Science and Religion: The Importance of Distinctions
by Ken Mann
J.I. Packer’s Knowing God opens with the following, “As clowns yearn to play Hamlet, so I have wanted to write a treatise on God. This book, however is not it. Its length might suggest that it is trying to be, but anyone who takes it that way will be disappointed. It is at best a string of beads…”
That passage expresses the excitement and trepidation with which I start this series of posts. The interaction between science and religion has been a subject that has troubled and fascinated me for my entire Christian life. I have studied the subject informally for many years and for the last three years have been studying it formally through the Science and Religion program at Biola.
What follows are some “beads” that touch on this expansive topic. What I will address is how theology and science should interact. I will present a model, a way of viewing various realms of human knowledge, that will explain both “how” and “should.” Along the way, some will be tempted to hear a discussion of the history of science and religion. While I have found the history of science helpful, the problems confronting Christians and apologists today will not be solved dispelling the myths of Galileo’s persecution.
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Understanding Distinctions Between Domains of Knowledge
The model or paradigm I want to present and use in this series of posts focuses on the distinctions that exist between different domains of human knowledge. For example, there are the various natural sciences: physics, chemistry, biology, etc. There are fields such as history, economics or political science. Every field of study is unique. Each has distinct methods and distinct realms of focus. There are many disciplines that are, for lack of a better term, peers. None of these fields, by their nature, has any claim to authority over any other. Whether they are focused on the causes of skin cancer or on the development of modern socialism, every domain of human knowledge seeks to study and explain some aspect of reality.
What becomes difficult is when two or more disciplines touch on the same aspect of reality. The inadvertent or deliberate practice of some to ignore the limits of their respective disciplines corrupts the subject at hand. Consider just two examples. Modern evolutionary theory (aka Neo-Darwinism) claims to have explained the origin of humanity via natural mechanisms, therefore religious belief in a creator must be false and dismissed. This claim may well undermine certain aspects of Bible, but it cannot falsify the entire Bible as a historical and religious text. From another extreme, some advocates of the young earth view claim that any science supporting an ancient creation must be false or misunderstood because creation is less than 10,000 years old…
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