Have you ever had a discussion with someone who claimed that science is the only way to know truth? It’s not a difficult conversation to find. You can find one at any college or university, or perhaps the local Starbucks. But, more and more, it’s not just a position of intellectual elites. It’s increasingly the common sense default view of most people.
Because of this viewpoint’s pervasive acceptance, it is not an easy task to explain why that view of reality doesn’t hold together. In Scientism and Secularism, J. P. Moreland explains that this view of reality, called scientism, is “the view that the hard sciences alone have the intellectual authority to give us knowledge of reality.” This is clearly something beyond just loving science and scientific knowledge. Rather, this is claiming that science, and particularly the hard sciences (sorry psychology!) are the final arbiter of truth.Christians need to grow in both the knowledge that science can provide us about God’s world, as well as the reasons why science isn’t the only path to knowledge.
Unfortunately, as Moreland points out, this is actually a philosophical and not scientific claim. As such, its merits are verified by the tools of philosophy rather than science. In other words, we can’t use scientific methods to verify the claim that science is the only intellectual authority to give us knowledge of reality.
Elaborating more on his reason for writing, Moreland explains,
In this book, I will provide you with reasons why scientism is harming our children, destroying the church, and undermining our ability to get a fair hearing for the gospel. But let me be clear about something that by now should be obvious: My problem is not with science properly practiced. I love science. My issues are with scien-tism. Indeed, I believe that part of my life calling from God himself is to stand against scientism and warn and equip my fellow believers about what scientism is, to show that it is not only false and irrational but a grave danger. The book in your hands is my attempt to fulfill that calling.
So that his claim to love science isn’t lost, Moreland makes it known that his first love was chemistry. It was his undergrad major, and between his junior and senior year in college, he worked as a chemist. Shortly before he graduated, he was offered a full ride to do research in nuclear chemistry at the University of Colorado. In other words, Moreland writes as someone with a keen scientific mind. Had he not committed his life to Christ and been redirected into campus ministry and later doctoral work in philosophy (including philosophy of science), he would be a top rate scientist today instead of a top rate philosopher.
Given certain trends we see in our culture, this book is timely. Christians need to grow in both the knowledge that science can provide us about God’s world, as well as the reasons why science isn’t the only path to knowledge. We chart a course between the Scylla of anti-intellectualism and the Charybdis of scientism. Moreland can help us steer the ship well, and Scientism and Secularism is required reading for anyone who loves science but doesn’t want to yield to the philosophically mistaken path of scientism.
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