Is Science Neutral?
Is Science Neutral?
When asked, “What is science?” the picture that comes to most people’s minds is a man in a white coat, peering into a microscope, discovering some significant truth. For most people, including Christians, science is basically observation and experimentation – a neutral pursuit of knowledge. But, is this really science?
Our modern view of science has become very narrow when compared to the great scientists of the past. For example, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines science as: “In a general sense, knowledge, or certain knowledge; the comprehension or understanding of truth or facts by the mind… “At its very core, science is knowledge.
If this is true, then science goes far beyond the scope of the laboratory. It is the study of everything – material and immaterial. In reality, there is a science to everything – from tadpoles to teleology.
Now, pay attention to the phase “… the comprehension or understanding of truth or facts by the mind…” Science cannot simply be a collection of facts. Facts are part of science, but science is not complete unless we comprehend and understand those facts. Having knowledge of a thing is meaningless without also having an understanding of its purpose.
Look at the scientific method for example. It basically arises from a thought, an idea, or a need. Someone has a question and sets out to find the answer. As the search begins, it is done so with an intent – a purpose. This purpose is inherently subjective and determined by the worldview of the pursuer.
So, what about the scientist? When he steps into his lab, does he leave his worldview at the door, and enter as an unbiased observer into the world of science? Of course not! The worldview a man holds, and the presuppositions he believes, are inseparable from him. Whether he is an atheist or a Christian, these direct anything he puts his hand to.
Ironically, the atheist, functions in a world that is driven by the purpose and intent of its Creator – whom he denies. Yet, every day the atheistic scientist uses the natural laws that God instituted in the beginning to move from the unknown to the known. So, whether he realizes it or not, he is functioning within God’s parameters.
On the other hand, some Christians believe in the superintendence of the Creator, yet they do not extend that to the area of science. This is a distressing paradox. The atheistic scientist functions in a way that he doesn’t believe, and the Christian believes in a way that he doesn’t function.
In reality, they both believe that science is a realm from which you can extract God and still maintain the integrity of the discipline. But, if you do, then who governs the discipline of science? “Nothing” cannot govern something. Either God governs it, or man does. There is no neutral area in between.
The idea of neutrality so permeates our culture that we do not realize how many areas of our life it has infiltrated and caused us to think unbiblically. It affects more than just the area of science. For example, what about government, and the idea of the separation of church and state? Doesn’t this idea advocate that there is a neutral, middle ground, where moral and religious absolutes don’t belong? But then, what do laws do, if not legislate morality? What are the implications when we compartmentalize life into sacred and secular realms?
What are the consequences when we remove Biblical truth from a section of our society for the sake of tolerance? When Biblical truth is removed, what is going to take its place? Something will fill it. It will not remain void.
What does the idea of neutrality do to our understanding of Scripture, church, family and education? You see, this false idea undermines our faith little by little, and as a result, our effectiveness for God’s Kingdom. I challenge you to turn back to the Bible as your primary source. Examine it. Consider where the myth of neutrality has influenced your life.
By Rachel Painter
This was published as an article in the Spring 2004 Think and Believe.
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