Science has an essential dual meaning at its heart, with which the first meaning can be seen to logically compliment the second and vice-versa. On one hand it is the name given to the methods used for gaining objective knowledge about the natural world, as well as a word used to refer to the organized body of knowledge gained through these methods.
- 1 Historical context
- 2 Scientific Method
- 3 Defining Science
- 4 Categories of sciences
- 5 Branches Of Science
- 6 Relationship Among The Different Sciences
- 7 Summary
- 8 Related References
- 9 See Also
- Main article: History of science
In the past two centuries, attacks against the Christian faith have grown at an alarming rate. Critics have tried to use all possible fields of study and investigation to assault the Bible. In the minds of some, "science" has turned out to be their best weapon.
This is the age of science. Scientific investigations have caused technology to grow explosively. Things which were considered a luxury yesterday have become commonplace today. Everyone is dazzled by the achievements and modern gadgets of science which have infiltrated the present day society. The education system is permeated with science, and unless a person is able to obtain a high degree in science, technology, or medicine, he is kept out of the world of lucrative jobs. Science, has become an object of awe and worship.
The aura that surrounds science today is being used effectively to intimidate people with statements like "Science has disproved the Bible" or that "Modern science has shown that Bible is an outdated book". The listener often accepts these statements as true because in his mind 'science' stands for a staggering collection of knowledge against which no educated person can argue. Frequently this attitude gives rise to great mental conflict and anguish. This person does not know what to do. On one hand he accepts the Bible to be the true word of God, but on the other hand he cannot reject science, which is the result of careful investigations. This kind of conflict produces serious hindrances in spiritual commitment and growth, and the person lives a life of constant uncertainty. This would not happen, however, if people have a proper understanding of what 'science' is.
Usually people use the word 'science' to imply as though it represents a single, absolute, and unified collection of truth. This is a completely erroneous idea because the scientific knowledge acquired by science is a collection of many categories of truth, all of which are NOT equally true or established. Actually science is a collection of different categories of information, some of which have high validity while others are yet to be tested or established. Some of it might even be false. This means that we must start with an overview of what science is.
- Main Article: Scientific method
The scientific method is a way to engage in scientific research regarding observations and through questions that are used to find predictability and thus scientific observation. Regardless of the presupposition one holds towards the origin of life, if strict adherence to the scientific method is maintained then factual data will follow.
- Main article: Philosophy of science
The actual definition of science and its branches is an activity that requires a good background in philosophy. Not many people have this kind of academic preparation, and nor is it necessary to draw facts essential for our discussion. Therefore we will keep our discussion simple and straightforward, confined to the points essential to draw conclusions good and valid for apologetics.
"Science" is the name given to the knowledge that has accumulated as a result of man's quest to understand the world. "Science" is also the name given collectively to the methods used for gaining objective knowledge and insight about the cosmos. The methods of obtaining this knowledge have been refined and made more objective and reliable in each generation.
More recently, the scientific community has become overwhelmed by a naturalist majority that is governed by a worldview that is based on an 'a priori' philosophical assumption of naturalism. This initial philosophical assumption of naturalism then *requires* that "science" provide a natural explanation for all existing phenomenae. This means that "science" *must* return a naturalistic hypothesis, theory and model. In such a community, scientists are forbidden 'by definition' from considering supernatural agents of any kind and this is the natural limitation of science.
The problem arises because scientists try to provide 'answers' for unobserved and unobservable events (e.g., the creation of life and the universe) that they should simply admit are "outside the bounds of science". Since such an admission would make the limitations of 'science' quite clear, scientists feel compelled to provide 'answers' that are beyond the limitations of their discipline in order to retain their position as 'ultimate authority'.
If a person is, in fact, looking at a supernaturally-created physical observation (like life or the universe) *and* they fell compelled to provide an 'answer' that is beyond the natural limits of their discipline *and* they have limited their acceptable responses to 'natural-only' (i.e., "science"); this approach will 'by definition' return the wrong answer.
Technology is the name used to designate all the practical applications of scientific information. Thus the science of physics studies properties of matter (say silicon), while technology harvests these insights to make useful products (say computer chips) for commercial, industrial, and utilitarian applications. Thus science and technology are two distinct activities, mutually dependent for each other's growth. At the same time there are many areas where it is difficult to distinguish between these two enterprises.
