“There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination.”
Dinesh D’Souza opens chapter fourteen of his book What’s So Great About Christianity? with this quote from Daniel Dennet’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.
He goes on, however, to demonstrate that this is not the face that modern science typically shows to the world. Modern science describes herself as free of prejudices and biases, with an uncompromising commitment to follow the evidence wherever it leads. And it leads, so we are told, to materialism and naturalism. Modern science gives the impression that after many decades of the impartial application of the scientific method, it has “arrived” at an accidental, creator-less universe, spontaneously generated life, and the subsequent evolution of all living things by the means of natural selection.
As Christians, we are sure this is somehow false. We have a vague idea that the evidence isn’t really sufficient to support the claims of the naturalist. We calmly and confidently assert that Biblical faith is perfectly compatible with science. But, we are betrayed to ourselves when we turn the corner, hang our heads, and wonder why the evidence really does seem to favor a materialistic view of things.
While there are many sound, scientific rebuttals to Darwinian evolution and related theories (and Christians would do well to be aware of these), the more fundamental issue may be that we don’t recognize the philosophical baggage that all scientists bring to their research—or understand the limits of science, itself.
Using their own words, D’Souza reveals the starting philosophical assumption of many leading scientists today:
“One of the rules of Science is no miracles allowed. That’s a fundamental presumption of what we do.” Douglas Irwin, paleo-biologist Smithsonian Institution
“The supernatural is automatically off-limits as an explanation of the natural world.” Barry Palovits, professor emeritus of Biology, University of Georgia
So dogmatic is modern science in its operating procedures, that today, all evidence of God is a priori rejected by science. ..It doesn’t matter how strong or reliable the evidence is. Scientists, acting in their professional capacity, are obliged to ignore it. The position of modern science is not that no miracles are possible, but that no miracles are allowed…
In other words, God, as a plausible explanation for the origin of the universe and of life, is not even a candidate for consideration.
By narrowly focusing on a certain type of explanation, modern science is cutting itself off from truths not amenable to that type of explanation…Let us consider how some distinguished biologists are willing to embrace weak evidence to corroborate evolution and eliminate the need for a divine being superintending the process.
This is followed by a couple of doozies concerning the theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection:
“Even if the evidence did not favor it, it would still be the best theory available.” Richard Dawkins
“Because there are no alternatives, we would almost have to accept natural selection as the the explanation of life on this planet, even if there were no evidence for it.” Stephen Pinker
From these admissions and others like them, D’Sousa concludes that,
Dawkins and the others seem naively to think that they are apostles of reason, who are merely following the evidence. The reason they are deluded about their philosophical commitment is that it is hidden inside the scientific approach itself. Modern science seems to be based on an unwavering commitment to materialism and naturalism.
Modern science doesn’t lead to materialism—that’s where it starts.
Does the intelligent design or creation scientist bring his biases to the table? Absolutely! But is the materialist / naturalist’s bias somehow more scientific? Certainly not!
Empirical evidence can only tell us how the physical universe currently operates. It is reasonable to assume that this evidence will support the theory of origins that is, in fact, true—but it cannot prove any of these theories. In that regard, all any scientist can do is interpret the evidence. Granted, some interpreters are more honest than others, but doesn’t that have as much to do with personal integrity and motive as it has to do with any particular philosophical bias?
Is it more scientific to say, “Time and chance made this. How does it work?” than it is to say “God made this. How does it work?”
Is a materialist / naturalist worldview really a rational, open-minded conduit of liberty while Christianity is an intellectually-shackling affront to reason?
G. K. Chesterton also had something to say about this:
The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe, but the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. ~G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
I can’t help but wonder who is actually more obligated to reject evidence?
As a mostly unrelated aside, why did nobody tell me about Chesterton!?
I’ve been listening to an audio-recording of his Orthodoxy, and just lovin’ it! I don’t find all of his points compelling, but he expresses them so delightfully that it is impossible to experience the usual annoyance of disagreement. So far, he’s just been a treasure trove of quotable quips.
It seems that everyone recommends or praises some work or other of Lewis, but no one ever told me I ought to read Chesterton. I can’t imagine why.
Maybe it’s because Chesterton never went to Narnia.