Results tagged “Science” from Reformation21 Blog

Starting with a crazy question, Danielle Spencer taught her children about God's sovereign provision. Here is a brief part of their discussion: 


"Do you know what would happen if the world suddenly stopped spinning?" I asked my kids during our morning Bible time. My 12-year-old consulted one of her favorite books What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.1 If the earth and all terrestrial objects stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity, almost everyone would die immediately. If you weren't swept away by the thousand-mile-per-hour winds, you'd certainly be pulverized by the thousand-mile-per-hour impact of all the debris flying about. You would be safe for a time if you were deep underground or in a polar research station (since the strongest winds would be nearest the equator), but not for long. The wind would eventually stop by way of friction with the earth's surface, but that would heat the air and atomize the surface of the ocean, resulting, among many other phenomena, in massive global thunderstorms. After that, for 6 months one side of the earth would bake in the heat of the sun and the other would freeze since the sun would no longer rise and set once per day, but only once a year. Eventually, the moon would get us spinning again, but "us" would be long gone.

Now that I had their attention, we read Psalm 104--in which we have 35 verses praising the Lord for his power, control, and care over his creation...


Read more over at The Christward Collective

Very Superstitious

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Many Christian social commentators have lamented the devolution of American culture into a form of anti-culture. It is certainly true that the rejection of the Christian religion in our society has led to moral degeneration within our culture. However, sin not only affects the moral faculties of a person (or society); it also affects our rational/intellectual faculties. In other words, the rise of the anti-culture has also been coupled with irrationalism. It may be a surprise to some, but the secularization of our society has not led to a more rational society. Rather, the rejection of the Christian religion has led to a more speculative, less rational, and at times, a more superstitious society.

In a number of ways, this can be thought of as an expected result. Science historians have pointed out that modern science arose in the context of a Christian worldview, and was nourished and sustained by that view. An example of this can be found in a consideration Psalm 19:1-4:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech,and night to night reveals knowledge.There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.Their voice goes out through all the earth,and their words to the end of the world.

Regarding Psalm 19:1, John Calvin comments,

"As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme Architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at His infinite goodness, wisdom, and power."

Calvin was deeply moved by both the beauty of creation and the wonder of providence. As mentioned in a previous blog, Calvin lived the same kind of scholarly piety exemplified by the scribes, teachers, and biblical scholars of Wisdom School. Consistent with mode of devotion from the Wisdom School, Calvin often speaks of the spiritual benefits of meditating on the glory of God in creation. Regarding Psalm 19:2, Calvin noted:

"[Natural] Philosophers who have more penetration into those matters than others, understand how the stars are arranged in such beautiful order, that notwithstanding their immense number there is no confusion;... David, therefore having spoken of the heavens, does not here descend from them to other parts of the world; but, from an effect more sensible what we just now said, namely, that the glory of God not only shines, but resounds in the heavens."

What is interesting here, and is quite typical of the wisdom theology of the Old Testament, is that the glory of God is not only seen but heard. The sages of Israel (and the saints of the early Church) were inspired by what we might call the intellectual beauty of creation. They perceived in it a certain divine law - a certain order or purpose. The creation is understandable and this understandable order is beautiful because it teaches about the order and purpose of live. The creation has a didactic structure which witnesses to the Creator and His righteousness. It has both an intellectual and a moral beauty. One has only to look at creation to feel its beauty and its glory is that it speaks to us of divine things.

Glory is usually thought of as being seen, but in this instance it is being heard. The beauty of the heavens, the order of nature, according to Calvin, is a "visible language." Calvin commented:

"David here metaphorically introduces the splendor and magnificence of the heavenly bodies, as preaching the glory of God like a teacher in a seminary of learning... the glory of God is written and imprinted in the heavens, as in an open volume which all men may read... Thus we are taught that the language of which mention has been made before is, as I may term it, a visible language, in other words, language which addresses itself to the sight; for it is to the eyes of men that the heavens speak, not to their ears; and thus David justly compares the beautiful order and arrangement, by which the heavenly bodies are distinguished, to a writing."

