Sunday, May 30, 2010

How Christianity Encourages Scientific Inquiry

Kenneth Samples in Without a Doubt (Baker, 2004) has aptly summarized ten ways in which Christian belief creates a hospitable environment for scientific inquiry. (I have modified them somewhat.)

1. The physical universe is an objective reality, which is ontologically distinct from the Creator (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1).

2. The laws of nature exhibit order, pattern, and regularity, since they are established by an orderly God (Psalm 19:1-4).

3. The laws of nature are uniform throughout the physical universe, since God created and providentially sustains them.

4. The physical universe is intelligible because God created us to know himself, ourselves, and the rest of creation. (Genesis 1-2; Proverbs 8).

5. The world is good, valuable, and worthy of careful study, because it was created for a purpose by a perfectly good God (Genesis 1). Humans, as the unique image bearers of God, were created to discern, discover, and develop the goodness of creation for the glory of God and human betterment through work. The creation mandate (Genesis 1:26-28) includes scientific activity.

6. Because the world is not divine and therefore not a proper object of worship, it can be an object of rational study and empirical observation.

7. Human beings possess the ability to discover the universe’s intelligibility, since we are made in God’s image and have been placed on earth to develop its intrinsic possibilities.

8. Because God did not reveal everything about nature, empirical investigation is necessary to discern the patterns God laid down in creation.

9. God encourages, even propels, science through his imperative to humans to take dominion over nature (Genesis 1:28).

10. The intellectual virtues essential to carrying out the scientific enterprise (studiousness, honesty, integrity, humility, and courage) are part of God’s moral law (Exodus 20:1-17).

While Christianity and science have had their scuffles, there is nothing inherent in the Christian worldview that is inimical to science rightly understood.


Lars Larson said...

Honestly. You MUST be kidding. If it were up to Christianity, we wouldn't even know what those little lights in the SKY st NIGHT are.

Get a GRIP. If you are going to deny it all please...don't try to take CREDIT for it at the same time.

Doug Groothuis said...

Mr. Larson:

I usually don't publish ad hominem attacks, but your's can serve a lesson.

The scientific revolution was wrought by Christians or non-Christian theists. A raft of scholars realize this, including Alfred North Whitehead, Stanley Jaki, and more recently, Rodney Stark. The reasons I gave are just the reasons that propelled thinkers like Faraday, Kepler, Newton, and others.

Tom Gilson said...


Aside from your not having engaged with the arguments presented here (not a small thing in itself, for one who seeks to overturn such arguments), you also seem to be missing out on some important facts. Do you know what Tycho Brahe's religious convictions were? Or Copenicus's? Or (yes, him too) Galileo's? Don't you think they helped us develop some understanding of what those "little lights" are?

What do you suppose Newton wrote more on: mathematics, science, or theology? (I'll let you look that up.)

Did James Clerk Maxwell advance our understanding of physics at all? How about Faraday? Both of them were very much motivated by their Christian beliefs.

More recently: do you know what Harvard astronomer Owen Gingerich believes about God? How about rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun?

I think getting a "GRIP" is a great idea, nicely suitable for those whose grip on facts in the history of science may be looser than he thought it was.

Anonymous said...

"If it were up to Christianity, we wouldn't even know what those little lights in the SKY st NIGHT are."

That's odd, because the writer of Genesis knew that there were a vast number of stars, akin to the number of grains of sand in the sea.

And he knew it when people at that time (and for a couple thousands more years) thought there were only 1,100 stars or so. (See Genesis chapters 15, 22 and 32.)

The writer sure was lucky, eh?

He also made a "lucky" and rather confident assertion that the universe came into being a point in time.

Human Ape said...

Since you people are invoking Newton, here's some facts about him:

Newton was an extremely brilliant scientist, but because of his belief in a god, his brilliance was sometimes wasted.

Newton figured out how it was possible for our planet to orbit our star. He even was able to sort out the problem with our moon affecting our planet's orbit. But when he tried to account for the how the earth could stay in its orbit despite the influence of all those other planets, he gave up and invoked god to explain the problem. A century had to go by before another scientist solved all of Newton's problems without the god hypothesis.

Newton could have solved his problems himself. He was too quick to give up, thanks to his belief in a god. The scientific progress he made was despite his religious beliefs, not because of them.

A quote for you people to consider:

If the history of science teaches us anything, it is that what conquers our ignorance is research, not giving up and attributing our ignorance to the miraculous work of a creator.
-- Jerry Coyne

Human Ape said...

