believe in the Big Bang, but not because it is science. He thinks it is reasonable given current observations, but he hold this position by faith, not science. Why? God is not bound by the laws of nature. He created them, and he can overturn them.
Throughout recorded, observable history God has repeatedly overturned the laws of nature. In Noah’s day, he destroyed the earth with a massive flood. Under Moses’ leadership he afflicted Egypt with ten plagues, all of them reversing the laws of nature. He parted the Red Sea so that Israel could pass through on dry land. He took Elijah into heaven in a whirlwind. He raised children from the dead. When the Messiah came he multiplied bread and fish, walked on water, raised the dead, and healed the sick. The crowning exception to the laws of nature was his own resurrection.
All of this means that thinking Christians are not limited by the assumptions of scientism. Scientism assumes (a faith position) that the laws of nature have always, and will always, control the physical realm. The universe could be very young or very old. True science humbles itself and admits that the answer is outside the realm of science. Scientism, however, does the opposite. It puts its faith in unprovable religious assumptions about things not observable, then tries to convince you that it is “the science.”
In summary, whenever science contradicts what the Bible tells us happened in the past, or will happen in the future, remind yourself to separate science from scientism. The first is every Christian’s friend. The latter, is competing religious system.