In my previous post, I articulated my view on the limits of scientific inquiry by focusing on how scientists “do science.”  I also explored three implications that result if this picture of science is adopted.  Here, I examine one objection against this position: naturalism must be correct because modern scientific theories work.The heart of the objection is that modern science has generated considerable fruit over the past century or so because the underlying assumptions governing scientific inquiry (namely, naturalism) are correct.  If the core assumptions are not correct, then one would not expect science to be so successful.  Medical advancements are a common example often cited to drive home this point.  Thus, one may confidently use scientific explanations as evidence for the truthfulness of a naturalistic worldview and as evidence against other non-naturalistic worldviews.  A syllogism for this argument might be as follows:

1. If science “works,” then the core assumptions underpinning scientific inquiry are correct.
2. There are numerous examples of science working.
3. Therefore, there is a high probability that the core assumptions are correct.

The problem with this argument is the first premise, which amounts to a pragmatic test for truthfulness.  However, it is simply incorrect that “what works” must be true.  Likewise, failures do not imply falsity.  Norman Geisler has listed six major criticisms of a pragmatic test for truth in his book Christian Apologetics.  The reader is referred to that text for a fuller description of the failure of pragmatism as a truth test.  I will relate two of the criticisms to this specific objection. 

First, a pragmatic truth test requires knowledge of the long-term consequences.  It may be true that what works in the short-term will fail in the long run.  In this sense, pragmatism reduces to fideism because one must have faith that in the long run purely naturalistic science will be born out to be true.  Second, pragmatic tests are necessarily highly subjective.  What works for one person or group of people may not necessarily work for a different person or group of persons.  For example, Hinduism has worked for millions of individuals for a very long time, but this does not mean that Hinduism itself is true.  In science, similar subjective elements come to play in adjudicating between rival theories.  Elegance, simplicity, predictive power,  ability to encompass large amounts of data, and personal intuition are all factors in deciding whether or not a scientific theory is better than a competing theory.  Different people place different weights on each of these factors, hence the result has some degree of subjectivity.

Lastly, Christians should not be surprised that science based on methodological naturalism will work in many instances.  The Christian God is one of order, who holds together the universe through natural laws.  Thus, using methodological naturalism to discover those laws is certainly within the purview of Christianity.  The problem is when the scientific evidence is judged to be independent of the naturalistic grid through which it was conceived and then used as a truth test.

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