Responding to the Non-Christian Biology Classroom
By Heather Zeiger
Many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, believe that faith is antithetical to science. This is based, however, on a purely naturalistic view of science. The naturalist’s presupposition is that reality is only described by the physical world; there is no immaterial or supernatural realm. Because of this, many Christians who want to study the sciences often find themselves in an environment that, at its best, excuses the supernatural as a personal preference, and, at its worst, considers religion a crutch for the intellectually dull and weak-willed.
Is There a Conflict between Faith and Science? I dislike the “faith versus science” mentality, because it implies that to have faith is to be unscientific and to be scientific means to abandon faith. Faith and science are not on opposite sides of the spectrum, although I would say that theology and science are different academic disciplines. The real tension is between two different worldviews. One worldview, naturalism, assumes there is nothing beyond nature. This idea is not new. The ancient Greeks had groups (e.g. the atomists) who believed all of reality sprang from matter, but this was a minority position.1 Historically the predominant worldview in the West was theism. This assumes both natural and supernatural explanations of reality. Some of the greatest scientists of all time operated under theistic presuppositions. Many of them assumed the existence of the Christian God and were motivated to study nature to understand Him.2
What Is Evolution and What Is Darwinism? Different presuppositions can make conversation difficult. The Christian student may find himself at odds with some of the presuppositions in the modern-day science class. One way to foster an effective dialogue in this diverse atmosphere is to understand how the other people with differing views define the same terms you use. Once you define your terms, you have a starting point for conversation. For example, “evolution” is a slippery term. There are several definitions of evolution that are used interchangeably, including but not limited to3 (1) Change over time (the most general definition of evolution); (2) Adaptation of a species to changes in its environment (microevolution); (3) Natural selection acting on mutations explains the origin of species (Neo-Darwin- ism); and (4) The first cell or proto-cell arose from nonliving chemical processes (origin of life).
Many scientists do not make a distinction between the various definitions. For example, adaptation to the environment is something that is observed all of the time, and I would argue is one of the strongest contributions from evolutionary theory. However, to say that since this definition is true, therefore all the definitions must be true is to go beyond the data…
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