Monday, September 20, 2010

Christianity's Anti-Science Conditioning

Christians are often reasonable people. Looking back on my own mindset as a Christian I regard myself as having been a reasonable Christian. Sure, I was younger and a little more ignorant, but still reasonable.

Did I have a deep understanding of evolutionary theory? No. But of course I did reject it. What logically comes with that rejection is the conclusion that the scientific method, while OK, is probably not exceptionally reliable. It's certainly not fool proof, as anyone must admit. But more than that it really isn't the best method for coming to know truth. I'm doing much better reading the likes of Phillip Johnson and J.P. Moreland than I would be in following overwhelming scientific consensus.

This mindset spilled over into other areas of my life, and as I look back I'm finding that in every case I can think of where I've gone against the scientific grain today I regard having done that as a mistake. I did buy off on some of the homeopathic claims. I spent a few bucks on snake oil. Climate change? Of course that was bunk. Just like evolutionists have some sort of God hating agenda and the scientific method is not capable of correcting for such biases, in the same way global warming types basically want to run our lives like Stalinist commissars. I will resist their encroachments on my liberty.

It's true that I'm not an expert in climate science. But here's what I do know. 98% of climate experts accept the general conclusions of the IPCC report. The lesson I've learned from my past is that rejecting the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is unlikely to lead to truth. Sure, it's possible that they can all be wrong, but is it likely? And what method of knowing truth is more reliable than following scientific consensus? They'll be wrong sometimes. But who won't be wrong sometimes? What is the alternative?

On Christian radio here in Detroit we have WMUZ, which is Bob Dutko's station. I kid you not, they advertise hyperbolic chambers. On Saturdays they have call in shows with homeopaths recommending ionized water and various trace vitamins as solutions to health problems. And of course Dutko will occasionally go off on global warming as if it's a joke. In a relative sense Christians like this in fact reject science. That's not really irrational from the starting point of biblically based science that rejects the theory of evolution.

And I don't really care if people reject evolution. But I do care if people reject facts that could lead to massive human catastrophe. We must consider strategies for convincing Christians of the true reliability of science. Perhaps it's useful to do so in a way that doesn't threaten their religious beliefs. Is that possible? It might be.


Darf Ferrara said...

The lesson I've learned from my past is that rejecting the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is unlikely to lead to what I now believe to be method for determining the truth, which is the current consensus of the scientific community.


Jon said...

No. I've come to various conclusions via my own methods (personal study rather than scientific consensus) and ultimately reached conclusions that I would have always held had I originally accepted scientific consensus. So for instance initially I was very sympathetic to certain claims about how you can correct your eyesight with exercises for the eyes. I was made aware of the scientific consensus concerning the issue, but wasn't too moved by that, thinking that I need to evaluate the evidence myself. Having done that I came to realize that the scientific consensus was probably right.

My conclusions about scientific consensus then are not circular. I didn't learn that I define a reliable conclusion as a scientific one. I concluded that scientific conclusions were reliable because I was persuaded by arguments and evidence.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I wanted to let you know I just used a quote from this post in my post about how church comes off to youth that they are opposed to church. You perfectly articulated what I had been feeling. Love love LOVE this post!