Science vs. Scientism: A Necessary Distinction

Science as a field of study is something that the Christian can (and should) get behind.

Scientism is a worldview where “only scientific knowledge is valid . . . that science can explain and do everything and that nothing else can explain or do anything: it is the belief that science and reason, or scientific and rational, are co-extensive terms.”

 

We all have those TV shows that define our childhood – shows that captured our little minds and imaginations. For me, it was Sesame Street (don’t laugh; some of you watched Barney), Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and Dukes of Hazzard. While I have no interest in these shows now, I look upon them with a sense of nostalgia because they represent, in part, may days as a young tike whose greatest concerns were snack time and Hot Wheels.

A show that many of our Boyce students (and Southern students?) have probably grown up watching at home or in school is Bill Nye the Science Guy. Bill Nye has opened the eyes of an untold number of children to the fascinating world of science. Nye’s passion for science, coupled with the cool experiments and fun tidbits, made science exciting and alive. There’s no telling how many children have gone on into scientific fields because of Bill Nye’s dynamic teaching.

Entering the abortion debate

Bill Nye has, in the past several years, moved beyond children’s science education into the culture wars over evolution and creationism, abortion rights, and reproductive rights. A video that has stirred up some controversy – at least among conservatives – is Nye’s video at http://www.bigthink.com/ titled “Bill Nye: Can We Stop Telling Women What to Do With Their Bodies?”

In this video, Nye argues against attempts to stop abortion by appealing to the question of when a fetus becomes a person. If the fetus is a person the moment an egg is fertilized (as some pro-lifers claim), then why aren’t pro-lifer’s looking to “sue” or “imprison” women who had a fertilized egg pass or miscarry naturally? Nye seeks to show the absurdity of the pro-lifers’ argument–no one would rationally say a woman was wrong for naturally passing a fertilized egg. How, then, can they say that a woman is wrong for choosing to have an abortion of an unwanted baby? In short, there is no difference between a miscarriage (a “natural abortion”) and the choice to abort an unwanted baby. For Nye, if one would just accept the fact that science has taught us this, then we would have no need for the abortion debate.

A false assumption  

Nye’s pro-abortion argument is nothing new; nothing he says sheds new light on the issue. Rather, the point is that the vehicle for his argument is an assumption that has gained quite a bit of traction in our culture, the assumption that science gives us the answers we need to life’s questions.

According to Nye, Christians believe in a book written by men over “5000 years ago.” While this “book” may have met the needs of like-minded individuals at the time, we now live in a day when science has given us the true nature of reality and of the world. No longer do we need to appeal to deities that do not exist; rather, science (and reason) has given us access to unadulterated truth. Science, then, is not a means to truth, it is the bearer of truth.

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