Scientific Philosophy

oOl7EzDuring an exchange on an earlier blog post the person I was talking to kept bringing up a concern that Biblical concepts should not be taught in school. This was repeated several times even though it was not what the exchange was about, and I had not said anything indicating that I was for it. It seemed to be a major concern to this individual, so I assured her that I was not advocating it, though I didn’t bother to elaborate. I have given it more thought since then, and have decided to share some of the conclusions I came up with.

First of all I would not want to force someone who does not share my beliefs, or who may even oppose them, to be responsible for teaching my kids about those beliefs. It would be too easy for a non-believer to misrepresent them inadvertently, or for someone in opposition to use the opportunity to attempt sabotage. There are too many nuances to various Biblical concepts to entrust someone who has a fundamental disbelief to represent them correctly.

The correct place to learn about the Bible is within a body of Christians, people who share these beliefs and hold them sacred. A school teacher simply assigned the task of passing along these doctrines, without any real conviction, would not be able to do the subject the same justice as someone who has had a life changing experience because of them. The proper place for detailed instruction in things like meaning and purpose is in the home, or in the church.

The bottom line is that these things are of a metaphysical nature, and have no place in a physical science classroom. Given that, I will go one step further and purpose that some things that are currently taught in the classroom are also in this category and should be removed from the science discussion. For instance, to say that evolution is unguided and without purpose is just as out of place as claiming that God directed it (please understand that I am not claiming any stance on the evolution issue, I am just using it as an illustration). Science cannot speak to the issues of purpose or meaning, either for or against. Science can only speak to what happens in the physical world. To say that there is no objective meaning is to make a philosophical claim, not a scientific one. Methodological naturalism may be a necessary presumption for testing and discovering the mechanisms and laws of the natural world, but to assign a lack of meaning or causal agent is to enter into the realm of metaphysical naturalism, a philosophical stance closely related to scientism, the belief that science is the only way to access truth. It is so common to hear scientism equated with science nowadays that people have been conditioned to never doubt it, or even give it a second thought.

Stop and think about it. How can you scientifically prove that there is no meaning to life? What sort of test could you perform? How can you scientifically test the statement “Science is the only way to find truth”? Science should be ontologically neutral, as it can only speak to the bald facts. When you begin making truth claims you enter the province of philosophy.

Science is a wonderful tool, but that is all it is. It has its limitations. It can tell you what synapses in my brain are firing right now, but it cannot tell you what I see in my mind’s eye. It can tell you of the physical effects that happen to me when I look at my children, but it cannot quantify the love I feel when I see them. It cannot calculate the beauty you see when looking at a great painting, or measure the pleasure you experience listening to a favorite song. It cannot prove the rules of logic, or the use of numbers, as they have to be presupposed in order for science to work. It cannot answer the age-old questions of “Why am I here?” or “What is my purpose?”, or even tell you that the questions have no meaning.

I agree that theology has no place in the science classroom, but neither does scientism.

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2 Comments

  1. Meaning is a necessary human invention. It gives living a purpose and enables us to direct our lives. Anyone looking at science can see it is purposeless and technology can be put to any use we wish.
    We have to direct science and up until now we have made a very poor job of it.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the comment magnocrat! It brings up another thought.

    It seems to me that calling meaning a human invention places it in the subjective category, like opinions or preferences. The only objective meaning to life that I can see in a naturalistic worldview would be the propagation of the species. To get your DNA into the next generation. On the other hand, in a Christian worldview meaning is based on something beyond ourselves, giving a basis to objective meaning, purpose, morals and beauty.

    Reply

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