Using more modern language, this is not a mere "God of the gaps" theory in which people only invoke God to account for gaps in modern scientific explanation. God's works of creation and providence include all of the regularities of our natural world (cf. Genesis 8:22; Psalm 104:14, 20; Psalm 147:15-18), which includes those areas where science does best (i.e regular and predictable events, repeating patterns, etc.). From the perspective of the Scriptures, natural/scientific law is really the law of God or word of God (albeit imperfectly and approximately described by human investigators). It is His word that order, harmony, and beauty to our natural world. The mere existence of such "beautiful order and arrangement by which the heavenly bodies are distinguished" implies a rational lawgiver whose speech can be clearly articulated, illustrated, and understood. In examining Psalm 19, we see that the natural and moral order of our world all come from the same source - the Word of God.

It was this observed harmony and order that led the saints of old to ponder the works of creation and stirred the thoughts of early scientists to study the natural world. In contrast to this, one should notice the unhinged speculation associated with modern scientific theories today, particularly scientific theories which address origins. For example, in response to the harmonious order of our universe, there are now well-known scientists who postulate the existence of up to 10500 universes in order to explain the "apparent" fine-tuning of cosmic laws. Such a theory is not immediately disregarded because there is now discussion that science now longer needs to be falsifiable in order to be considered science.

Along with this, there are scientific theories that now require very little evidence in order for them to be discussed. One recent theory postulates that the origin of life follows as an inevitable consequences of the "laws of nature" and "should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill." No theory on origins can be devoid of philosophical presuppositions and the prevailing thought today is that the origin of life is completely natural. This perhaps will explain the relatively new confidence among scientists in finding extra-terrestrial life (despite the lack of evidence) and the continued in belief in the existence of UFOs, ghosts, and other paranormal phenomena in from many Westerners (and let's not discuss the rise of flat earthers).

As is often the case, the appeal for secularism has not produced what it has promised. The rejection of the Christian religion has offered liberation, not from the bonds of superstition but from the burdens of evidence and rationality. Christians should be honest and forthright about this and we must address the fact that increasing numbers of young people are embracing this form of liberation.

A Christian in the Secular Academy

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When many individuals think of the life of a college professor, the general perception they have formed (fueled by articles such as this) is that we only work for a few days a week and have the entire summer "off." Many misunderstand the nature and extent of this profession and are not aware of the various frustrations that are associated with this career. Some of these frustrations are common to all faculty (such as dealing with unmotivated students, extensive university service activities, administrative politics, the 90-100 hour work week, etc.), but there are some challenges and frustrations that seem to be particularly unique for minority faculty members who are also conservative Christians. As I consider my journey over the past decade into the academic life, I thought it would be useful to the reader to provide insight into the life and misconceptions of life within the academy.

As I entered academia with the aspirations of being a Black scientist, I was warned by other Black scientists that my peers will assume that I'm intellectually inferior and that many will be more interested in hearing my views on race rather than science (for those who are interested, consider this article). For this reason, I've made it my aim not to be another educated Black man who spends all of his time talking about race. Contrary to the expectations of many, I've experienced very little discrimination within academia as a Black man because of these convictions.

From Christians outside of the academy, I was warned that the academy has become so dogmatically secularized across all academic disciplines that Christians are usually seen as unwelcomed. Throughout my matriculation in academia, I have heard a few of my peers ask me privately: "Why would an intelligent man like you associate yourself with ignorant Christians?" After articulating the reasons for my faith and confidence in Christ, usually I receive a condescending nod from the hearer, viewing my religious convictions as a form of folk religion. In spite of these rare experiences, I've found numerous believers within the physical sciences. Furthermore, based upon my conversations with academics in other fields, it appears that you are actually more likely to find Christians and those who are sympathetic to the Christian worldview within the physical sciences than what you will find today in the social sciences and humanities. In other words, the physical sciences are not the bastion of atheism as many believe.

