IEE: Faith and Science

We present a new edition of Ideological Education Essentials! (Otherwise known as 'Science' Education Essentials)

To return to the usual events on Rhonda Forlow’s Science Essentials blog, the series from the week that was was called The Marriage of Science and Faith. She begins:

Have you heard or read all the debate and talk about the difference between science and faith? It hasn’t taken long for atheists and theistic evolutionists to attack organizations like ICR on the blog, at conventions, and in the press with taglines such as “Leave science up to the scientists” and “Keep religion out of science.” While I respect their right to voice their opinion, I believe they’re misled. After all, the fact remains that science incorporates faith! Don’t believe me?

So, “science incorporates faith.” Faith is belief without evidence, and I’m going to need to see some before I believe her on this one…

While most scientists of today would have you believe that the founding fathers of science were indifferent to the existence of God or that their thoughts about spiritual matters were irrelevant to their work, many of them believed in and honored God as Creator. Not only did these men understand that scientific principles are often based on theories and hypotheses that require an element of faith, but their understanding of science actually helped enhance, explain, and confirm their faith in God.

“Scientific principles are often based on theories and hypotheses that require an element of faith” – not exactly. Certainly not faith in the Christian God. Again, faith is belief without evidence, and it does help if there is some evidence floating around when you make a hypothesis. What really needs to be established by Forlow here is that faith in God is necessary – or at least helpful – to the practise of science. It really does help if your faith is ‘irrelevant to your work’ as otherwise bias creeps in. If you believe in God and want to do science that is fine. If your scientific work bolsters your belief then that’s your problem, and irrelevant to the question at hand. If your religion, however, demands that you believe a certain thing which is relevant to your research, then you have a problem.

Following this paragraph is the That’s a Fact video covered in Newton. To summarise it, the video is factually accurate – although it gives an incorrect date – but it also leaves out a lot. Newton may have been religious, he may have credited God for this and that – but he was also a heretic by both contemporary standards and the theology of the ICR; he practised astrology and alchemy; he went a bit batty in his later years, probably due to the alchemy; and he was, of course, wrong in the sense that a much more accurate Theory of Gravity was still to come, a few hundred years later. And let’s not forget the entirely secular nature of both Newton and Einstein’s theories, and the fact that Einstein can’t be roped in as a ‘man of science, man of God.’

Regardless of their religious stance, most scientists credit Isaac Newton as the father of universal gravitation. However, that’s not all Newton is known for. He helped define the laws of gravity and planetary motion, explained the laws of light and color, co-founded the field of calculus, built the first reflecting telescope, and many other things.

And scientists credit him for that too – is she implying that scientists under appreciate Newton, and that they do so for his religious beliefs?

But Newton’s discoveries, albeit important works to the scientific community, were also laced with theology and his faith in God as Creator of all. Though he lived before Darwin, Newton was convinced against the atheistic view on the origins, writing:

Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and everywhere, could produce no variety of things. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being, necessarily existing. (Newton, I. General Scholium. Translated by Motte, A. 1825. Newton’s Principia: The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. New York: Daniel Adee, 506.)

And he’s allowed to be wrong about that. This is an appeal to authority, which is particularly bad considering that this authority was, as she said, not alive at the time even of Darwin and therefore not possessed of all the facts. Newton may have ‘co-founded the field of calculus’ but the mathematical tools that could tell him precisely how wrong he was in the quoted sentences above were yet to be invented.

In the same book, Newton wrote:

This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being….This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God or Universal Ruler. (Ibid, 501.)

And again, the same applies.

In getting back to the debate, I find it interesting that, when used together, the words science and faith are generally seen as an “either/or” choice. Either you believe in a notion of religion or you believe in science. However, since all reasoning utilizes a type of faith, the words faith and science do go hand in hand.

While it’s true that a religious belief does not inherently inhibit your ability to do science, you can’t then go out and say that religion is necessary or that religion can answer the questions that science supposedly can’t answer. Certainly you can’t use it to justify using science to support your preconcieved religious ideas. Note that she equates belief in religion as being equivalent to a ‘belief’ in science. And what justification does she have for saying that “all reasoning utilizes a type of faith”?

As a K-12 science teacher, how do you personally feel about the relationship of faith and science? How do you convey that idea to your students?

At least partially due to the commenting competition that began this week, there are actually comments on the posts. But that’s not to say that anyone has answered the question.

The first comment is from someone calling themselves ‘Paladin Ranger of the North’ – I’m pretty sure I can guess who they are – who writes:

I have to stand up and say that you’re absolutely 100% wrong. The practice of science requires no need for faith, because faith “is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof” (Wikipedia). Science is completely different, using demonstrable evidence in order to give reason why people should believe and accept certain theories as true, to the best of our knowledge.