7. Human beings possess the ability to discover the universe’s intelligibility, since we are made in God’s image and have been placed on earth to develop its intrinsic possibilities.

I'm sorry but the 2nd part of the above statement is not true.

People were most definitely not made in any god's image. Our species developed from ancient apes. We weren't made by any supernatural creature who looks like us. This is a scientific fact.

This post has the title "How Christianity Encourages Scientific Inquiry" but you seem to be proving that you belong to an anti-science religion. It's also obvious you know absolutely nothing about science.

Even worse, on your list of recommended links is the Discovery Institute website. This Christian creationist organization exists to attack science education.

Sorry, but you help give Christianity the bad reputation it has.

Christianity Encourages Scientific Inquiry? You have shown that Christianity encourages ignorance.

Scott L said...

Very nice article. Much of what I hear today tries to separate science from religion (whichever it may be) and make it an us vs them argument, with both sides being guilty of picking a team. Refreshing to see an article that shows how the two may be linked, thanks for the read!

Anonymous said...

One of the key traits of the Scottish Christians was their use of the scientific method in understanding the world God created. Lars obviously doesn't understand history, which shows if it wasn't for blogs like this one, he would continue to believe all that leftist junk he was taught in schools growing up.

Kathy said...

Here's a neat little list of scientists past and present who believe(d) in creation, most in Biblical creation. They include such minor scientists as Sir Francis Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Robert Boyle, Sir Isaac Newton, Linneaus, Herschel, Sir Humphrey Davy, etc.

Human Ape said...

Or (yes, him too) Galileo's?

It's amazing that Christians invoke Galileo. It was Galileo who had so much trouble with the pope who didn't want to believe the earth was not the center of the universe.

Christianity has a long history of getting in the way of human progress, and unfortunately this is still a problem today.

For example, Christian parents of the Deep South like to harass, yell at, and threaten biology teachers.

Evolution's Lonely Battle in a Georgia Classroom

Dr. V said...

Here's a book that Mr. Larson might find helpful:

Nancy Pearcey & Charles Thaxton's The Soul of Science.

Human Ape said...

"Sir Francis Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Robert Boyle, Sir Isaac Newton, Linneaus, Herschel, Sir Humphrey Davy, etc."

They all died before Darwin was born.

Way to be current.

Doug Groothuis said...

Our Ape Friend is quite prolific.

Apparently, "evolution denier" is like holocaust denier. Guilt by association there, of course.

I do not deny evolution, at least micro-evolution. I deny naturalism as a philosophical system as capable of explaining everything in the biosphere. For example, it cannot account for the information in DNA. See Stephen Meyer, The Signature in the Cell.

Yes, Newton wrongly invoked divine intervention at one point. So what? Does that mean that all appeals to such are wrong? No. Do you rule out design explanations in principle? If so, why? Darwin supposedly defeated design by evidence, but you seem to allow no evidence to the contrary. Is that consistent?

Doug Groothuis said...


One more: there are numerous credentialed scientists today who deny Darwinism or question its ability to explain everything. See the statement to this effect at There are hundreds.

Doug Groothuis said...


You also got the Galileo story wrong. It is a common caricature. But since I am a Protestant, I see no need to defend papal power in this respect.

Kathy said...

The real story about Galileo. Oh and btw, the whole "flat earth" thing in Columbus's day was made up by Washington Irving, if that was going to be your next sally.

Kathy said...

"Sir Francis Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Robert Boyle, Sir Isaac Newton, Linneaus, Herschel, Sir Humphrey Davy, etc."

They all died before Darwin was born.

Exactly -- they were the ones who *started* science!! Duh!

Way to be current.
I deliberately chose those names from those who predated Darwin. If you look at the link, you'll see probably a few hundred names of *current* scientists who don't believe in evolution.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

In Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer makes a number of false claims about information theory. I discuss them here.

Word said...

For a discussion of some of Jeffrey Shallit's criticisms of Stephen Meyer's (alleged) misunderstanding of information theory, check Casey Luskin's chapter (pages 83-88) in the online book Signature of Controversy: Responses to Critics of Signature in the Cell. The online book can be found here.

Russell said...

Would Human Ape be willing to explain how life came into existence for us?

It seems the naturalist knows "for sure" how we got to this stage, but typically has no idea how we got here to begin with.