How Science Works (and How Christianity Thinks it Wins)

Christian apologists like to imagine that science's errors give them an advantageThis argument was made at the Creationism conference that I recently attended: science isn’t trustworthy because every time you turn around, it’s changing its mind.

  • The sun goes around the earth … no, wait a minute—it’s the other way around.
  • Here’s the fossil of an early human … no, hold on—that one’s a hoax.
  • Living things hold a special energy or force—an élan vital—that animates them … nope, that’s passé.
  • Every wave needs a medium, so space must be filled with “ether” for light to propagate through … oops, wrong again.

An early theory of the formation of the moon said that the fast-spinning early earth flung out the moon and that the big circular Pacific Ocean basin is where it came from.  The question of origin of the moon has been an active area of research, and the flung-out idea is just another discarded scientific theory—this was one of the areas of research that was lampooned at this conference.

The Creationist argues that when you turn from changeable Science to Christianity’s unchanging God and an unchanging Bible, you have something solid that you can trust.

Science does change, but let’s notice that the size of any change tends to decrease for a single theory.  When the door is first opened to a new field of inquiry—say by Leeuwenhoek’s discovery of single-celled organisms or Galileo’s use of the telescope—new theories based on insufficient evidence try to organize the chaos.  One theory might quickly supersede another, but as theories become better at explaining more, changes becomes smaller.  Here are some examples.

  • Geocentrism to heliocentrism was an enormous change for the model of the solar system.  Our understanding of the solar system continues to change (new theories about why Uranus is tipped on its side or reclassification of Pluto as a dwarf planet, for example), but these are comparatively minor.
  • Evolution revolutionized biology, and the changes in biology today are merely refinements to this theory.
  • The intuitive flat earth model was replaced by a spherical earth, and the observation that it’s actually not spherical but slightly flattened at the poles is a small change.
  • Quantum physics continues to change, but new discoveries are not likely to say that matter is not made up of atoms, which are themselves not made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

Christians eager to paint the Bible as an unchanging rock in a sea of chaos don’t seem to understand that they point to science’s strength.  Science realizes that new discoveries may obsolete old theories, and every scientific statement is provisional.  And, remarkably, science is self-correcting.  It finds its own errors.

Science changes, and that’s its strength.  The Bible never changes, and that’s its weakness.

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29 thoughts on “How Science Works (and How Christianity Thinks it Wins)

  1. You forgot Darwins theory of embronic recapitulation, another Scientific blunder. And no fossil evience of intermediate change.. Millions and millions of fossils and no intermediate change. That is why half of the Palentologist hold to another wild guess ( no evidence) called punctuated equillibrium.
    The Bible never changes because it is Absolutly true..Science is theory.
    Also again I love when the inconsitant Athesit holds to science ..When the Atheist worldview can not account for the scientific method. Only the Christian ( who loves science) can account for the scientific method. When ever the Atheist mentions science he must jump into the Christian wordview and borrows from it..As he also must do to account for morality, human dignity, and absolute truth.

    • “You forgot Darwins theory of embronic recapitulation, another Scientific blunder.”

      (First let’s be clear, theory of recapitulation wasn’t part of Darwin’s theory of Evolution.)

      Who did the work to disprove the theory of recapitulation? Did theologians disprove it with the Bible? No, SCIENCE did all the work.

      Seriously, if the theory of recapitulation would have turned out to have been scientifically correct, Christians would simply see it as yet another proof of God’s miraculous involvment in creation.

      “The Bible never changes because it is Absolutly true.”

      If you’re going to claim the Bible never changes, please define EXACTLY what you mean by the word “Bible”.

      Which Bible? The original manuscripts alone? What about the various changes and additions? What about all the different translations?

      Saying that the original manuscripts were inspired directly from God and are therefore infallible and unchanging is utterly MEANINGLESS as the original manuscripts no longer exist. All we actually have are the various changes and additions. Unless you can read Hebrew and Greek, all YOU really have Bob C are the translations.

      Since we can’t error correct the versions of the Bible we have with the original manuscripts, all we can be sure of is that NONE of the Bibles we currently have can be absolutely correct.

      • Every fossil is an intermediate step between its parents and its offspring. Also if atheists take logic from Christianity, then the Christians also took logic from the ancient Greeks who were using logic before Christianity existed. Doesn’t this prove the existence of Poseidon? We don’t need to explain where science comes from because what we do know is that it works. I don’t think anyone has built a working motor that runs entirely on the force generated by prayer.

  2. Hi Bob S,

    I agree with you. But what the anti-science people need to realize is that once a scientific statement has been shown to be wrong (because it did not fit the facts), then its wrongness is an absolute truth, and there is no recanting: the facts have spoken. So science is quite reliable when it comes to knowing what is NOT true. For instance, we will never go back to geocentrism. So geocentrism is absolutely wrong.