When I entered graduate school about a decade ago, it was God's providence that my research group was probably the most ethnically and religiously diverse group within my institution. Contrary to popular belief, we don't have to look to the 19th century to read about scientists who were devout, orthodox Christians. There are still many today who agree with James Joule that "to engage in science, far from being contrary, is compatible with our seeking after God." In contrast, I have often said that the social sciences and humanities are the last bastions of ideological dogmatism within America. This is no longer considered speculation, but there is now empirical social science research to support this. George Yancey, a black evangelical sociologist who teaches at the University of North Texas, conducted a survey in which 59 percent of anthropologists and 53 percent of English professors would be less likely to hire someone they found out was an evangelical. Within the academy, there are strong biases against evangelicals as well as those who are politically conservative.

The condescension towards evangelicals echoes the patronizing attitude towards racial minorities. During off-the-record conversations, the same arguments that I hear humanities professors make about evangelicals sound remarkably familiar to the ways which some people describe Blacks - politically unsophisticated, ignorant, lacking education, intellectual inferior, angry, bitter, emotional, poor, etc. This attitude is easy to enforce within fields in which a Christian worldview shapes the content of one's research, such as the social sciences and humanities. For this reason, young conservative scholars are encouraged to "stay in the closet" until they have obtained tenure. However, since I'm not politically conservative and since I'm a researcher on hurricanes and severe convective storms, this attitude has a much smaller bearing on my academic future.

However, the true challenges associated with being a Christian professor in a secular institution are twofold. First, one of my tasks as a Christian scientist is to de-mythologize science. I've found that many have a superstitious reverence towards physical science research. The ethos of our current age is to hold all external authorities in suspicion; however, when scientific authorities and science evangelists make their proclamations, college students (as well as society in general) tend to nod and agree. It is usually my job to remove the veil from the eyes of many so that they become aware of the limitations and boundaries of physical science.

The primary error that is repeated throughout society is to regard science as a method for discovering truth. This was the common belief among scientists of the 18th and 19th centuries, but very few reputable practicing scientists would today assert that science discovers truth. However, this mythological idea continues to be perpetuated and many are intimidated by the modern equivalent of "Thus saith the Lord"--namely, "it has been scientifically proved!" The modern trends in science education has produced a generation that believes that nothing should be publicly accepted unless it has been scientifically proved and nothing has any claim to be called true unless science acknowledges that claim. To de-mythologize science is to teach others of the inherent uncertainty of scientific conclusions and to learn how to make proper inferences from this uncertainty.

The second challenge of being a Christian professor is to be aware of what some have called "the vulgar arrogance of intellectuals." This means that being a Christian professor is no more virtuous a calling than any other. This is a perpetual temptation because there are many academics and intellectuals who use their career as an opportunity to seem greater, better, or smarter than others. As a Christian professor, my calling should be viewed as one that enables me to serve my students more, not to lord it over them. Connected to this temptation is the belief that our calling is more important than others. There are many within the academy who believe that their primary responsibility is to shape the future of the current generation of students. This concept has evolved to the extent that many professors have taken it upon themselves to transmit their own intellectual biases and dogmatism to the next generation (since all other authorities are considered ignorant). This temptation calls me to true humility - not to think of myself more highly than I ought and not to speak confidently about matters in which I am ignorant.

The task of being a Christian professor is marked with numerous difficulties and challenges, but none are insurmountable. The basic disciplines of the Christian life (i.e. such as attending church, reading scripture, prayer, etc.) are incredibly important and useful in avoiding these various pitfalls.


Gabriel Williams (Ph.D., Colorado State University) is assistant professor of atmospheric physics at the College of Charleston and a member of Christ Church Presbyterian in Charleston, SC. He also writes at The Road of Grace. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the College of Charleston.