Today I listened to an excellent podcast called Speak Life. The episode I listened to was titled “Is Science The Enemy of Faith?” It contained a short lecture delivered by a guy named Glen Scrivener. The lecture was brilliant on several levels.
It started with a story about a botanist named Betty who analyzed rather than appreciated a rose she had received for Valentine’s Day. With this, Scrivener was showing that it is possible to understand the inner workings of the universe without understanding what the universe was for. This is an idea that I’ve been mulling for about 20 years. The idea first came to me when I saw a rainbow in the sky over Cincinnati during a snowstorm (yes, a snowstorm, not a rainstorm) and I realized that science could explain how that rainbow got there but could never explain why it was there or why it excited me so much. I wrote a poem about this, in fact. That poem is now lost, and probably for the better. But Bettys (or is it Betties?) are still around, and every time I encounter them I feel like Ted Danson in this scene from Gulliver’s Travels:
Another great thing Scrivener said in the lecture was “scientism of the gaps”. There was a question time following his lecture, and someone asked about Christians using “God of the gaps” arguments. These arguments merely apply God to whatever is unknown, and for that reason they are not regarded very well. Scrivener in reply said that some scientists are guilty of a similar poor argument he called “scientism of the gaps”. As the name suggests, this is just applying some scientific principle, such as “natural selection”, or, even worse, some scientific fact which simply has not been discovered yet, to whatever is unknown. I had never heard that phrase “scientism of the gaps” before, but I had encountered this type of thinking. I particularly encountered it when I wrote a paper on the Cambrian Explosion in grad school. At that time, I ran across this video:
Professor Valentine there states that there “must have been” the kind of biological build-up Darwinian evolution requires, and he admits that there is no evidence for that build-up, but still concludes that such a build-up is “probably right” and “must have been”. I just don’t see the qualitative difference between saying something like that and saying something is because “God made it that way”. It does seem like scientism in the gaps to me, and it seems as poor as God in the gaps.
More than anything, though, this podcast reminded me of a TV special that aired on Fox during my final year of Bible college. The special was called Signs From God: Science Tests Faith and was hosted by Giselle Fernandez.
I remember the special being promoted less as “science tests faith” and more like “science versus faith”. And I remember thinking at the time, “What science?” I probably could have also asked, “What faith?” as the “signs from God” being tested were not signs I would have based any of my faith upon. Indeed, while the general consensus seems to be that all science is against all faith, a quick survey of the many branches of science shows that this is not close to being true.
Does geology argue against faith in any degree? Or forensics? Physics? What about math? Computer science? Political science? None of them do. In fact, no true scientific fact (that is, an observation of the natural world) can argue against faith, and no scientific field does, either. Rather, as Scrivener says in the podcast, what really argues against the faith (or tries to argue against it) is a scientific philosophy, a worldview or even religion which uses science and looks like a science and influences science but is not itself a science. You can also call it naturalism, materialism, philosophical materialism, etc. But you really can’t call it science. It isn’t.
That, as Alvin Plantiga says, is where the conflict really lies, what the conflict really is. It is not science versus faith. It is scientism versus faith. It is not a conflict of “fact versus myth”, as some would like to present it. It is a conflict of one worldview against another.
Scrivener ably defended my worldview in his lecture. He left lots of room for true science (observation of nature) as well (indeed, based on his comments, there were lots of Christian scientists in the room with him). He showed that science is not and really cannot be the enemy of The Faith and vice versa. And I completely agree.