    • Interesting point. I wonder if there’s a counterexample, but I can’t think of any.

      And to pursue your line of reasoning, Creationists do indeed want to go back to what science has shown to be false.

      1. First, science assumed God created life the way it is.

      2. Evolution shows that’s not true.

      3. Creationism argues today that it is simply overturning a false scientific theory (and there have been many of these), but what they fail to note is that what they propose is unique: if they’re correct, that would be the first time that science would have gone back to a discarded theory.

      • Hi Bob,

        Actually, when a theory no longer fits the facts, two things can happen:

        1) the theory is slightly modified with secondary hypotheses so as to account for the new facts. For instance, classical darwinism was modified into neo-darwinism.

        2) the defective theory is replaced with a completely different theory. For instance geocentrism with heliocentrism, classical physics with quantum physics, the static universe with the big bang, creationism with evolution, and so on.
        The problem for scientists is that they cannot know a priori, in crisis time (when the old theories are collapsing), whether the way out of the crisis is 1 or 2. Do they need to improve extant theories or do they need a completely new theory? It also depends on how much imagination they have.
        Scientists assume that the simplest theory is the best (all other things being equal). So they would choose as simple a theory as possible.

  3. While the words of the bible may not change, the meaning of those words change all the time. Unlike a science text, the bible doesn’t usually mean what it says. Depending on which sect of Christianity you talk to, you can get all kinds of meaning from the text.


    • Great video, thanks. It’s amazing how Christians can pick and choose which verses are hyperbole and which are literal, missing that they’re using their own common sense to do so instead of letting the Bible speak for itself. Don’t they get the irony?

      It’s like Dorothy’s ruby slippers–she had the answer the whole time. Similarly, Christians lean on Jesus, thanking him for his help in the past, not realizing that their friend is imaginary and their success is their own doing.

  4. To avalon,

    You’re perfectly right. The Bible does not come with instructions for how to read it accurately. Even the craziest theologies have claimed to come from the Bible (Christian Science or JWs, for instance).

    However, biblical scholars are probably those who are nearest the truth. But even they don’t quite agree on everything.

  5. Some still cling as if by a blind faith to the frog to prince evolution fairy tale. Modern science is showing how the heliocentric icon is falling as well to geocentrism. Yes, the Church really had it right all along and Galileo had it wrong as did Copernicus and so many other true believers of heliocentrism. Cf where you can see the objections to geocentrism crumble.

    By the way, it’s rather humorous to see the evolutionists scrambling to explain how the collagen, red blood cells of a supposed 65 million year old dinosaur could remain freshly intact. What a joke! They just can’t seem to give in to common sense and admit that the dino was thousands not millions of years old. But, of course, there blind faith in evolution will not permit them to draw the obvious conclusion of a relatively recent dinosaur extinction since to do so would upset their evolution apple cart.
    James Phillips

    James Phillips

    • (When someone claims to support an earth-centric view of the universe, my first guess is that this is yet another example of Poe’s Law, but I’ll assume that that’s not the case this time. Tell me if you’re spoofing me.)

      There is actually tremendous motivation to upset the scientific apple cart. Can you say, “Nobel Prize”?

  6. AMEN James Phillips! I do not have enough faith to be an Athesist. How does something come from nothing? And order come from disorder? And life from non-life? And intelligence from non- inteeligence? As Van Till says the Athesit worldview leads you to absurdity.

    • Bob C, we actually believe the same thing too. God is something that came from nothing. God made the Universe out of nothing. God’s order came from disorder. If God is truly alive, then His life came from non-life.

      The only real difference is that you give the processes that created everything a name and personality, and you bow down and worship it.

      Atheists are honest enough to admit that “God” is nothing more than mindless natural processes.

      You can worship gravity because it causes the nuclear fusion that creates the Sun that gives us all life, or you can simply realize that gravity isn’t alive and doesn’t care at all about you.

      When atheists start expecting people to bow down and worship natural forces, then I’ll agree that Athesism leads to absurdity…

      Until then, you can keep praying to the Big Bang, keep kissing gravity’s ass, worship the strong and weak nuclear forces, and you can keep sending your tithes to the electromagnetic forces.

      • Look at it this way Bob: at least we have one example of a Bible believer being consistant. The Bible says it, and James believes it. No whining about it being taken out of context or it only being meant to be poetry.

        Now if James could just get all the other believers to stop making excuses and start really believing what the Bible actually teaches…

      • Retro:

        Consistency is good. But when it comes to wanting a biblical theocracy or accepting that all of God’s hideous crimes in the OT (genocide, slavery, destruction of the world, etc.), then maybe dropping biblical inerrancy in favor of common sense sounds better.

