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Epistemology, Part 5

June 30, 2012

“Religion is dead and science is king.” “Now we can get rid of all myths and religions since we know the scientific answers to reality.” “I can’t take a leap of faith to believe in religion, I only trust what can be proven by science.” Again, we’ve all heard these sayings or slightly different versions of them. Christians have encountered a world of skepticism from various people due to society’s strong commitment to the scientific method. How do we as Christians stand against an overwhelming consensus of opinion about how science has disproved Christianity? Or, how do we move the skeptic who only accepts what is provable by science to consider the biblical storyline?

Well, this week I want us to consider the epistemological (how we know what we know) status society has given to science in seeking to have a comprehensive knowledge. The comprehensive search for knowledge is in order to have certainty which in turn makes life meaningful. I also want to show that it’s not as strong as an epistemological foundation as modernists might believe.

The understanding that all reality can ultimately be explained by or through science is called Empiricism.  Since the Enlightenment and the publication of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, Western Civilization has jettisoned the biblical storyline and has instead sought to explain everything in terms of reason. More specifically, they have sought to explain reality through the reasoning of science. How did science get such a stronghold as the ultimate basis of knowledge?

With the understanding that the universe was based on fixed principles, which we now call scientific laws (ex. Gravity), Mystery began to be replaced with scientific understanding. No longer were spirit beings or ghosts needed to explain why things fell from shelves. Gravity was now the culprit! This extended further and further into areas until the biblical God was no longer needed to ‘explain’ reality. Science had already or at least one day, they believe, would be able to explain all things.  Now we even ‘know’ how we got here. God didn’t create us. We evolved through a scientific process. At least that’s what is claimed.

Biblical explanations of reality began to be replaced with scientific formulas and reasons for how and why things were the way they were. Western man began to see less and less need for the biblical worldview and instead adopted a naturalist worldview. Naturalism is the belief that nature is all there is  and ever will be. Therefore, the assumption goes that if anything exists it must be explained in terms of material reality and laws. In short, appealing to a supernatural Being (God) is not needed. Science does not need to be limited by religious myths. With a view like this, how can biblical Christianity stand? Is it inevitable science will win as the ultimate epistemology? Will science be able to ultimately explain all of reality?

No, science neither has nor ever will be able to explain ultimate reality in terms of how we know what we know. Why is that? Because empiricism is itself a belief system. Empericism is the belief that everything can and must be explained through the scientific method. But it’s a belief system that cannot stand against scrutiny. Empericism will also, like the other forms of knowledge we’ve looked at so far, lead to uncertainty and skepticism. Why is that?

Science by its very nature is limited. It is itself of and from creation. It can never test for or know of immaterial, spiritual things since the scientific method by definition only deals w/ material things. Further, science is limited because of the ability of man to develop enough tools, gather enough data, and put it all together in such a way that it explains everything about reality in ALL its relationships to the rest of reality. This science cannot do. It would take infinite resources, tools, and intellect to do so. Only God meets these qualifications.

Ironically enough, the scientific method cannot account for everyday reality. What is justice, love, hope, dreams, etc in a scientific method only world? A large part of ‘human-ness’ dies with an empericists only worldview. Further, the claim is self refuting. How do you through empericism prove your philosophy of “I only believe what can be scientifically proven”? This very statement can’t be scientifically proven. It falls under its own weight.

Empericists should also consider based on their own worldview they do not even have a reason for having things called ‘laws’. How is this so? Because if all that exists is matter which is evolving, how do you base your science on anything? If everything is changing, even if so slowly, how can you have certainty that the experiment you did yesterday will still come out the same way today? Consider: naturalistic empiricism will never be able to get past the 1st experiment. They’d have to keep repeating it to have certainty about its results for today. Something more certain must guide our life. Genesis 3 is what we will look at next week.

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