This past week, I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking with a class at Wentworth Institute of Technology. As usual, I asked for questions before hand, so I could respond thoughtfully.
Does religion ever limit what you study scientifically?
Does religion ever have an affect on your scientific hypotheses?
Christianity forms the foundation for my epistemology – how I come to knowledge – and that undergirds my science. I believe the world is ordered and understandable and I trust the goodwill of others collaborating to understand it. Christianity makes me curious about the world, eager to seek out new data.
Christianity affects my ontology – what I think is real – and that shapes the types of hypotheses I can generate.
Christianity affects my axiology – what I value – and that limits the types of experiments I’m interested in and am willing to do.
It does not encourage me to ignore data or hypotheses, though it may encourage me to look for additional factors not immediately suggested by my observations.
And here are a few quotes from Augustine of Hippo (354-430) on a similar theme. Christians have been thinking about this for some time.
“Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.”
“Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.”
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world… If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?”