In short, religion requires faith in order to believe claims, whereas science does not need faith, as it is based on demonstrable evidence in order to give good reason why to support a claim.

That’s a reasonable summary. It was responded to by ‘Cao’ in a lengthy comment that I will break up for commentary:

The practice of science requires considerable faith – particularly the way it’s practiced today. Take a look at those memos that were just released showing hoity toity academics scheming how they were going to squiggle out of those FOIA requests having to do with their fake global warming models.

From what I’ve heard of this it seems to be a case of quotes from emails in which climate scientists have complained about yet another FOIA request trying to disrupt their research, and probably have asked what the general policy is to do about them. You’ll note that a) this has nothing to do with the topic at hand and that b) we’re already delving into conspiracy theories.

Completely eliminating the mideieval warming period in order to force the models to reflect global warming now isn’t science.

I thought there was a cooling period in the medieval era? It doesn’t really matter…

But the Church of Global Warming enthusiasts continue to press on with their myth. If you don’t think that takes faith…even a greater faith than a belief in God, I think – then you’re fooling yourself.

My point here is that this is irrelevant – if her allegations were true, it would be a case of the scientists deliberately lying about reality, rather than having faith that something is true without knowing that to be so. But it goes on:

The scientific method is not actually used by these people- it is more like Lysenko-style biology: politicized science where the outcome is first, and the graphs and computer models are stoked so that the outcome is reached. Any annoying little facts that don’t line up with the predetermined outcome are thrown out.

It’s nice that she knows who and what Lysenko is. Lysenkoism was a policy of the Soviet Union and was the belief that evolution occurred not by natural selection but via a Lamrkian process of betterment. This meshed better with the communist ideology and so was adopted, ruining soviet agriculture. A similar thing could quite easily happen if the creationists ever win when it comes to antibiotic resistance and general disease and pest control. If you’re wondering, Cao never sources any of the claims made in her comment – she has no evidence for her conspiracy theorys.

For those that believe in the scientific method, we know that good science involves a hypothesis. Then experiments follow to validate or disprove the hypothesis. And if the hypothesis is disproven, the hypothesis is changed to reflect the new findings. That is the way Creation science works; but that is not the way the secular world works.

Irony. Meter. Blown.

Religion and science can and DO go hand in hand – and I love the way ICR teaches all the examples of how evolutionists are completely wrong.

Again with the ‘citation needed’ business. The ICR may say that evolutionists are wrong at least five times a week (or was that three times before cock-crow?), but that doesn’t mean that they have ever been correct. Especially if you add ‘completely’ into the mix…

In fact, the attacks on ICR like the one from “Ranger of the North” here even further punctuate how vacuous the arguments are against introducing the idea of design in the natural world – which we can see all around us. Even a snowflake demonstrates evidence of design…it is miraculous and wondrous.

The snowflake thing we saw in a Man of Science, Man of God thing in this month’s Acts & Facts – to summarise, we know that snowflakes aren’t designed, and are merely the product of random chance, and the fact that we perceive them to be should serve as a warning to all those that would use Paley’s famous analogy of the watchmaker.

The secular world left behind a lot of wondrous possibilities by divorcing itself from God’s creation and evidence for a new earth.

I understand all the words in that sentence, but I still don’t know what she means by them. Again, little of Cao’s comment actually addresses the point in any way.

PRotN responded:

Just because things are miraculous and wondrous do not demonstrate evidence of design, especially when there is such an elegant solution to why there is such a wide biodiversity of life on this planet due to evolution by natural selection. I’ll let Occam’s Razor settle my case while you all try to figure out how God can make this all happen, much like the conspiracy theorists with 9/11.

An even more nonsensical response, from somebody calling themselves ‘Paladin Ranger of the South’, followed:

My Paladin brother from the North is just confused, and blinded for the moment, please pay no attention to his shortcomings, instead embrace what he does have, a desire to know the truth.
Hopefully he will see that aside from the moral dilemma presented and the mass propaganda campaign by the United States and many other foreign governments, that the world is at an information war, and unfortunately Christians are losing. It is not because of the lack of solid evidence, it is because of the lack of emphasis Christians had on presenting the solid evidence, that allowed others to sneak in with their high sounding ideas, and oppress the violently on a loving society. Evidence of design is in cosmology, biology, in your visual precepts, and the study of many other aspects of creation. My brother here will soon realize his fault, it will happen when scripture and sound proof have a synthesis, like the prediction of the re-institutionalization of the nation of Israel on the correct date, or such as a man returning from biological death. No one has told my brother that the world changed 2000 years ago, and not because of a lie, but because of truth. Christianity was the main proponent of furthering the study how the universe works, unfortunately it wasn’t free of cancerous thoughts and ideas, which have hindered much of the technological advances today. Unfortunately much of the inventions we use today including the computer, internet, phone, lasers, radio, were all invented by one Christian, Nikola Tesla. This is what creation generates, but evolution has created nothing but theories, like relativity and big bang, all which defy the laws of nature in one way or another. Someone will explain to my brother one day, not to rely on what a bunch of scientists say out of fear of criticism, but to say things looking forward to positive criticism and growth. Instead of things that lurk unseen at the core of the sun, or in electro-magnetic fields dubbed black holes. Of course loaded with presuppositions, it will take more than 1 article or comment to explain to my brother these realities, that way he will know the truth, and he will know it more abundantly.

