Creation and Science

1. Is it scientific to believe in creation?

In our society, science is typically thought to mean “naturalistic.” Naturalism denies any supernatural activity, while creationism affirms it, thus science is by definition in conflict with creationism. However, science might be defined in other ways. If "science" means the study of nature, then creationism would be "scientific” if used as a philosophical context in which to study nature. [1] For some, the term "scientific" means logical belief, as opposed to superstition. This meaning is implicit in "scientism" — the belief that naturalistic science is the only way to discover truth. This is a misuse of the term "scientific" in which the answer is determined by the definition used in the question.

2. Can a Christian be a scientist?

Yes. Many scientists are Christians, [2] even though there is presently considerable prejudice against Christianity in parts of the scientific community. Many of the founders of science believed that God was active in nature, and that they were merely studying His methods of working in nature. [3] History shows that separation of God and nature is not necessary for advancement in knowledge.

3. Isn't it necessary that science be naturalistic?

Science has advanced because scientists sought answers to questions about how events occurred. This can be investigated regardless of whether one believes God is directing the events. Scientists need not believe in naturalism, so long as they seek to understand the mechanism by which events occur. Nevertheless, science is generally concerned with testing predictions derived from specific hypotheses. The hypothesis that God caused an event through means that are not possible to investigate would not be considered a scientific hypothesis, because it cannot be tested.

4. If God's activities were acknowledged by scientists, wouldn't that stifle research?

Belief that God is active in nature did not stifle research for the founders of science, and it need not do so today. The problem to avoid is to fail to investigate a phenomenon because one believes God caused it. Many scientists have been stimulated to study nature because they believed God was active in nature and could be better understood through study of His handiwork.

5. How can we justify rejecting the claims of science about creation when science has been so successful in other areas?

The success of science is largely due to its experimental methodology of defining initial conditions, using controls to separate the effects of individual factors, and repeating the experiment to confirm the results. The results of this methodology have been spectacular in fields as diverse as health care, transportation, communication, space travel, and community development. Scientists have been able to use this experimental approach to discover many general laws that accurately describe and predict events in the physical world. This is what science does best, and experimental science rarely if ever results in conflict with the Bible. The study of history is a different matter. Here, the initial conditions cannot be observed, and there is no methodological control against which to test the effects of individual factors. In some cases, one may attempt to repeat the event, but it may never be possible to do so successfully. Often, the best one can do is study present processes and test them to see which of them provides the best explanation for the observation under study. [4] If the real cause of the historical event is a process no longer in operation, one may never discover the true explanation for the event, and may not realize that the favored explanation is wrong. Despite these limitations, scientists have learned a great deal about the history of the earth. However, when scientists make claims that conflict with the Bible, Christians have good reason to doubt them. Refusal of scientists to even consider the possibility of supernatural processes eliminates the possibility of reaching correct explanations for events caused by supernatural activity. For this reason, those who accept divine activity in history do not feel compelled to accept materialistic explanations for historical events, regardless of the success of science in other areas.

6. What unsolved questions about creation and science are of greatest interest?

How can we achieve harmony between biblical faith and the study of nature? How can we resolve tensions between faith and science?

[1] Philosophies of science from Christian perspectives are given in: (a) Ratzsch D. 1986. Philosophy of Science. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; (b) Pearcey NR, Thaxton CB. 1994. The soul of science: Christian faith and natural philosophy. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, Good News Publishers; (c) Seventh-day Adventists should consult Testimonies to the Church, Vol. 8, p 255-261 for an enlightening statement on God, nature and science.

[2] Ashton JF, editor. 2000. In Six Days. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

[3] Graves D. 1996. Scientists of Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Resources.

[4] A good discussion of method in historical scientific questions is found in Meyer, SC. Signature in the Cell. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2010, 150-172.