Theology, philosophy, math, science, and random other things

The trends in science as evidence for Christianity against atheism (part 1)

The previous post in this series looked at some possible objections raised thus far.

But in an earlier post, I said that science, taken as a whole, serves as evidence for Christianity over atheism. In this and the next post, I will focus specifically on the trends in scientific discoveries and show that they support Christianity over atheism.

"Science is totally a boring waste of time" said no scientist ever. When we look around, we find that the world is just awesome. Starting with the divinely provided axioms of science, we humans have studied the universe and perpetually found it to be magnificent beyond our wildest expectations.

Now, why should that be? What worldview best accounts for that observation, and other similar trends and patterns in science? Which worldview - Christianity or atheism - can better explain these large-scale, long-term trends in scientific discoveries?

Consider the vastness of the universe. In the course of the history of science our conception of the universe has continually grown. It was first conceived as our the solar system plus some additional layers ("sphere of the fixed stars" and the "Primum Mobile"); then it was conceived as our Milky Way Galaxy (see the Shapley-Curtis debates); then the "spiral nebulae" in question were acknowledged as "island universes" - galaxies in their own right; and our current understanding is that the observable universe is some 90 billion light years across, with who knows how many myriads of equivalent volumes beyond the observable edge.

Now an atheistic worldview is equally compatible with any of the above stopping points for the size of the universe. You could be an atheist and be equally comfortable with the idea of a solar-system sized universe, a galaxy sized universe, or a 90-billion-light-year universe. None of these different sizes would cause increased doubt for atheism. This is because the atheism has absolutely no predictive or explanatory power - it has nothing to say on how large the universe should be. It cannot explain why we humans have been continually overawed by the size of the universe as we discovered more of it. It is "equally compatible" and "equally comfortable" with a universe of any size, which is another way of saying it utterly fails to predict what the size of the universe should be.

Now consider Christianity, which states that the universe was created to glorify God by displaying his character, so that we may learn more about him by looking at the universe. In that case, a solar-system sized universe is woefully inadequate; if the universe was really only just the size of the solar system, the voyager spacecraft would have crashed into its outer edge by now, and humans can reasonably be expected to overrun that volume of space in another few millennia. It would have been an embarrassment to Christianity if the universe were only as large as the solar system - such a universe would be far too small to contain or express the glory of God.

In fact if the universe is truly to reflect God and his glory and attributes, it must be inconceivably larger than any distance that humans can possibly experience, and it would only get drastically larger in our understanding as we discovered more of it, as if God were saying, "Did you really think that was all there was to it?" This is the most likely prediction, if Christianity is true.

We now take the two systems - atheism and Christianity - and compare their predictions with reality. What is the actual scientific trend in discovering the nature and size of the universe? We see that the most likely prediction from Christianity is, in fact, exactly the actual scientific trend, whereas atheism doesn't even make a prediction. According to the definition of evidence, we therefore judge that this counts as strong evidence for Christianity.

Remember, this is a long-term trend in science we're discussing here, not a single scientific discovery. A single discovery is generally not "big" enough to distinguish between Christianity and atheism, just as a single driveway is not big enough to distinguish between a round and a flat earth. But a long-term, large-scale trend characterizes science as a whole, and therefore can serve as evidence between Christianity and atheism.

I mention this because atheists love to point out how often Christians are wrong on specific scientific discoveries. They would consider that a "trend in science". So, in the course of humans discovering the vastness of the universe, while Copernicus (who was a Christian), Kepler (also a Christian), Galileo (ditto), and Newton (same) were constructing the heliocentric model of the solar system, atheists will point out that on this specific discovery, some Christians were on the wrong side of the issue in holding to the geocentric model. But the ones who proposed and accepted the heliocentric model were also Christians. So, when Christians are doing science with other Christians, and one group of Christians turns out to have been right and the other group of Christians turns out to have been wrong, this somehow works as evidence for atheism, which wasn't even involved in the discussion?

More importantly, atheists who argue along the "Christians were wrong on geocentrism" line of thought do not understand that being wrong is how science works: false hypothesis are disproven by experiment and rejected, while the unfalsified hypothesis are considered further. Christianity gave birth to science by providing for its axioms, and Christians have been doing science ever since. Therefore on nearly every discovery that came thereafter, you'll find Christians who were right and Christians who were wrong - because that's how science works. Contrast that with atheism, which has no relationship with science, no continuous history, and no scientific heritage, and therefore can point to neither a history of being right nor a history of being wrong.

This is why a group of people being wrong on individual scientific issues is too "small" to distinguish between Christianity or atheism. You must consider science as a whole, and look at the long-term, large-scale trends. It's true that there are some individual scientific discoveries which can meaningfully distinguish between Christianity and atheism (for example: the universe had a beginning), but they are rare. The fact that some Christians were wrong on some issues is no more evidence against Christianity than the fact that some atheists were wrong on cold fusion is evidence against atheism; both are simply what you'd expect from people doing science.

If atheists want to claim superiority over Christians who were wrong on specific points in the course of doing science (because that's how science works), then they must demonstrate that superiority by being right on those points WITHOUT doing science - a futile endeavor. Alternatively, they could examine whether science, as a whole, serves as evidence for Christianity or atheism - which is exactly what we're doing now.

Many atheists clumsily graft their atheism on to the starting assumptions of science, then confuse those two disparate things and make erroneous statements like "Christians are wrong about science" and "science, therefore atheism!" These are such pervasive errors in our time that I needed to take that large detour in the previous paragraphs to specifically counter them. Now we can get back to the remaining trends in science - which I'll continue examining in the next post of this series.

You may next want to read:
The trends in science as evidence for Christianity against atheism (part 2) (Next post of this series)
How is God related to all other fields of study?
How physics fits within Christianity (part 1)
Another post, from the table of contents

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