Philosophy of science

Robert Kohl

Robert Kohl

It is disappointing that staff members who are happy to place the letters PhD. (L. philosophiae doctor) behind their name understand so little about the philosophical assumptions upon which their disciplines are founded. A recent letter addressing 2009 as the Year of Science is but another example. That letter was implying that science, the study of the physical world and cosmos, should triumph over belief in religion. This is the atheist’s mantra. It arises from the human desire to place oneself as autonomous and reach the peak of A. Maslow’s self-actualization. Therefore, one must deny there is a Creator God who would have the right to set the rules by which His world should function. (There are honest atheists that tell it like is and I will quote them.)

What are the philosophical assumptions upon which modern science functions? Loren Eiseley stated in Darwin’s Century, “we must observe that it is the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear articulate fashion to the experimental method of science itself. It began its discoveries and made use of its method in the faith, not the knowledge, that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a Creator who did not act upon whim.”

The Christian logic stated since God created man and gave him moral laws by which to live, then it was logical that His physical world should operate under physical laws. The scientific method was designed to test our guesses of physical relationships or laws to determine the probability of their correctness. A.R. Hall in his history of science wrote, “The scientific concept of ‘laws of nature’ was unknown both to the ancient world and to the Far Eastern peoples; it originated from the Hebraic and Christian belief in a deity who was at once Creator and Law-giver.”

Most atheists either do not know the philosophical assumptions of science as it has been recorded or are in denial. Occasionally one admits their perspective. Richard Lewontin provided the atheist’s view when he wrote in The New York Review of Books, “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the world, but that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

The autonomous man. But was Sir Francis Bacon correct when he said, “It is a poor sense of a man’s life, himself”?

Should we let the man most accredited with the formulation of the scientific method make one more statement? Bacon also said, “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth man’s mind about to religion.”