John C. Munday Jr.
Virginian-Pilot, May 21, 1997
Even the scientific method itself rests on philosophic presuppositions. Science presupposes naturalism, claiming that explanations of phenomena must include only natural cause and effect. Most scientists assert strict naturalism, disbelieving all but natural causes. Others employ methodological naturalism, looking for only natural causes, but leaving open the possibility of non-natural causes.
Science, because it presupposes materialism and naturalism, cannot justify itself. This is claimed not only by creationists and other theists, but also by philosophers and atheist mainstream scientists. Science must appeal to philosophy or even religion for its justification. Therefore, the editorial is wrong to call for exclusion of creation science because its fundamental assertions come from religion. The origin of a claim about reality is not important; verification is. Claims about reality deriving from religion donít impair science, so long as all claims are verified appropriately.
General evolution (or more properly, evolutionism) is not pure science. Proponents avoid discussing evolutionís defects and contrary evidence. Did complex molecules of life arise by chance from simple molecules? Was the pre-Cambrian explosion of phyla evolutionary? These claims are crucial to evolution theory, but have not been proven at all, leaving many well-known scientists dissatisfied with the theory. The improbability of life from chance has especially perturbed many scientists. British astronomer Hoyle postulated that life evolved elsewhere in the universe, which is far older than earth, and arrived here after an intergalactic journey.(1) Other scientists resort to ad hoc explanations, saying lifeís complex systems had to emerge because atoms have inherent self-organizational ability (making atoms like God). Worse, evolutionists lamely allege mankindís spiritual qualities evolved. Such thinking is grossly presumptuous.
Phillip Johnson in Darwin on Trial(2) put his finger on the naturalism and presumption in arguments for evolution. He quickly encountered proponents passionately defending their naturalism. Whence comes such passion, if evolution emerges only from true science?
The irreducible complexity of molecular biological systems(3) and the precise order of the cosmos(4) are leading more and more mainstream scientists to re-examine the possibility of intelligent design of life and the cosmos. The idea of design may horrify evolutionists, but it is nevertheless part of mainstream science. If intelligent design is not admissible, then how is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) using radio telescopes scientific?
The connection between science and religion is too deep to sever. Physicist Paul Davies, winner of the 1995 one-million dollar Templeton Prize, declared in God and the New Physics that science is a surer route to God than religion.(5) Guth from MIT postulated in an astrophysics conference that the universe began ex nihilo.(6) If such a view is presented at an astrophysics conference, why canít it be taught in a science classroom?
We need a unified theory of truth. In orthodox Christianity, God is the Author of both nature and verbal revelation (as in the Bible), and He speaks consistently in both. Our problem is to interpret the two revelations. Neither one should be allowed to trump the other.
What should be taught in a public school science classroom? The 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard Supreme Court decision made clear that different theories, even those with religious connections, may be freely taught in the classroom.(7) The amount of attention given to each theory should reflect the weight of current scientific opinion favoring each. The strong majority of scientists believe in an old universe and in general evolution; others are troubled by the theoryís weaknesses; and, finally, a small minority are persuaded the earth is young and that evolution is a fiction. Students will not be harmed, rather they will be enriched, by learning of this debate.
Students should also understand that evolutionís faith in naturalism stacks the deck against intelligent design and other non-physical views of lifeís origin. To neglect these issues in the science classroom is to leave a distorted impression about science in young minds.
There is a rich interaction among science, faith and philosophy in discussion of the origin of life and cosmos. It demands that proper science education be similarly rich. Public school censorship of this richness is unfortunate, a lop-sided outcome of First Amendment debate. Note that private, parochial and home schooling offer complete freedom to pursue these discussions with students. These schooling alternatives are thus positioned to offer a far superior education in science. Let us hope they all rise to the challenge. Meanwhile, the public schools should not be straightjacketed by insistence that only a reductionist view of life should be permitted in the science classroom.
1 Fred Hoyle and C. Wickramasinghe, Evolution From Space: A Theory of Cosmic Creationism (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982).
2 Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial (Lanham, MD: Regnery Gateway, 1991).
3 Michael Behe, Darwinís Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (Free Press, 1996).
4 M. A. Corey, God and the New Cosmology: The Anthropic Design Argument (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1993).
5 Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), ix, 229.
6 Alan Guth and P. J. Steinhardt, "The Inflationary Universe," Scientific American 250 (5, May 1984) 116-128.
7 Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987). In rejecting Louisianaís "Creationism Act," the Court nevertheless upheld the freedom to teach alternative theories, by declaring that "[t]he Act does not grant teachers a flexibility that they did not already possess to supplant the present science curriculum with the presentation of theories, besides evolution, about the origin of life."
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