Riiight… Can you understand that? The bits I can are incorrect at the very least…


Onward – to the K-5 activities!

1)      Follow this link for an awesome activity called Falling for Gravity!

The stuff at the link, along with the second activity, are galilean concepts.

2)      Do you become weightless when you dive or jump from a diving board? Does falling water become weightless, too? Why or why not? Are all objects equally affected by gravity? Watch this video to help students visually see this concept.

Yes; yes; because weight is force and force is a product of acceleration and all things accelerate under a gravitational field at the same rate, thus there is no difference in acceleration and no weight force; yes.

3)      How does color affect a planet’s surface temperature? Let’s find out! Gather the following materials: 2 thermometers, desk lamp, ruler, construction paper in white and black (1 sheet of each), scissors, cellophane tape, 2 empty metal food cans of the same size.

a)      Cut pieces of white and black construction paper to fit around the outside of the cans, similar to the way the cans’ labels do.
b)      Secure one piece of paper to each can with tape.
c)      Place one thermometer inside each can.
d)     Read and record the temperature on both thermometers.
e)      Position both cans about 12 inches from the lamp.
f)       Turn the lamp on.
g)      After 10 minutes, read and record the temperature on both thermometers.
h)      Which can has the highest temperature?
i)        Why?
j)        How to you apply the theory of the absorption of light waves to the temperature found on a planet (hot or cool)?

That’s very similar to an experiment that you might do to demonstrate, I don’t know, CO2-driven global warming.

These activities have nothing to do with ‘The Marriage of Science and Faith.’ They may be Newton related, but Forlow should be teaching based on concepts, not the many and varied topics that a long-dead scientist covered.

The two activity posts comprise Day Zero of the CCC, which is why there are no less than 11 comments on this post (five from rforlow). The requirements for entry were “a comment on one of the activities. You can comment on which activity you like or would use, or which activity you would change and how.” The prize was a copy of Legends and Lore of Dinosaurs, a book about how legends of dragons are really of dinosaurs. It sounds like it would make a good read – as a fiction book.

Most of the comments are supportive, i.e. they mention the activity that they would like/use. The winner was Jim Groff, who wrote:

Thanks for publishing Science Essentials! This is a much-needed resource with practical activity ideas that help teachers and parents connect God’s Word with God’s world! I re-post your blogs and activities on our ministry website to pass along this resource to others.

and:

Thanks for this much-needed resource that helps teachers and parents connect God’s Word with God’s world! I include links to your blog and activities on our ministry website to let others know about these biblically- sound information and practical activities.

By my reading of the rules neither of those responses qualify, which show the lack of transparency in the process of the competition and the potential problems with it.

The comment that stuck out is the final one from Darren Aton, after the winner was announced:

Since this is called “The Marriage of Science and Faith Elementary Activities” I was wondering where the ‘faith’ part comes in… It seems all being science-only.

There has been no answer.


Next, the 6-12 activities:

1)      Download  and read a copy of the online article “Man of Science, Man of God: Isaac Newton” by Christine Dao. List 8 different disciplines that Newton studied, excelled in, or pioneered.

Ah, the source of it all. Nothing we haven’t seen already. Gravitational physics, maths, optics, astronomy, astrology, alchemy, theology, and coin minting?

2)      Check out Newton’s Second Law Activity from NASA.

Yeah, yeah…

3)      Design and perform a basic experiment to test or demonstrate Newton’s Second Law of Motion: F=ma.

But…there are so many…

4)      Light from a single star can be divided into its separate colors by refraction. This refracted light reveals what elements are burning in each star. Thus, the composition of stars can be discovered using 3 of Newton’s specialties: optics, refraction, and astronomy. To date, each of the thousands of different stars that have been analyzed has a unique composition. How does this compare with 1 Corinthians 15:41?

Burning? Well, I should have expected that since nuclear physics is part of the ‘big bang doctrine’ it couldn’t actually be true, and it must be a good ol’ fashioned redox reaction, specifically combustion.

