Side Comments on Christians in Science

I thought the poll was only for scientists. I would go with ID.
the reason in my perspective is that they clearly affirm God’s role in creation and also recognise the importance of philosophical positions that underlies science and leave theology to theologians.
I am comfortable with reasons to believe also for the same reason.
No to TE/EC- They don’t respect philosophy or theology as disciplines and yet dabble in it and create a big mess.
YEC- Again same reason as TE/EC. Incompetent (or at least closed minded) theologians.

Disclaimer: The above are personal impressions formed from interaction/reading articles from all groups… and are not expert opinion in any way.

I hope you can address, at some point, the fact that many (perhaps) most Christians have vastly different mental models for different branches of science. They think that God must be miraculously and maybe even visibly intervening at every step of biological evolution. But when they talk about what causes a hurricane, they are completely comfortable referring entirely to “natural” factors (heat, moisture, temperature gradients, etc.)

Both weather systems and evolution are stochastic processes, but they seem to get treated very differently. Why is that? How can that be changed?

My $.02,


If YEC is a doctrine in your church, be prepared for a cold reception from the pastor. And other church members may interpret it that you don’t “really” believe the Bible, so you could expect things to get quite unfriendly. I like your enthusiasm for helping young people in the church understand science, but some churches would see that as a threat.


I also wonder what legal issues could be involved when you have discussions about religion in the work place. When I was at Wash. U I didn’t even talk about faith issues with the other Christians in my lab.


Many of these sorts of questions get back to the “framework” question. A good framework would quickly admit effective answers. :slight_smile:

I got pinged by @swamidass in the other thread, so I thought I will provide the standard Catholic teaching on divine action (note: while standard, this is not de fide, i.e. one can refuse it and still be considered Catholic). This teaching came from at least Thomas Aquinas, but might be older.

God upholds and sustains all of creation (Catechism of the Catholic Church: 301): This means that in addition to creating the universe, God also keeps it going. Indeed, God sustains the laws of physics, and thus objects simply following the laws of physics are considered examples of divine action.

Importantly, God is not a domino toppler who built a universe with its laws, started it and left it going independently of him. God is also not an author who wrote in a book every single events, as then God can go to sleep and the story sustains itself - existing without the need of God. The closest analogy I can find is a game master in Dungeons & Dragons: the movement of the Universe is contingent on God playing, and when God stops playing, the Universe ceases to be.

I hope this also explains why typically Catholics disagree with Methodological Naturalism (at least the ones that do not hold that MN is tautological to begin with).

An extension of the classical teaching in the previous paragraph is the additional demand that God created the natural world to be complete (Genesis 1:31 - And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good), and changing it is against his nature (Divine Immutability, from e.g. Lateran Council IV: DS 800). He does not change the laws of physics to perform miracles. All miracles have natural explanations.


Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say nothing is “natural”, as nature itself is created and directly sustained by God ?
The “laws” of physics being human categorisations of regularities observed in creation… and not necessarily a real thing.

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It depends on what you mean by “natural” and “supernatural”. For me, it’s not more accurate, but just as accurate.

:slight_smile:… I think it all boils down to the idea of “Agency”… Categories such as natural/supernatural would be meaningless if nature did not have agency.

I don’t think it’s a very big issue, depending on how you approach the subject. You certainly shouldn’t touch the subject during an interview or with anything performance-related (ditto for marriage status, sex, health & etc). But in normal conversation, it’s probably not a big thing to bring up and gauge the response. Proselytization is out but free conversation that doesn’t discomfort others is fine. Religious paraphernalia can be tricky but if your beliefs compel you to where something like a yarmulka, a bindi or an ash smear on Wednesday, that’s fine.

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Hi PdotdQ,

How does someone “not hold that MN is tautological”? How does one affirmatively hold that MN is tautological?


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There are many formulations of this, and in the end it depends on what you call “natural” or “supernatural”, what you mean by “science”, and on the particular form of Methodological Naturalism that you hold.

Here is one formulation:

  1. Methodological Naturalism says that: phenomena we observe in the sciences do not have supernatural causes
  2. Something is in the natural world if it interacts physically with the rest of the natural world (e.g. our senses)
  3. Scientific experiments interact with the physical world in some way - i.e. therefore science cannot test supernatural phenomena
  4. So MN is tautologically true

Note on 2): this means if e.g. ghosts exist and can affect the natural world (e.g. poltergeist or what have you), then they are by definition part of the natural world and can be studied by science.

So more than half of responses want me to start with TE/EC. Why? I hope no one is conspiring to start a fight :slight_smile: .

I’m not looking to start a fight, I’m just looking for a better understanding of the theory and the objections to it. I’ve been working my way through the 800+ page Theistic Evolution by Moreland, Meyer, et. al. and it’s slow going because I’m fact checking almost everything. At the rate I’m progressing, I’ll be retired before I finish the book.

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Have you seen my review yet? Three Reviews of the Crossway Theistic Evolution Book

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No, but I will definitely read it. Thanks!

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Hm - I’ve never really thought about the two questions together (‘what is our purpose as scientists?’ and ‘how does God work in the world?’). I suppose how you answer one does influence the other. Well, here goes:

After coming a ways down the ‘purpose’ hierarchy (glorify God, enjoy him forever, discover truth, etc.), I would say that my purpose is to demonstrate that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is in perfect harmony with the universe he created. That he is by far the best explanation for the physical observations of our universe in comparison to any rival hypothesis.

As for how God acts, I agree with those who’ve suggested earlier that there’s not ever a time that God DOESN’T act. He acts in a multitude of different ways at many different levels at every moment in time, and because of our general ignorance of his will, we classify some of these ways as “miracles” and others as “laws of physics”. But the ignorance is in our own minds, and not in the actions of God. At a sufficiently deep level there are no “miracles”, in the sense of a special act of God different from his other acts. Shallower “miracles” are explained by deeper “miracles”. So for instance a miraculous catch of fish in the Gospels may be a miracle in the day of a fisherman, but presumably nothing miraculous needed to happen at the level of the law of physics. At the deepest level - that is, at the level of the miracle of the Incarnation - there are no “miracles”. Everything is simply a perfectly consistent working out of God’s eternal will in performing that deepest miracle.

I’m still not quite sure how the two questions connect, but that’s where I stand on them.


Thanks for the explanation @PdotdQ. Here’s how I think of MN:

Every event has many causes. Aquinas listed 5: formal, material, efficient, exemplary, and final. MN restricts investigation to the material, efficient, and exemplary. MN does not deny formal and final causes; it simply does not speak to them.

To me, this seems like a formulation of MN that is not tautological and could be affirmed by a Catholic. Would you agree?



The main problem is with this statement. It’s an assumption that material interactions are all there is… and the cause for all that we can observe.

But I think that is no longer methodological naturalism, and is instead metaphysical naturalism. I think methodological naturalism just says that the universe we observe with our senses has a regular order, and that order is intelligable and explicable. In particular, science provides a very successful set of methods, processes, and social constructs to create, test, and refine models of that order so that we can have reliable knowledge of the empirically accessible world around us.

It doesn’t claim, in my thinking, to assess final causes, rationality, subjective experience, or experiences outside the regular order (think outliers).