In this part 2, I examine the idea that “religion is scientifically untestable”, and the consequences of that philosophy.
Note that while I refer to “religion”, my scope is specifically Christianity.
One of the great things about science is that it is rational. Ideas and beliefs are tested, and only kept if the hypotheses are supported by the results of the experimental method. It’s very sensible and works well. It expects that the universe follows some well-ordered principles, so the result obtained last year can be reproduced this year. Happily, the universe seems to oblige us.
Meanwhile, atheists say or imply, religion is not rational. It’s not testable (by definition, how can miracles be tested?). So its followers aren’t scientific; they’ve got this faith thing which every intelligent person knows is Very Silly.
That’s where I say: I must disagree. There are several wrong ideas lurking. First, that religion is untestable. Second, that science is the path to all truth.
Anyone who says religion is not testable isn’t trying hard enough. But it does require us to expand our scope far beyond the laboratory. Christianity makes many bold claims, which can be tested, but we may need to branch out into diverse fields such as Biblical history, Biblical archaeology, and sociology. We may need to dig into an ancient book, and thoroughly read what it says. That ancient book makes ancient claims about morality, prophetic predictions, and an extraordinary individual called Jesus Christ. We should explore its claims, and try living by its principles. We need to invest not only rational thinking, but our hearts. This is well beyond the scope of science as commonly practised. Yet done properly there is no conflict with rationality.
Perhaps the pursuit is unappealing because it demands so much commitment. The experiment can take years before we start to get conclusive results, but demands top priority in our life. It asks for a high level of trust before many people would be willing to yield such trust. It expects that we commit to it for life, as soon as we see its truth. It says we must surrender personal self-will to a higher authority, because that higher authority knows better than we do, because He is God and created us.
To the modern mind, a barrier to this journey would be the prevailing idea that science is the path to all truth. Secular humanism says that science and rational thought will enable us to find every gem of truth that’s worth knowing. True, science has enabled us to take many huge steps forward in technology and medicine, and in understanding the world around us. Yet we still don’t seem to have made any breakthroughs on the most perplexing of human problems, especially that of humans living together in robust peace. Secular humanism, however, continues to stake its hopes on science and rational thinking as the key to solve the tough problems. As a Christian and an engineer, I thoroughly appreciate the benefits of science in many fields. But to believe science will solve our hardest human problems looks to me like misplaced blind faith.
The philosophy of science as the highest ideal is constantly pushed on western society. Let’s be totally honest: that philosophy denies religion in its very essence.
So religion, compared to science, is truly in a class of its own. Woe to anyone who scorns religion because it’s “not scientific”, for it is science that has the limitations. To turn our backs on religion, because it doesn’t fit well within the limited expectations of our scientific method, is a recipe for never discovering the greatest truths of life.