Skip to content
Home " All posts " Blog " Science and faith

Science and faith

Support us Click here

faith-and-scienceThe relationship between science and faith is the subject of much confusion today. Many believe that science has made religion obsolete. The idea is that religion was a pre-stage of a pre-scientific way of dealing with the world. Now that science is here, it appears that unexplainable phenomena have simple scientific explanations. People like Richard Dawkins are the champions of the view that religion as such has come to an end. Science, in this view, is the means by which we as humans arrive at the truth about reality.

I am trying to make it clear that this view is flawed. Pitting science and religion against each other is like comparing apples and oranges. Both have common ground but have their own function. The idea that science replaces religion leads to an identityless man in a meaningless world.


What is science? Science is a way of gaining knowledge based on the hypothetical inductive method. This method can confirm assumptions but never prove them. The method starts with a hypothesis and, by conducting tests, tries to confirm that hypothesis. For example, the hypothesis may be that all birds can fly. Then all kinds of birds are released at some height to see if they can indeed fly. It may well be that all the birds available to the researcher can indeed fly. It may also be that there are species of birds somewhere in the world that cannot fly. The best thing our researcher can do is to run as many tests as possible. These tests either confirm or disprove his hypothesis. That's science in a nutshell.

Science, therefore, by definition, can never prove anything; it can confirm ideas. It can confirm these ideas so often that little doubt remains, but certainty cannot be obtained. For then all the instances of a given occurrence would have to be fully known to the scientist, and that cannot be done, for no scientist is omniscient.

For certain proof, only the deductive method is appropriate. The deductive method assumes two propositions and then arrives at a conclusion. For example. If Peter has slept badly, he is in a bad mood. Peter has slept badly. So: Peter is in a bad mood. The conclusion is certain when the two propositions are certain.

Science can only make statements about material reality because the scientific method is, by definition, limited to matter. Issues such as meaning, morality, aesthetics transcend science because they have immaterial aspects. Science can show that in the absence of clean drinking water more people die; it is unable to indicate whether that is good or bad and why.


On the other hand, there are meaning frames. These are "things" that people use to interpret the meaning of reality; why reality is the way it is and what the purpose of that reality is. We can also call them paradigms: perspectives from which we view reality or models of interpretation: filters through which reality comes to us colored in a certain way. The most common term we use for a meaning framework is worldview.

A worldview is the collection of all our assumptions about this world, the starting point with which we approach this world. Our worldview gives meaning to the world we live in, helps us formulate the purpose of this world and our lives. It is from a particular worldview that a scientist sets to work. He works in the context of his worldview and gives his data a place consistent with his worldview.

Worldviews are given a concrete formulation in, for example, a religion or a philosophy. Everyone has a worldview. It is not possible for a human being not to have a world-view. He has simply formed an image of how reality is made up; that is how man is made up.


How do science and meaning frameworks relate? First, it should be clear that science cannot lead to meaning-making for the following reasons:

(a) Science deals with matter; nothing more. The subject of scientific inquiry is our surrounding reality including ourselves. The purpose of science is to gather data.

(b) Scientific conclusions are no more than just that: conclusions about the results of scientific research. They are observations of facts that emerge from research.

(c) Science does not lead to a particular interpretation of reality; rather, it is practiced from a framework of meaning. The scientist practices science because he believes it leads to useful results.

(d) Another important fact is that scientific data are interpreted within the context and in accordance with the worldview held by the scientist.

(e) As such, scientific research does not lead to truth but to the confirmation of a pre-formulated potential truth (the hypothesis).

Science and technological development are typically Western phenomena. This is for good reason. Science was made possible by a framework of meaning that linked the human brain with reality. Christianity saw man as a creation of God placed in this world by God to work it. The foundation for today's science was therefore laid in the medieval thinking of scholastics and others. A non-theistic worldview will always have a hard time explaining the connection between rationality (particularly mathematical thinking) and matter. Why do the two connect so well?

It is true, however, that science can provide data that lead to reinterpretation of a worldview. For example, a good example is the resistance of Western civilization in the 16th and 17th centuries (not just the church!) to the insights of Copernicus who advocated a heliocentric solar system. Almost always a frame of mind dominates the way the data of research are interpreted and the conclusion that follows.

So we have to say that science does not explain life. It tells us how things are probably put together, but not why they are there and how they got there. Science does not give meaning or purpose to life. There are still many modernists who think science has replaced religion, but there is no meaning to be found in data. Data do not replace morality, meaning and purpose, nor do they give rise to them. Science can only make statements about material data, but cannot say anything about non-material realities such as value theory (ethics and aesthetics).


Therefore, the idea that science has replaced religion is a fable. It is logically impossible. Science emerges from a frame of mind (worldview, religion, philosophy) and produces data in favor of that frame of mind. Science generates output based on input. For example, if you put in evolutionary theory (i.e., go into the study with that particular presupposition) you get evolutionary theory out (i.e., the data seem to confirm the presupposed theory). Rarely do scientists have the honesty and courage to go against the prevailing status quo of scientific consensus (dominated by a particular worldview) and acknowledge that the data actually contradict their own worldview. People who did, and do, include Galileo Galilei and - to take a contemporary example - Anthony Flew, an atheist philosopher who now acknowledges that there must be a God.

Current Western thinking that persists in clinging to the idea that science replaces religion (and that science leads to truth and understanding and religion to folly) is itself suffering from a religious bias that blinds it to reality. If our civilization continues on this path, the erosion of meaning and purpose in life will soon be irreversible. Man will degenerate into a meaningless animal and perish.


Erwin de Ruiter

"One man tries to express himself in books, another in boots; both are likely to fail." - G.K. Chesterton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept the use of these cookies.  More info


Sign up for the newsletter

And receive 10% discount in the webshop!

Publisher City on a Mountain | Sense Full | Chesterton.NOW | | Mama Goes to Stay