Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Science - A State of Affairs

What with my degree being in biology, I do a fair bit of reading and thinking about science in general, science in relation to the Bible, and the nature of science itself. Recently, it is thoughts on the last which have been occupying my mind.

  • What is the purpose of science?
  • How does one approach science?
  • What does science show?
And so forth.

Well, I decided to do a small bit of research and reading on an interesting field known as the philosophy of science, which asks and seeks answers to these questions about science in general as well as to those in specific areas of science.

While reading through a number of the philosophical theories, I saw manners in which almost all of them work, to a degree, within their different aspects and I also was able to enlighten myself on some of the key positions of modern science today.

In a nutshell, science today consists of two camps operating from a coherentist ideology (Statements are justified by virtue of being part of a coherent system). One, creationism and intelligent design, is fairly frank about its basis in coherentism. The other, modern, secular science claims axiomatic assumptions (key, foundational statements about science), but these assumptions are merely outpourings of the larger coherent system or paradigm.

So, if the framework of science consists truly of a set of coherent systems, what then is its purpose and how is science even conducted?

As for the purpose of science, many would claim at first light that it's role is to discover truth, an epistemological position, to be sure, and a noble one at that, but I see science playing a more utilitarian role. Science serves as a tool to further refine and establish one's paradigm. By means of example, we see many creationists and intelligent designers using science in a logical manner to uphold the presence of a divine creator or possibly divine designer. Conversely, evolutionists and other secular scientists use science to establish and uphold the absence of the divine. In both cases science has become merely a tool in the hands of the scientists.

How science is conducted, then, is a rather complex entity. Deduction (following a series of true statements to a conclusion that is necessarily true) and induction (following a series of observations to a conclusion that is probably true) come into play fairly often. These are used often in laboratory sciences and in matters not affecting the overarching paradigm. When discussing paradigm-defining discoveries, abductive reasoning (following a series of statements and observations to a conclusion that best fits) is the modus operandi. By the use of abductive reasoning, we can see that each paradigm operates as a true paradigm, with the entities ascribing to each system modifying minor details as new discoveries arise, interpreting new discoveries as best fits the paradigm, and seeking to work out current or new glitches in order to have a fully coherent, established system of science.

That being said, when an individual finds that the discoveries at hand cannot be effectively worked into his or her current paradigm, then the individual must ignore the new information (and in doing so, commit academic dishonesty), create a theory in absence of further evidence (e.g. punctuated equilibrium), or abandon the paradigm for another, which is often the case where too many inconsistencies occur.

In the face of all of this, what is the take-away for the church?
  1. We need to filter through much of the published scientific literature for the truth beneath the biases.
  2. We need to use the discoveries present to highlight Biblical truth and show evidence for a creator.
  3. We need to uncover our theories in absence and address them, while simultaneously highlighting those of our opponents and our solutions thereto.