Categories of sciences
Exact and inexact sciences
The branches of sciences can roughly be divided into two categories: Exact Sciences and Non Exact Sciences. Exact sciences would include physics, chemistry, biology, etc. while the non exact sciences would include history, sociology and disciplines related to humanities. In the exact sciences we have greater certainty of information, whereas in the non exact sciences we do not have that degree of definiteness. For example in physics one knows definitely that iron will float in mercury. On the other hand, in history one is not cent per cent sure of exactly who caused Taj Mahal to be made into its final form !
Within the exact sciences some branches allow more exactness than the others. For example physics and chemistry allow a better level of exactness than what zoology or botany do. Some of the exact sciences have an analytical function, while others are mostly descriptive. In some subjects it is easy to find a straightforward reason for why some behaviour is seen, while in other sciences it at present impossible to advance much beyond a detailed description of things as they stand.
Within the non exact sciences also, some branches allow more exactness than others. Some are easily influenced by personal subjectivity, while others are influenced to a lesser degree. As a consequence it is easy to recognize bias in some of these subjects while in others it is very difficult to do this.
The methods available for study and analysis differ from one discipline to another, and many times the methods of investigation or analysis valid in one fields is not valid or not applicable in another subject. For example, measurement of mass plays a great role in physics while it plays only relatively insignificant role in historical analysis. Only one thing is common to the multitudes of these methods of investigation : Logic. It can be defined as that discipline of study which supplies the norms and standards to evaluate truth, and separate true conclusions from false ones.
Thus the world of science is a collection of exact and non exact branches of learning, each with its own differing method of investigation an analysis, which are often incompatible with each other. Great care has to be taken when one talks of Bible and Science.
We are very much for science and scientific activity. In fact the author has been actively involved in scientific research (in physics) for over a decade. However, we are against the misuse of science and its name: all kind of misuse, including its wrong and unjustified use against the Bible.
To understand the issues involved, and to be able to face the biased attacks coming up against the Bible, it will be helpful to understand a little more in detail the branches of sciences, and their interrelationship. It is difficult here to do this comprehensively, but the approximate picture given below is sufficient and accurate for the present purpose.
Operational and Origins Science
Creationists, unlike many anticreationists, differentiate between operational science with origins science. They define "operational science" as science which deals with observable, repeatable, and testable phenomenon such as the laws of gravity, the structure of the cell, or chemical reactions: things for which hypotheses can be formed and reliably tested, and which therefore come as close to "proven" as possible.
"Origins science," on the other hand, deals with questions of an unobservable nature: hypotheses about events which only occurred once by their very nature, and which therefore cannot be repeated, tested, or observed. Examples include the origin of the sun, the origin of the Earth, the origin of life, and the origin of humanity. Hypotheses on these issues can be formed, and conclusions can be tentatively inferred from the evidence (e.g. it looks like this might have occurred), but the evidence remains open to interpretation.
Many anticreationists choose not to differentiate between origins science and operational science. For example, evolutionist Richard Dawkins asking the rhetorical question 'How do we know that the earth is four and a half billion years old and that it orbits the sun that nourishes it?' The latter phrase, 'it [the earth] orbits the sun that nourishes it', is a statement of operational science. It is an inference from directly observed scientific data, taken according to Scientific method. It is operational science that is carried out in laboratories and in field work. Its results are reproducible and verifiable.
The first statement above, 'that the earth is four and a half billion years old', is an example of origins science. It is a statement which, by definition, is not capable of being reproducible and cannot be verified. It is based on extrapolation of observations taken in the present, according to a prior assumption, or presupposition, of uniformitarianism. Creation Science rejects this presupposition, therefore interpreting the same observed data according to a different worldview.
This confusion of operational and origins science is seen in the frequent, but naive claim by anticreationists that 'science has disproved the Bible'. What they really mean to say is that their interpretation of data, according to their origins science presuppositions, is incompatible with the Bible. That may well be true in certain circumstances, but does not alter the fact that origins science according to creationist presupposition is completely consistent with a different interpretation of the evidence, as well as compatible with scripture.
