"I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious theories of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God."

- Thomas Edison

"I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy."

- Richard Feynman

"Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there."

- Robert Heinlein

"The universe is...not capable of comprehension and therefore is limitless, and to that extent infinite and indeterminable, and consequently immobile."

- Giordano Bruno



How do science and the Bible compare?
2) what is science?


"Today the indestructibility or permanence of matter is a scientific fact firmly established." 10

- Ludwig Buchner, 1891

"The existence of ether (or cosmic ether) as a real element is a positive fact and has been known as such for the last twelve years." 7

- Ernst Haeckel, 1901

5.3 What is science?


The word science originally comes from the Latin verb scire which means to discern or to know. As it is referred to today, science is the systematized observation, study, and experimentation to determine the nature of that which is being studied. Prediction and verification is the process by which science establishes its theories and conclusions. Francis Crick, co-recipient of the Nobel prize for the discovery of DNA, gives a good definition of scientific theory. He believes

The hallmark of a successful theory is that it predicts correctly facts that were not known when the theory was presented, or, better still, which were then known incorrectly. A good theory should have at least two characteristics: it should be in sharp contrast to at least one alternative idea and it should make predictions which are testable. 2


In defining scientific theory, Dr. Crick has additionally revealed what science is not. That which cannot be tested by prediction and observation is not science.

For example, it is impossible to construct an equation or experiment that results in predicting who ran for office in the elections of 1896. Yet it's not impossible to tell who the candidates were. The names of the 1896 candidates can be discovered in researching old newspapers and books. Science can neither establish the reasons why they chose to run. Again, it is not that such important questions cannot be answered - they can. The point is that they cannot be answered by science.

Imagine finding a clock on the sidewalk. Science can describe how the clock works, but it cannot formulate any repetitious experiment that solves who put it there or, more importantly, why. Therefore, we can say with absolute confidence that there clearly exists knowledge that cannot be gained purely through the scientific method.


The limitation of questions which science can address renders science incapable of discovering everything. Some questions are simply matters of history. History is neither predictable nor repeatable. Thus some answers must be sought, not by observation and prediction (the scientific method), but through some form of witness; by recorded or first hand testimony. In this way, history is a method of learning equally valid to science.

D. James Kennedy confirms the importance of looking at all disciplines of learning as he writes

science and history and theology, as has well been pointed out, are not three distinct branches of knowledge. They are simply three different ways in which we view the reality we find around us, just as length and breadth and depth are three different ways we view any physical object. Since they are not three distinct branches of knowledge, they cannot be separated." 3

The noted mathematician Chandra Wickramasinghe perfectly agrees:

But the universe doesn't respect the boundaries between different disciplines. The differences between biology and astronomy and chemistry and so on, these are man-made artifacts of thinking. I think the whole system is doomed unless one decides that all these barriers are cleared. And I will go further to say that even the interface between theology and the other disciplines is necessary. 4

(More on supporting a complete freedom of inquiry that crosses the lines between different areas of study.)


To achieve a complete definition of reality one must listen to more than just the testimony of science. More and more scientific details of the simple mechanics of our existence will never outweigh or render obsolete our need to know why we are here and who, if anyone, has caused us to be. In the words of astrophysicist Stephen W. Hawking,

The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. 5

So if anyone is waiting for science to answer the question "Why are we here?", they will never get an answer because science is not even asking the question. Neither does science even pretend to know as George Bankoff clarifies,

Science today makes no claim to explain in the terms of absolute causes... The claim of modern science is that it describes... 6

Thus in order to have a properly balanced view of science, we must acknowledge its limits as put forth by the scientists themselves. As has been shown, science is not an alternative to religion. To embrace it as such expects more from science than the scientists do. Science is simply one methodology of learning. The fact that this methodology neither favors nor discourages belief in the Bible explains how science is accommodated and used by both believers and nonbelievers.

Earlier, we saw how both theistic and atheistic premises are equally unprovable (Introduction 6.3). Although each premise is unprovable, we are still able to examine the arguments that proceed from them. In terms of the Bible and the premise that God exists, we can look for evidence that the Bible's worldview explains reality more reliably than any competing worldview.

