Philosophy Magazine

Arguments From Science – Part One

By Mmcgee
Written by faithandselfdefense

What is “science” and what are “arguments from science”?

Science is defined as:

  • the state of knowing knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding (Merriam-Webster)
  • the study of the nature and behavior of natural things and the knowledge that we obtain about them (Collins Dictionary)
  • The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment (Oxford Dictionary)

The Apostle Paul wrote about “science” to Timothy in the Greek language – “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” (1 Timothy 6:20, KJV)

The Greek word translated as “science” is the word γνωσεως, which is usually translated as “knowledge.” Greeks, Romans and others in the ancient world viewed knowledge in a similar sense to how we view “science” today.

Science

Our English word “science” comes from the Latin word scire, which means “know.” The basic idea of “science” is gaining knowledge by learning.

So, what does it mean when someone says they use “science” to argue for a particular position about a subject? It would seems to mean that the person would use the latest information about the subject that had been “learned.”

How does that impact discussions Christians have with non-Christians about a wide variety of subjects? How does the growing “knowledge” of our world impact those discussions?

I became a Christian almost 50 years ago based on the process of investigating the available “science” for many subjects. Knowledge about many of those subjects has grown since I left atheism for Christianity, so has new “knowledge” changed my mind about my decision to leave atheism for theism?

Not at all. In fact, new knowledge has deepened my conviction about becoming a Christian. I am currently writing a series about the “knowledge” that led me to Christ in 1971 and will write a future companion series about the advances of knowledge in the years since that time.

The purpose of this article is to share some thoughts about how Christians can, and I believe ‘should,’ discuss the advances of science (knowledge) with non-Christians in the vast arena that is our world of knowledge and understanding today about a wide range of subjects.

I will also add at this point that many Christians do not agree on some of these important subjects (e.g. abortion, evolution, age of the earth, sexuality, gender, gay marriage). There are many others (one blogger has listed 100 issues that divide Christians!), but learning how to deal with a few is a good place to start. Once we understand the scientific process we can begin to solve most of the divisions between Christians and Christians and non-Christians.

So, what are we to do? I think the answer is easy to understand, but hard to do.

We need to investigate all available information carefully and methodically and reach conclusions that are based on evidence.

Arguments From Science

So, what is an “argument” from science? It means we use “knowledge” in our discussions with people. Where do get that knowledge? From people who “know.” How do they know? They use a variety of learning processes that are based on their particular interests/expertise.

Have you heard this from an atheist or other non-Christian?

“Science says there is no God.”

My response?

“Which science and how does that science ‘say’ anything?”

That response often derails the atheist’s plans. If they want to seriously address their truth claim that science says there is no God, they will have to answer the question.

Some atheists have responded to my question, “which science,” by saying –

“All of them.”

My response to that has been –

“Select one and we’ll start there.”

Few atheists have taken me up on that offer.  I remember one atheist who challenged me to select the discipline we would discuss. I chose astrophysics and the discussion ended. Astrophysics was one of the scientific disciplines that captured my attention as an atheist and helped point me to the God who created the universe.

Most non-Christians, I have found, are not prepared to answer specifics about science (knowledge) that point toward the Christian God. They are used to making sweeping claims about science without having to support their claim with evidence.

As for science saying something, science doesn’t say anything. Science is not something that can investigate, choose, decide or speak. Science is “knowledge.”  Scientific “knowledge” is gained by people who investigate, choose, decide and speak. Scientists are the people who gain knowledge and speak about it. Scientists say things, not science.

There are scientists who say God doesn’t exist and there are scientists who say God does exist. Scientists make those claims, not science. So, who do we believe? Depends on their evidence.

Even a brief study of the history of science demonstrates that scientists change what they say about some things because what they “know” about those things changes. That’s the nature of scientific investigation. New information about a subject can change how that subject is viewed, understood, explained, taught, etc.

So, is there such a thing as “settled science?”

