Friday, April 19, 2013

Read Along: Ch2—Are Science and Christianity at Odds?

Today we continue with Chapter Two in the Read Along with Apologetics 315 project. This is a chapter-by-chapter study through the book Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow. (Hear an interview about the book here.) Below you will find an audio intro for Chapter Two, a brief summary of the chapter, a PDF workbook with questions for the chapter, and some notable quotes. You’re also encouraged to share your comments and feedback for each chapter in the comment section below. Feel free to interact!

[Audio Intro] – Jonathan Morrow introduces this chapter.
[Chapter 02 Study Questions] (with kindle locations) – PDF study guide.
[Podcast Feed RSS | Podcast in iTunes] – Click to subscribe to the audio.

Chapter Two: Are Science and Christianity at Odds?
(pages 32-43)

Chapter two addresses the claim that Christianity is opposed to or in conflict with science. In answer to this, the authors point out the positive influence of Christianity on science, along with a number of pioneers of modern science who were theists. They describe the supposed persecution of Galileo and correct some of the modern myths that seem to be propagated about the Galileo episode. Furthermore, McDowell and Morrow point out that Christianity actually provides the proper philosophical foundation and motivation for doing science, whereas naturalism is fundamentally at odds with the scientific endeavor.

Apologist John Warwick Montgomery contributes an essay entitled “Faith Founded on Fact.” He argues that the finitude of the universe, its beginning, and its fine-tuning point to a creator.

Notable quotes:

Although it is widely believed that science and Christianity are at odds, the opposite is actually true. There is no inherent conflict between Christianity and science. We don’t mean to suggest that religious antagonism to science has never existed. It has and does. But the history of science shows that such claims of antagonism are often exaggerated or unsubstantiated. (p. 33)  

Defining these two worldviews shows us the root problem: naturalism and theism are at odds, not science and Christianity. Naturalism is intrinsically atheistic because it sees nothing outside the natural or material world(p. 37)

Science depends on the assumption that the world is orderly and that our minds can access this reality. Even the most secular scientists presume that nature operates in a lawlike fashion. This conviction is best explained by the pioneers of the scientific revolution, who believed the cosmos is orderly because it was designed by the rational Creator of the universe who desires for us, as beings made in his image, to understand, enjoy, and explore his creation. (p. 40)


  1. How do you respond the the statement that Christianity is anti-science?
  2. How does naturalism fail to give an adequate foundation for doing science?
  3. Do you think science is helpful or harmful to the case for Christianity?
Recommended Reading
Next Week: Chapter 3—Are Miracles Possible?

1 Comment

  1. janitorialmusings April 19, 2013

    Trying this read along for the first time. So far I like it. Seems like a good idea. Here are some of my thoughts on the chapter. Since my thoughts are rather long, I'll only share part of it here. The rest is elswhere:

    I don’t think an atheist making the claim that science and religion, or, more specifically, Christianity, are in conflict will find this chapter very convincing at one level.

    The chapter aims to show, and I think does show, that Christianity provides some groundwork for the scientific investigation. But it doesn’t show that science, where this is understood to be theories arrived at by scientific investigation, are not in conflict with specific truth claims of Christianity. So while the chapter shows that the scientific enterprise relies on ideas that fit nicely in the Christian worldview and not so nicely in the atheist worldivew, it doesn’t show that engaging in the scientific enterprise (i.e., doing science) doesn’t conflict with engaging Christian doctrine (i.e., exegeting Scripture).

    One particular case the chapter addresses is the Galileo incident. After reviewing the incident the author(s) conclude: “The popular claim that the Church persecuted Galileo for advancing science is a caricature” (Kindle Locations 644-645). But it’s hard to see how they can conclude that given that the had just earlier noted that “After his trial before the Inquisition, he was placed under the care of the archbishop of Siena, who housed him in his beautiful palace for five months. Galileo was then released to his home in Florence where he received a Church pension for the rest of his life. He was able to continue his scientific research in areas unrelated to heliocentrism” (Kindle Locations 641-643). I suppose they would have to take “persecuted” to mean something like tortured or perhaps being placed in a non-beautiful palace for five months? But I’m sure most atheist would say that censoring Galileo by not allowing him to continue to study and publish on his heliocentric theory and, basically, placing him under house arrest, qualifies as persecution. Ignoring whether we want to slap the label “persecuted” on that seems irrelevant to the broader point that there was clearly a conflict between Galileos scientific theory and the theology of the church, which the Roman Catholic Church itself admitted was the case: from the Papal condemnation, “The proposition that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scripture. The proposition that the Earth is not the center of the world and immovable but that it moves, and also with a diurnal motion, is equally absurd and false philosophically and theologically considered at least erroneous in faith” (see the source provided by the book itself in a footnote). As a note: I do agree with the authors that the history of the even often recounted by atheists is not entirely true. Their portrayal is often simplistic and inaccurate. But at the same time that doesn’t mean there was no conflict between Galileo’s scientific theory and the theology of the RCC.

    They end this section on Galileo by quoting Dinesh D’Souza: ‘Indeed,’ says D’Souza, ‘there is no other example in history of the Catholic Church condemning a scientific theory’” (Kindle Locations 646-647). While it may be true that the Roman Catholic Church in particular has never since then officially denounced a scientific theory, that’s a trivial observation. Religious organizations and religious people in particular have continued to condemn specific scientific theories or at least ideas that have been promoted as scientific.