Branches Of Science
We are using the word "science" to mean the "world of knowledge". This is the broadest of its meaning. The foundation of all scientific knowledge starts with Logic and Mathematics. They lay down the rules by which an objective interpretation of the world can be obtained, they are called the Normative Sciences. Based on the Normative Sciences we have the Physical Sciences, the Biological Sciences, the Historical Sciences, and the Sociological Sciences. A brief description of each is given below:
- Main Article: Normative science
Logic and Mathematics give us the norms and standards by which any phenomena can be interpreted objectively and without bias. Valid deductions are possible only when everyone involved in acquiring knowledge follows sensible rules. Logic and mathematics provide these guidelines, and therefore these two are the foundation of all sciences. Every deduction has to conform to logical and mathematical stipulations before it can be accepted to be true.
- Main Article: Physical science
The world around us is filled with physical phenomena. In fact a good amount of what happens around us can be explained in terms of these. The turning of milk into curd, the drying of wet clothes, the miracle of medicines, radio, TV, and almost everything like that can be expressed in terms of physics and chemistry.
Physics, Chemistry, and their numerous branches are usually called "physical science". Information obtained with the help of physical sciences tends to be more accurate and reliable than information obtained with the help of other sciences. Mathematics can be applied to them with greater ease, and therefore predictions can be made with more certainty. Physical sciences deal only with repeatable events, and therefore if a particular phenomenon is non-repeatable or non-testable then it does not come under the realm of the physical sciences.
- Main Article: Biology
Biological sciences study living organisms : plants, animals, and human beings. Living organisms are very complex in nature and studying them is not always as straightforward as studying the physical or chemical properties of matter.
Biologists take a lot of help from physics, chemistry, and mathematics, but due to the higher amount of descriptive content biological sciences still remain less exact than the physical sciences.
- Main Article: History
Man has left a lot of history behind him in the past millennia, and reconstructing it is a pleasure to many. In fact understanding the past is very helpful to understand our present, and this in turn helps us to plan our future wisely.
People who lived in the past have left a lot of material with the help of which past history can be reconstructed. This includes, ancient writings, pictures, statues, buildings, vessels, and numerous other objects. Archaeologists unearth them, and others use them to tell us about the past.
Historical sciences are descriptive in nature, not governed by the laws of mathematics. It is not possible to repeat them in a laboratory to test the validity of a particular claim, and therefore they are very much different from physical sciences. At times there is a lot of uncertainty.
Archaeology is the only historical science that offers some form of exact description. However, this exactness represents only one aspect of the historical study of the past. To reconstruct the other side, a lot of gaps have to be filled with the help of careful historical/legal reconstruction, and that introduces a measure of tentativeness to the whole field.
- Main Article: Sociology
The Social Sciences study the collective and individual behaviour of people in society and related activities, including anthropology, sociology, and economics. Man is a very complex being, and therefore his behaviour cannot be predicted with the help of physics, chemistry or mathematical sciences. As a consequence, the social sciences tend to be less exact than the physical sciences.
For obtaining exact results, one should be able to study a subject repeatedly and preferably in a laboratory. Repetition is necessary to check the predictions, and a laboratory situation is necessary to keep an eye on the factors which influence the subject under study. Neither of these conditions is easily met in the sociological sciences and therefore these sciences have many limitations.
Relationship Among The Different Sciences
Ultimately all the branches of learning are interconnected with each other. So much so that some of them will cease to exist without the others.
The Normative Sciences provide the foundation to all learning. Physical Sciences, the Biological Sciences, the Historical Sciences, and the Social Sciences all depend upon the Normative Sciences (Logic and Mathematics). Without Logic and Mathematics all efforts into gaining knowledge are futile.
Each science has its own methodology and subject of interest. Each one is independent of the other in some measure, but at the same time each one needs to borrow ideas and information from the others. The Normative Sciences are the most independent while the Social and Historical sciences are the most dependent upon the others. An investigator of physics might not need the historian but a historian definitely needs the physicist for radiocarbon dating.
The actual picture is much more complex than the summary given above. Still what is given above is sufficient to do justice to the needs of the average inquirer of Science and Faith.
It is very clear from the foregoing discussion that "science" does not represent a unified collection of homogeneous truths. Rather, the sciences are a varied collection of information, the reliability of which differs from subject to subject and also from time to time. Knowing this is essential before one can face those attacks against the Bible which are brought forth in the name of "Science".