Settled Science?

Something I hear often from atheists is the phrase “settled science.” Atheists have told me for decades that I was “stupid” and an “idiot” to question Darwinian evolution because evolution was settled science. I used to believe that Darwinian evolution answered all the questions necessary to understand the world around us. However, I don’t believe that anymore. Is it because I suddenly became stupid and an idiot or could it be that I checked out the knowledge claims for Darwinian evolution and found they didn’t match the evidence very well.

Let’s begin with a basic question: what do the words “settled science” mean?

  • to place so as to stay (Merriam-Webster)
  • not likely to change or move (Oxford Dictionary)
  • A settled situation or system stays the same all the time (Collins Dictionary)

We’ve already seen that the definition of science is knowledge, so we could define settled science as knowledge that stays the same and is not likely to change or move.

Back to the claims of atheists and others who are not followers of Jesus Christ. Does Darwinian evolution meet the definition of knowledge that stays the same and is not likely to change or move? Based on the 150+ years of debate about the topic, I would say the answer to that is an overwhelming NO. Darwinian evolution is NOT settled science. There are many scientists who would say Darwinian evolution is not even good science, but it is certainly not settled knowledge.

Why do atheists, agnostics and others say things like that? Why would they claim that something as unsettled as Darwinian evolution is settled science? I think some actually believe that Darwinian evolution is settled science, so they’re just wrong about that. I think others make that claim to intimidate Christians. Nobody likes being called stupid or an idiot, so that tactic works on many Christians. That’s unfortunate because the evidence that Darwinian evolution is wrong is strong. Christians have every reason to question evolutionists and being called names shouldn’t stop them from raising questions.

No Evidence?

Another favorite tactic of atheists, agnostics and others is to say “there is no evidence” for the existence of God. My response to that statement is to ask a question.

Christian – “Really? No evidence at all for the existence of God?”

Atheist – “That’s right. None.”

Christian – “So, the mountain of evidence that theists have for the existence of God doesn’t exist?”

Atheist – “You don’t have any evidence.”

Christian – “Are you willing to discuss the evidence I have for the existence of God?”

Atheist – “You don’t have any evidence.”

Christian – “Sounds like you don’t want to hear the evidence for God.”

Atheist – “You don’t have any evidence.”

Christian – “I think what you have is confirmation bias.”

Atheist – “I do not have confirmation bias. You do.”

Christian – “Why do you think I have confirmation bias when I am offering to discuss the evidence with you?”

Atheist – “You don’t have any evidence. You believe what you want to believe because you don’t have any evidence to back it up.”

Christian – “How about if I present one piece of evidence at a time and discuss each one to see what merit it has?”

Atheist – “You don’t have any evidence.”

The continued proclamation by the atheist that Christians have no evidence becomes a barrier to a fruitful conversation about the evidence that exists.

Confirmation Bias

So, what about confirmation bias?

Confirmation bias, the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs. This biased approach to decision making is largely unintentional and often results in ignoring inconsistent information. Existing beliefs can include one’s expectations in a given situation and predictions about a particular outcome. People are especially likely to process information to support their own beliefs when the issue is highly important or self-relevant.” Encyclopaedia Britannica 

“Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true.” Psychology Today

“In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.” Science Daily

Confirmation bias is where two or more people can look at the same evidence and reach different conclusions based on that evidence. It can happen to anyone, so we all have to be careful with whatever processes we use to investigate evidence.

I had to watch out for that when I was atheist investigating the claims of theism and Christianity. My bias was toward the non-existence of God and belief that anyone who believed in God was ignorant. I did my best to set that bias to the side while I conducted an orderly investigation into theist claims.

Next Time

In the next part of our series, we’ll look at an example of using scientific investigation to determine whether a controversial claim is true or false.

Arguments From Science – Part One

Advertisements August 24, 2018July 20, 2018 · Posted in Faith Defense · Tagged atheism, Bible and Science, Science, theism ·

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