June 18, 2012 by
Last month, Nathan Sasser, one of the speakers at The Clash, shared a few blog posts about worldview. Today, Nathan is back to share his thoughts on worldview and scientific methods. If you missed Nathan's previous posts, check out part one and part two.
In past blog posts, I argued that everyone has a worldview, and that what distinguishes the Christian worldview from any other is that it is based ultimately on the Bible. This means that when Christians think consistently with their worldview, they interpret every fact in the world in light of what the Bible says about it.
Let’s say for example that you are wondering how long it will take the earth to do a complete rotation—that is, how long it will take for one day-night cycle to occur. You recall that in all of your past experiences, this cycle has taken 24 hours. But how do you know that this cycle will occur again, just as it always has?
As a Christian, my confidence in the regularity of nature is based on the fact that everything in the universe is created and controlled by God, including the planets (e.g. Isa. 40:26, Ps. 104:19). God’s plan for the universe includes the regularities of nature as well as God’s miraculous and exceptional activities in the world. I interpret every fact in light of this plan, the broad outline of which is revealed in Scripture. So Scripture, which contains God’s plan for the universe, gives me a basis for making scientific predictions.
My secular friends will have to approach science differently. On the one hand, if they do not assume that nature works uniformly and regularly, then they will have no way to give explanations or make predictions. How long will it take the earth to complete a full rotation today? Well, it’s always taken 24 hours when I have observed it in the past; if nature is regular and uniform, it will take 24 hours today too. But if nature is not regular, then I have no idea how long it will take.
On the other hand, some of the most thoughtful non-theistic philosophers (for example, David Hume) have concluded that there is no reason to believe in the uniformity of nature. No matter how many times we have observed the orbits and rotations of the planets, it is always conceivable that something different will happen the next time: the earth may slow down or start spinning the opposite direction. You might think that planetary back flips like this, though conceivable, are vastly improbable. But to say that an event is improbable is just to say that it has never been observed before. And the very question which we have to answer is, “how do we know that really weird, never-before-observed events do not occur?”
Here’s my point: Scripture gives me the only possible basis for doing science. It gives me a basis for believing that nature is in general regular, since God providentially controls it. Scripture also tells me when there have been and will be miraculous exceptions to these regularities. If we do not presuppose that God’s plan controls the world and that he has revealed this plan in Scripture, then we will have no basis for thinking that nature is regular or predictable at all.
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