Of course, the next problem we run into is finding a firm measure of reality by which to judge those worldviews. For the express purpose of showing how modern science may be used to affirm a biblical worldview, proceeding sections on this topic will let science be that judge AFTER we first look at its relative trustworthiness.

5.4 The trustworthiness of science.


Scientists admit they make mistakes. Mistakes occur not because there is anything inherently wrong with science, but because of simple human fallibility. These failings aside, the scientific process has managed to yield a wonderfully more productive and comfortable world than ever before.

In making the world comprehensible, Stephen Hawking reflects, "The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order," and he closes, "which may or may not be divinely inspired." 8

Einstein was also struck by the ordered nature of the universe as evidenced by his comments "God does not play dice", and "The eternal mystery of the universe is its comprehensibility." 9


Considering all the achievements of science, too numerous to list, do they justify using the scientific method to sit in judgment on the existence of God and the believability of the Bible? To determine if Christianity is the correct religion or worldview?

Any worldview hoping to win our belief should successfully account for the nature of the world around us. Asking, "Does the Bible do that?" ultimately requires that we already have a perfect accounting of reality by which to judge the Bible's accuracy.

Unfortunately, history shows that science, or perhaps the world's overconfidence in it, has had its failings. Determinism professed to be a consistent and accurate description of the world...until it was suddenly proven wrong. The two quotes at the top of this page also testify to the almost arrogant overconfidence one can place in empirical observation.

More recently, popular science speaker Carl Sagan warned the world of Saddam Hussein's promise to set the Kuwait oil fields on fire in the then-impending 1991 Gulf War. Sagan warned this would result in a global 'nuclear winter' killing millions. The war took place and the Iraqis set the fires. Unfortunately for Dr. Sagan, we're still here but he's all gone.

Neither has the field of science been devoid of individuals who arrogantly believed themselves to be the sole proprietors of truth:

It was granted to me alone to discover all the new phenomena in the sky and nothing to anybody else. This is the truth which neither malice nor envy can suppress. - Galileo Galilei 11

Such examples of yesterday's facts and quite human scientists caution us to hold rather loosely to the scientific knowledge we think we possess today. Though Gleason Archer may not be addressing the more refined concerns that freethinkers proliferate today, perhaps one's conclusions about the Bible still ultimately comes down to this:

In the last analysis, then, every man must settle for one of two alternatives: the inerrancy of Holy Scripture, or the inerrancy of his own personal judgment. If the Bible contains errors in the autographa, then it requires an infallible human judgment to distinguish validly between the false and the true in Scripture; it is necessary for every affirmation in the sacred text to receive endorsement from the human critic himself before it may be accepted as true. Since men disagree in their critical judgments, it requires absolute inerrancy on the part of each individual to render a valid judgment in each instance. Even the agnostic must assert for himself such infallibility of judgment, for he cannot logically assume an agnostic position unless he can affirm that he has surveyed all the evidence for the authority of Scripture and has come to a valid judgment that the evidence is insufficient to prove the divine authority of the Bible as the Word of God. These, then, are the only alternatives available to us as we confront the Scriptures: either they are inerrant, or else we are. 12


If today's science is destined to become tomorrow's mythology, it seems foolish to examine the Bible by its uncertain light. One could argue, however, that even bad science has had its benefits. Physics was advanced by Newton's absolutes of motion and rest even though Einstein improved upon them centuries later. Amazing strides have also been made in the area of electronics although the nature of electricity is not fully understood.

The truth is that science has and will always shed a new and better light tomorrow. This suggests that each generation will have to make its own comparison of science and the scriptures. At any rate, "today's science" is all that any generation will be able to say it has. As we do intend to compare Scripture with scientifically gathered data, just keep in mind their respective levels of credibility and the trustworthiness each has thus far proven to have.



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NEXT: part three - The Bible and scientific accuracy

See also:

Where did man come from?

What is chance?

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Who better to define science than scientists?

This section studies the relationship of science to other methods of learning, as well as its self-stated limitations.

1. What is science?
2. The limitations of science.
3. The success of science.
4. The failure of science.
5. Scientific certainty: tomorrow's myth?