|science and authority|
| Today we hear about a conflict between those who trust in “science” and those who trust in a higher authority. Naturalists often treat the scientific method as the final arbiter of truth while Christians trust in God and the Bible. This seems like science versus authority, but it’s really one authority against another. If science could disprove God or the Bible, we would consider science to be a higher standard. We would treat it as an authority.
When scientists study the cosmos, what authority tells them that their interpretation is correct? What guides them to the proper conclusions?
Naturalists say that there is no final authority. Yet, they recognize an objective standard of truth and treat it as an authority. If someone says that the moon is made of green cheese or that the earth is flat, they will reject such a statement. It does not make sense to use objective truth as an authority unless it is an authority.
Objective truth is absolute. It rules out the relativist notion of “your truth and my truth.” It rules out the cheese moon and the flat earth. It points to one reality and one final authority.
We see authority in the way we use “facts” on each other. When someone says, “Here are the facts,” we feel personally obligated to acknowledge the facts and to adjust our thinking accordingly.
While science points to an objective authority, it never becomes that authority. Science is human knowledge, so it is always in a process. It is moving, growing, evolving. The scientists’ understanding of the truth grows and changes while the truth remains constant.
What is this authority on which science depends? It’s not the scientists, so maybe it’s the cosmos. Scientists are students of nature. They study the universe and gain knowledge through it, but the universe doesn’t literally teach them anything. We gain empirical knowledge by studying the cosmos, but that knowledge is authoritative and points us beyond the impersonal cosmos. Thus, naturalism fails to explain the truth of science.
Theists have an explanation. The objective truth is authoritative, because it reflects God. Christians don’t choose between science and authority. They treat science and religion as two complementary kinds of knowledge. Christians use their beliefs to interpret nature. In fact, everyone does.
Thomas Kuhn wrote, “No natural history can be interpreted in the absence of at least some implicit body of intertwined theoretical and methodological belief that permits selection, evaluation, and criticism.” In other words, everyone uses some philosophical framework in which to interpret the natural world.
|* Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Pg 16|