Why Should Christians Care About Science?

By Jennifer J. Wiseman

Jesus told his followers that the two greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, and to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40). What does this have to do with science? Should a follower of Jesus—since ancient times called a “Christian”— even give much thought to science?

It helps if we consider what science is, as understood today. My online dictionary calls it “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”  That’s a pretty good place to start, along with technology being likewise described as “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes.”

Next we must recognize that nearly everything in modern life is affected in some way by advances in science and technology.  Agriculture, entertainment, energy production, communications, and health care are just a few of the ways science and technology shape life for people around the globe, and affect all other life on the planet as well. We are all interconnected, with science and technology as the portal for many of those connections.   So if we return to those “great commandments,” practically speaking, “loving your neighbor” involves technology and science. The better we understand the fundamental workings of nature, be it for medicine, food production, or environmental stewardship, the better we can use it to serve others, including people and all creatures, and uplift their lives.

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One does not need to look hard to find such issues. Genetic modifications of crops may help feed a fast-growing population around the globe, yet environmental and cultural concerns are significant.  Climate change is already having a significant impact, but proper predictions and responses will better serve people around the world, especially the world’s poor who are likely to suffer the most as environmental change threatens their livelihood. And fundamental advances in genetics and neuroscience will help us better understand the crucial connections between our genes, our brains, our environment, our health, and our behavior.

But what about basic research—the kinds of scientific studies that don’t seem to have any practical application, at least not in the near term? What about searching for the Higgs Boson? Refining string theory? Monitoring the outflowing jets from a black hole in another galaxy? Studying animal behavior? This kind of work sometimes conjures up everything from puzzled stares to the occasional scorn of a skeptical politician, especially since all research involves funding. But basic research and understanding form the essential platform upon which all the applied sciences are built.  And we don’t usually know what kinds of practical applications will someday blossom from the root of basic research. A classic example is Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, a fundamental, mind-blowing treatise on unexpected fundamental physical principles of space-time. And yet if we didn’t know about and include the effects of general relativity in technology today, none of our GPS devices would work accurately. So even basic research without an immediate practical application can be included in the rubric of “loving thy neighbor,” with the anticipation that such knowledge may someday be applied to caring for others and the stewardship of the planet…

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Why Should Christians Care About Science?