  7. ” …then maybe dropping biblical inerrancy in favor of common sense sounds better.”

    Why not also drop the idea that God inspired the Bible?

    IMO, Deism is the only theistic position that can be logically defended.

    • And the arguments that many apologists lead with are deist: Design Argument, Transcendental Argument, Ontological Argument, Fine Tuning, Cosmological, etc. They seem to imagine that the deity at the end of their argument is Yahweh without providing an ounce of evidence.

  8. I am a Christian and I have no problem with science; it’s the junk science that blurs the lines between observable facts and ficticious based opinions that rely on things that have not been seen (or proven) and then turn around and say that having faith in the God of the Bible is a sad existence (or fill in the blank) because no one can see (or prove) He exists.

    I had a conversation with a person who confronted me on my literal belief (according to Genesis) of the existence of Adam and Eve several days ago. I would answer his questions but he would not answer mine (he would give an answer but not a direct one or at least one that applied to the topic at hand). It’s at if you would like to read my exchanges with him…if not, no big deal.

    By no means I am a theologian (at least not a classically trained one) but I do enjoy thinking with rational, biblical, scientific and common sense combined. I enjoyed reading your post.

      • I would say “science” such as the theory of evolution that teaches that people (along with every other form of life on the planet) somehow “evolved” from a single-celled micro-organism falls into the junk science category as if it were an observable fact.

        I understand fully that many aspects of science (at least what I understand as understandable/observable knowledge) has absolutely nothing within itself that goes against the belief in a Creator (such as the God of the Bible) and I have nothing but admiration for those who are constantly making discoveries that are out there waiting to be found that improve lives (like ones in the health arena, electronics, etc.). But a science that ignores common sense, much less spiriutal sense, in the place of “unproven book smarts” hurts more than it can ever help and that’s what I refer to as “junk science.”

        I hope you understand what I’m saying.

      • Eugene:

        Yes, I do understand. But I’m afraid I don’t agree.

        That science doesn’t mesh with common sense is no argument. The frontier of science will violate common sense. If it were common sense, why would it have taken us so long to get there?

        If you want crazy science, check out quantum theory. Far, far more nonsensical than evolution. And I’m not sure what’s odd about evolution, since those in the Creationist/ID camp agree with the primary tenets of evolution: change through genetic mutation plus natural selection.

        Where there is a scientific consensus, laymen like you and I have no platform on which to stand to criticize.

  9. I would say any idea that says a reptile can turn into a bird or that fish can become elephants or that a sunflower can become an oak tree is junk science no matter what the consensus may be. It cannot be proven and never has been proven yet some act as if it were fact despite the observable common sense. And saying that change through genetic mutation is the same as the theory of evolution is a very, very, very far stretch.

    It takes people a while to figure out a lot of things. 2 + 2 isn’t hard to understand now but it hasn’t always been so easy.

    Thanks for responding though. Take care.

    • No, evolution can’t be proven. Nothing in science ever is. And yet Science continues to gives us pretty remarkable approximations to the truth.

      I didn’t say that mutation = evolution.

      So you’re saying that you reject evolution, despite it being the scientific consensus, because it doesn’t make sense to you? If you don’t understand evolution, you might learn about it. As you can imagine, Answers in Genesis or Creation Research Institute will do a poor job explaining evolution. Once you understand evolution, you might be in a better position to criticize it.

      • Sure, science can be proven; that’s how we sent a rocket to the moon and gravity equals what “goes up must come down” and so on.

        But evolution is not good science. It cannot be observed or proven. Only imagined. Where did life come from according to evolution? Is it spontaneous generation or an immortal micro-organism (that preceeded and also survived the “big bang) that became everything we see today? Evoution must choose one and either of the two are simply ridiculous according to science itself.

        As far as websites and observable science goes, I prefer Check it out if you get the chance. Kyle has had a few public debates with professed atheists that hold to evolution.

        I have enjoyed our conversation.

      • Sure, science can be proven

        We may be splitting hairs here, but no, science isn’t proven. It’s always provisional. Nothing is ever said with finality. You can prove things in math; not in science.

        But evolution is not good science. It cannot be observed or proven. Only imagined.

        Where did you hear that from?? Is that the consensus of scientists? Or perhaps it came from someone with a theological ax to grind?

        Where did life come from according to evolution?

        You need to educate yourself about science before you speak about it. Seriously.

        Abiogenesis (the study of where life originated) is not evolution. Two different disciplines.

        You do realize that most Christians are happy to accept evolution? Not that numbers means rightness, of course, but just FYI.

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