How do you define science? What are its boundaries? Does the scientific mind have any space for miracles?
The problem of deciding where to draw the lines around science has vexed generations of philosophers. Like many unsolved issues, it has been given its own name — “the demarcation problem.” Although one can determine with some degree of consensus what the extremes of the science/non-science continuum are, exactly where the boundary lies is fuzzy. This doesn’t mean, however, that we cannot recognize science when we see it, but rather that a watertight definition is difficult to create. The old fashioned idea (still taught in many schools) that scientific practice follows a well-defined linear process — first make an observation, then state a hypothesis, and then test that hypothesis — is certainly far too simple — Miracles and Science, Part 1 (Ard Louis. BioLogos Forum. 06/25/2010).
In the Miracles and Science Part 2 (7/3/2010), Louis weaves together the tapestry of science (experimental results, interpretations, explanations, etc.) and points out some of the limits of science. At least one more post in the series, but you can jump directly to more of the material as it’s drawn from a recently-posted scholarly essay.**
So how do you define science? What are its boundaries? Does the practice of science (or a scientifically informed perspective) have any space for miracles? Do you frame these questions along similar lines to Louis? If you’re uncomfortable with Louis’ perspective, do you have an alternative to offer?
*Reader in Theoretical Physics and a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he leads a research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics and biology. He is also the International Secretary for Christians in Science, an associate of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion and served on the board of advisors for the John Templeton Foundation.
**A.A. Louis. Miracles and Science: The Long Shadow of David Hume, i.e., a translation of A.A. Louis, “Wonderen en wetenschap: De lange schaduw van David Hume,” Omhoog kijken in Platland, ed Cees Dekker, Rene’ van Woudenberg en Gijsbert van den Brink, Ten Have (2007).
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!