Texas Tech climatologist, Katharine Hayhoe, a professing evangelical Christian, speaks to politically and theologically conservative groups to convince them that climate change is not only real but caused by human activity. She presents data and her interpretation of it to encourage Christians in particular to be good stewards of the earth. Hayhoe says, “People ask me if I believe in global warming. I tell them, 'No, I don't,' because belief is faith; faith is the evidence of things not seen. Science is evidence of things seen. To have an open mind, we have to use the brains that God gave us to look at the science.”
Aside from the question of whether global climate change is a natural or manmade phenomenon—which is explored elsewhere (see links below) on our website—we’d like here to note a couple of things about Hayhoe’s statement. Hebrews 11:1 does tell us faith is “the evidence of things not seen,” and observational science does examine evidence. Yet evidence is gathered and observed and tested and interpreted by human beings. And all human beings—lacking omniscience—view evidence through their own presuppositions. Scientists design tests based on their hypotheses, essentially educated guesses. If an educated guess misses the mark, chances are the scientific experiments designed to gather data will miss the evidence needed or the scientist may even misinterpret the data gathered.
As long as human beings lack omniscience, scientific conclusions will remain mutable and fallible.
Scientific models are judged to be useful if they accurately describe what happens and predict future occurrences. Models that fail to do so should be replaced. But science is rarely so simple. Models of complex phenomena may have some merits and still have shortcomings. Models are based on the data available and the human imagination interpreting it. As more data becomes available, many models get replaced, but some do not because they come to represent the agendas of certain individuals, political points of view, or worldviews. As long as human beings lack omniscience, scientific conclusions will remain mutable and fallible.
Furthermore, origins science requires the scientist to make inferences about evidence that cannot be subjected to repeatable tests. Origins science is intimately entangled with faith—either faith that there is a supernatural cause for our origins or faith that there is not. And if we believe there is supernatural cause for our origins, we must decide whether we believe the eyewitness account God gave in the Bible or not. If not, what alternative will we choose? Whatever version of origins science we espouse, we choose it on the basis of faith, and then we examine the evidence of science through the lens of that worldview. And since contradictory claims cannot be simultaneously true, only one account of our origins can actually be true.
Hayhoe makes the demarcation between faith and science sound so neat and tidy, but scientists make their human judgments in accordance with their biases and presuppositions. We are supposed to use the brains that God gave us. But those brains are always biased, and we would be wise to recognize our own biases and those of policy-makers and scientists. Particularly when it comes to origins science, all parties examine the evidence with a faith-based bias. Untestable assumptions about the past are best evaluated through eyewitness accounts, and we find in the Bible God’s eyewitness account of the origin of the universe, the earth, and all life itself. The Bible also provides the history of the global Flood from which creationist derive a platform by which to correctly interpret the geologic record of catastrophic changes on earth. When choosing which views of origins to accept, we will make the right choices when we take God at His Word.
- News to Note, May 14, 2011
- A Proposed Bible-Science Perspective on Global Warming
- Christian Reluctance to Jump on Global Warming Bandwagon Attributed to Skepticism of Evolution
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