What does she mean by a ‘unique composition’? I mean, two piles of sand will technically have ‘different compositions’, but that doesn’t mean that there wont be patterns and similarities. There are only so many elements to go round, after all…

5)      At least one astronomer estimates that the universe has more than 100 billion galaxies averaging 300 billion stars each (Pieter van Dokkum, Fox News [AP], December 1, 2010). In the currently popular Big Bang model of the universe, each of the estimated 300 sextillion (yes, I said sextillion!) stars in our universe developed from one uniform ball of energy. In contrast, the creation model follows Psalm 33:6: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth,” as well as Psalm 147:4 : “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name.” Which of these models best matches the fact that each star has a unique composition? Why do you think so?

What do those verses have to do with anything? An omnipotent creator can do anything and everything, so the ‘creationist model’ can explain everything and nothing. But generally speaking the ‘big bang’ fits reality much better.

Now for the comments. Comment 1 is supportive. Comment 2 is as follows:

I appreciate the opportunity to look for articles that relate Science and Faith. It appears that activities #2 and #3 don’t fit this description, though they do relate to Newton. Also, I would probably suggest combining #4 and #5 into a single assignment. It was interesting to think about how these verses apply to astronomy. Has anyone seen a “Big Bang”-based explanation for why the stars are different?

There! No, wait, that’s just bigfoot.

The biggest factor in the explanation is that the stars will be of different ages. Two identical stars formed moments after each other will not be perceived to be identical when viewed at the same time. Other factors also conspire to make starting conditions differ also.

One commenter is concerned that, as a scientist, “my children will follow in my footsteps and be surrounded by sketics [sic] and atheists 24/7.”

“sean nota”, who I believe I’ve seen before somewhere (but I can’t verify that), writes:

“In the currently popular Big Bang model of the universe, each of the estimated 300 sextillion (yes, I said sextillion!) stars in our universe developed from one uniform ball of energy.”

This is very different from the big bang model I am familiar with. Could you elaborate or provide a source for this?

rforlow replied:

Yale astronomer Pieter van Dokkum. Fox News (AP) Dec. 1, 2010

And nota says:

You mean this one?
http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/12/01/scientists-sextillion-stars/

I don’t want to be nitpicking, but I can’t find the description of the big bang as you provided in your post in this source.

I didn’t mean the sextillion-stars claim, but the description of the big bang, which is completely different as I learned it.

rforlow:

My source is for the number of supposed stars in the universe.

nota:

Sorry, I was maybe a bit unclear in my posts, but I meant your description of the big bang model. Could you provide source for that one, or elaborate a bit more on it? Thank you very much

rforlow:

My over simplified definition of the Big Bang theory is the generally accepted definition. An example of the explanation may be found here:

http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/universe/origins-universe-article/.

And finally:

That link doesn’t look at all like your description, I’m truly sorry. There is nothing about a ball of energy and that all the stars in our current universe developed from that ball of energy.
May I ask you to use the proper definition of the big bang please.

I’ll keep you posted on developments in this argument. Forlow is correct in that her description is common, but by using it here it becomes a straw man, so nota has a point and Forlow’s becomes merely a triviality. A screenshot of the convo as it stands is here.


Last, of course, are the discussion starters:

Classroom Starters:
Does science contradict our belief and faith in the Bible?

Yes – that goes without saying, if you’re a biblical literalist.

For the older student: What are the different types of science (historical, operational, etc.)? Which type requires faith rather than direct observation?

Ah, the ‘historical science’ thing. You can still do perfectly good science if it’s ‘historical’. None of them require faith.

Dinner Table Starters:
Why does it require faith to believe in God?

Because we have no evidence that ‘e exists beyond people saying it over and over.

For the older student: How would you respond to a teacher who says you cannot impose faith onto science?

But it would be much more fun to be the teacher in that situation.

There are three comments, all concerning the third question. The last comment is:

After being filled with the Holy Spirit, I don’t doubt, question, or wonder if He is. He is the I AM.

Ah, theology, how we love you. In the same way that we love granny and her dementia.


So, all in all, it’s been a productive week commenting wise. At least temporarily the CCC has been very successful in reversing the former trend of there being fewer and fewer comments each week. But it seems unlikely at this stage that it will last – commenting on the second day was down to a third of the forth, and there is little reason to suppose that many of the people commenting on the competition posts will comment on the others also.

As for the posts themselves, Forlow never managed to demonstrate that faith is an important part of science, or any other of her claims. Instead, we got the usual disjointed series of posts, even more so than usual.

3 thoughts on “IEE: Faith and Science

  1. Pingback: IEE: 2011 Rewind « Eye on the ICR

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