The debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye has stirred up some interesting discussion by some of the bloggers I follow. After posting one of those on Facebook, it started a followup dialog with a friend, which subsequently included another post I found valuable. The questions go beyond who is the better debater. Instead, I think at the core is the question, is the insistence upon a literal reading of the Bible that the earth was created in 6 24-hour days appropriate scientific skepticism or is it denial?
I found a statement made by Neil deGrasse Tyson in an interview with Bill Moyer interesting along those lines. He suggested that to the extent a person’s faith is dependent on God being the sole explanation for all things unknown, then scientific findings that explain those mysteries through natural processes becomes a challenge of God. Every scientific discovery pushes back the reaches of the unknown. The reaction must then be to 1) deny or bastardize scientific findings by undercutting its processes; 2) reject God because science undercuts our reason for believing; or 3) use science to understand God in new ways.
I think it is to this third point that C.S. Lewis spoke when he said:
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Christianity is the lens through which we view science to understand the natural world.
I’ve been reading the works of creation scientists and those who analyze creation science for some years. I do not see their work as a whole as one of using Christianity to inform their scientific work to do better science*. That is, I do not see it as practicing healthy skepticism to challenge the underlying scientific premises and methodologies to arrive at better science. I see it as denying good science and the knowledge that has come from it.
The best analogy that comes to mind for me is to think about an oil painter trying to use their paint brushes to do fine woodworking, or a fine woodworking to try to do an oil painting using a saw instead of a brush. Carpentry Oil Painting is a bad mix just as Creation Science is a bad mix. Rather, the oil painter and the fine woodworker create art best when they use their distinct tools with the appropriate medium. Theology and philosophy are excellent and necessary tools that too often are under-appreciated and underutilized. But that doesn’t mean they should subsume the excellent and necessary tool of science. Instead, they should work in harmony to give us a richer way to see EVERYTHING.
* There are many wonderful Christians who do wonderful science. And there are certainly excellent scientist who are doing solid science to explore weaknesses in evolutionary theory.