The Problem of Science

In the modern world, there is not a continuum between two points, belief and unbelief, but rather a continuum between at least three points: belief, secular humanist unbelief, and anti-humanist unbelief.



In this three-way conflict, two points of the triangle team up to oppose the third point on a particular issue. Christians and secular humanists both oppose the celebration of violence or sheer meaningless in the nihilist point of the triangle. Secular humanists and nihilists team up against Christians, pointing out how silly we are to believe in Transcendence.

Surprisingly, there is a conflict over science. This is actually somewhere where Christians and secular humanists have common ground. According to Christianity and secular humanists, science is possible, but according to more extreme forms of reductive materialism, science is impossible.



In the nihilist corner,

There is no God.

There is no truth.

The mind is a cosmic accident, and our thoughts untrustworthy.

Natural laws are false and arbitrary constructions.

Science is impossible.

It looks something like this:



Culturally, we have undermined science, but we don’t know it yet. We think we’re still in the Enlightenment when we’re in the counter-Enlightenment. The Enlightenment thinkers kicked out the foundation of God. The counter-Enlightenment thinkers kicked out the pillars of truth, mind, and natural law. We think, because the house hasn’t fallen, that everything’s OK. But everything’s not OK.

Christians, and many secular humanists, still affirm truth, mind, and natural law. But many others don’t. Postmodernists deny truth; that undermines science. Reductive materialism doubts or denies that ability of the mind to know anything; that undermines science. Reductive materialism thinks natural laws are arbitrary constructions, forms humans are trying to impose on nature in order to fake meaning in a meaningless universe; that undermines science.

So how do you respond?

If you believe science is possible, how do justify science against the attacks of reductive nihilist materialism? The existence of God, the Church, and the love of Christ are not the only things open to question and attack. Even science, truth, mind, reason, and natural law are all open to question and attack. How do you justify science? If science is possible, how do you justify truth, mind, and natural law?

Why were Newton and Maxwell incredible scientific minds? Because Christianity provides a firm metaphysical, philosophical foundation for science. God knows everything. Humans are created in the image of God. Through God’s gifts of knowledge and wisdom, including through science, human beings can have accurate knowledge of the world. But because of sin, something has gone horribly wrong. We turn science into Science, an idol that we use to shut God and righteousness out of the picture. The image of God is marred: we use Science to vaporize Japanese children with atomic bombs, to burn Vietnamese children with napalm, to perform Dr. Mengele’s experiments, to suck babies brains out, and to hide human beings in freezers. Mad scientists are real. They are evil. And maybe I have a mad scientist in my own heart trying to get out. The image of God remains, so we use science to gaze in wonder at the night sky, and to behold the crazy, intricate dances of ecosystems, things whose beauty, diversity, and unity are telling us about the splendor of the triune God. The image of God remains, so we use science to alleviate poverty, for medicine, clean water, food, and to improve human quality of life. Science when rightly used, increases our love for God and love for neighbor. Science, when idolatrously used and divorced from righteousness, results in rebellion against God and great wickedness toward our neighbor.

2000 years ago on a cross, Christ died even for mad scientists to make them new.



3 thoughts on “The Problem of Science

  1. Interesting post. I have read some of Nietzche and you may have over simplified some of his views. One can learn from his writings even if one disagrees with his conclusions. His Geneology of Morals presents some challenges to those who are religious. The sad fact is that there have been abuses of authority in organized religions, (sadly) including Christianity. One can be a good, loving Christian and see that there have been abuses.

    Your point about science, the idolatry of it, is correct. People ought to recognize that science has its limitations and science is not competent to speak on the spiritual dimension of man.


    1. I agree that I have over-simplified Nietzche. Do you think it is better to use a more inclusive term like “nihilistic materialism” or “reductive materialism”?


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