A 2011 study by the Barna group on why 60% of young Christians disconnect from the church after age 15 shows that nearly one-quarter of those former believers say it is because the church is “anti-science.” You probably won’t be shocked to learn that this assertion is reinforced and spread by various atheist organizations. For example, in a recent article describing their 2011 ad campaigns, American Humanist Association executive director Roy Speckhardt said, "Humanists get their knowledge from science rather than ancient texts and divine revelations."
As a Christian, you’ve no doubt talked to various unbelievers about Christ and asked them what they believed in. I did this recently with a young atheist who was sent my way for debate, and his answer was “I believe in science!” What was missing from his statement but clearly implied was “unlike you, your backwards-thinking, non-scientific superstitionist!”
What do you say when someone tells you they only believe in science and think Christianity is lame because it supposedly doesn’t? Do you find yourself at a loss in knowing how best to respond? If so, maybe I can help.
Step 1--Confront the False Dilemma
A false dilemma attempts to drive a person into an either/or answer when a third alternative exists. Unbelievers are being conditioned to believe they must choose between science and Christianity when in fact they can have their cake and eat it, too.
Remind the person you’re talking to that history is pregnant with brilliant scientists who have been believers. Men like like Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Boyle, Ray, Linnaeus, and Cuvier were all Christians as are more recent great thinkers like Collins and Polkinghorne.
When being confronted with the stark reality that the universe did indeed have a beginning, Einstein said, “I want to know how God created this world . . . . I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”
Tell your unbelieving friend if these guys could somehow be committed scientists and recognize God existed, then they shouldn’t have a problem either.
Step 2--Disarm the False Faith
Science is great. Scientism isn’t. Scientism is a philosophy (really a "faith") that says we should only believe what can be scientifically proven. Therefore, since you can’t easily put God under a microscope, well, He’s out. Few of the “the church is anti-science” crowd will outright admit they adhere to scientism, but implicitly that’s their position.
When I meet someone like this, I ask: “So you’re saying that science is the only source of truth?” Upon getting a “Yes,” I then say, “Well, you’ve got a problem. You see, the statement, ’We should only believe what can be scientifically proven,’ is a truth claim that cannot be scientifically proven because it is a philosophical statement, and so based on your own criteria, you have to reject it.”
An awkward pause almost always follows as the person realizes his worldview has just been dealt a knockout punch.
I then ask them to realize that using science to gain knowledge is great, but a “science-only” position ignores other well-respected systems for obtaining knowledge. For example, the legal/historical method of discovering truth is used every day. The legal method does not ignore testimony or facts because they are not reproducible or testable. By a process of elimination and corroboration, the legal method allows history and testimony to speak for itself until a verdict is reached beyond a reasonable doubt and the balance of probability is achieved.
So, for instance, I did not witness various battles that occurred through history, and I cannot reproduce the Gallic wars, so I must rely on documents and independent testimony to determine its plausibility.
I also provide examples of other areas where a “science-only” stance fails. For example, can science prove that the Nazi’s were evil? Can it reach the conclusion that a sunset is beautiful? No, but both are true.
Lastly, I remind the person I’m talking to that scientism is guilty of committing the “nothing-buttery” logical fallacy, which is a reductive fallacy that argues something is nothing more than some mere aspect of it. Common examples include, “the mind is nothing more than the brain” and “thought is nothing more than a chemical reaction.”
When I encounter someone who thinks like this, I always ask them (if they’re married or are currently involved with someone), “On special occasions like Valentine’s Day, do you look at your partner and say, ‘Sweetheart, I love you!’ or do you say, ‘Sweetheart, I’m having a chemical reaction!’"?
They get the point.
The bottom line is that certain kinds of tests are appropriate for different realms of thought. A science-only position just can’t tow the line.
Step 3--Demonstrate the False Position
What bothers me so much about the “church is anti-science” position is that there has never been a time in history when science has more greatly supported the conclusion that a Creator God exists. Never.
To assert that science and the idea of God are at odds is simply a false position. Simply put, it’s a lie--one that can quickly be put to bed fairly quickly.
One question I often ask unbelievers who deny God is where they think everything we know came from. They usually stumble a little bit, so I help them with a true either/or position: the only two choices are matter before mind or mind before matter.
When given those options, their natural choice is “Matter!” I then gently inform them that there are a couple of problems with that choice.
First, I explain that every drop of science we have says that matter isn’t eternal. In other words, it hasn’t always existed. Everything science has at its disposal says the universe--matter, energy, space, and time--had a beginning. Something brought it into existence. Of this fact, there is no scientific debate. Amazingly, this just happens to jive with the very first verse in the Bible.
Next, I tell them science proves that matter alone is incapable of producing life as we know it. Science says that any effect must reflect its cause in essence. In other words, you can’t give what you don’t have. For example, if I don’t have love, I can’t give love.
And based on that fact, here’s a question I have yet to have any unbeliever successfully answer for me: “Can you explain how an impersonal, amoral, meaningless and purposeless universe accidentally created personal beings who are obsessed with meaning, purpose, and morals?” You can’t get those things from a lump of matter.
Life just doesn’t work that way, and science proves it. Take DNA for example. Being a database engineer for the past 20 years, I know something about information. DNA is full of it (literally). One strand of DNA has the equivalent of 600,000 pages of information--not data, information--digital information.
The top atheist in the world--Oxford biology professor Richard Dawkins--says, “If you want to understand life think about digital technology.” Now listen to atheist biology professor Herbert Yockey on DNA technology: “It is important to understand that we are not reasoning by analogy. The sequence hypothesis applies directly to the protein and the genetic text as well as to written language, and, therefore, the treatment is mathematically identical.”
Yockey says DNA is mathematically identical to a language. Question: when has a language ever arisen without an intelligent cause?
Carl Sagan, the atheist, once said, "If we can get only one intelligent message from outer space, we'll know there is intelligent life out there." Here’s the funny thing: when the archaeologist goes into a cave and sees some scratches on the wall, he determines an intelligent mind has been there. We have 600,000 pages of digital information in one strand of DNA, and there are actually people who want to say that there was no intelligent source to it?
Matter before mind? Honest science says that just ain’t so. Even J. S. Mill, no friend to Christianity, said: “It is self-evident that only mind can create mind.”
Conclusion--Yes, You can be a Believer in Science and Christianity
Losing such a large percentage of young Christian believers to the false dilemma, false faith, and false position of the church being anti-science is tragic. It’s time to take a stand in this area and “destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5) so that the minds of young people aren’t deceived.
This means that you and I need to get the truth out and be ready to give an answer (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) the next time an unbeliever says to us, “I only believe in science!”