Reclaiming the Soul of Science

Since it is God's rationality that orders nature, not our own, science cannot proceed by armchair cogitations.

A sweet voice rose above the assembly on Sunday morning: "God's secrets are written in the first light," announced the refrain.The listeners were startled, for this was no church service; it was the 1993 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (aaas). The singer was Nancy Abrams, wife of cosmologist Joel Primack, and her hymn celebrated the residual cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang. The performance highlighted a session on the relationship between science and religion, where participants discussed "The Religious Significance of Big Bang Cosmology" and "Scientific Resources for a Global Religious Myth."

Establishment science has long separated religion and science into antagonistic categories. But the human urge for a unified vision of the world is spilling over those artificial boundaries. The only question is what kind of religion will be taken as compatible with science. This is, after all, the age of do-it-yourself God kits, and many aaas speakers argued that traditional faiths must give way to "a science-based myth," elevating cosmic evolution into a "compelling 'religious' narrative."

What these priestly pronouncements overlook is that Western science presupposes its own indigenous religious context: Christianity. In The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy, Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton note that many ancient cultures-the Egyptians, the Chinese-developed high levels of technology, but that scientific thinking, with its emphasis on experiment and mathematical formulation, arose in Western Europe. Why is that?

The answer is that Christian belief ...

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