Saturday, September 1, 2012

Distinguishing science from philosophy

Slowly I have come to realise that this is the key issue in helping most people understand the relationship between science and Christianity. A specific piece of scientific knowledge is not the same thing as a particular philosophical interpretation (or world view) that might be associated with it.
These distinctions are particularly important when it claimed that a specific scientific "fact" or "theory" conflicts (or agrees) with a specific Christian belief.

Scientific knowledge is something that is experimentally testable, open to confirmation, and can be agreed upon by a wide range of parties. Philosophical claims do not have these qualities. They are not testable in a laboratory.

Let me illustrate with some concrete examples.

1. Science: The earth is not the centre of the solar system.
Philosophy A: Humanity is not special.
Philosophy B: Geographic location is no measure of significance.

2. Science: The sun is just one star among 200 billion in the Milky Way galaxy, which is just one galaxy among 170 billion galaxies.
Philosophy A: Humanity is totally insignificant in the universe.
Philosophy B: Human life is just a highly improbable accident.
Philosophy C: Human life is highly significant because it is so unique and improbable.

3. Science: The DNA of humans and chimpanzees is about 97 per cent the same
Philosophy A: Humans are no different from animals.
Philosophy B: Animal life is equally valuable as human life.
Philosophy C: The 3 per cent difference highlights just how unique and special humans are.

Note how different the philosophical claims are for each piece of scientific knowledge.


  1. For your third one I would add:
    Philosophy D: Humans are spiritually, if not genetically, unique.

  2. These references are very much related to this topic, and of course the naive essentially childish (even infantile) mommy-daddy presumptions about what we are as human being and thus the nature of Reality altogether, at the root of the Christian belief system.

    When and where for instance do you see Christians writing or talking about Consciousness with a capital C, or Light which is the Feeling Love-Bliss-Radiance of Consciousness