Re: Materialistic Science

George Murphy (
Wed, 01 Sep 1999 12:08:10 -0400

Behnke, James wrote:
> One of our English faculty is using Johnson's paperback on Defeating
> Darwinism in Freshman Composition, so some of us scientists are discussing
> it.
> We (the academic community) seem to have decided that good theology is not
> required to do good science. An unbeliever can do it just as well as a
> believer. See Ted Davis' book on Robert Boyle.
> Is good theology necessary to do good science? Can an unbeliever do science
> just as well as a believer? (If so, some form of naturalism is part of
> science.)
> Johnson and Moreland have pushing the view that says "No" to the above
> questions. My view is that J and M are wrong. What do others feel? Is the
> study of evolution more naturalistic or materialistic than the study of
> atoms, molecules and forces?

I think that posing the question as "Is good theology necessary to do good
science?" skews the issue. It would be better to ask whether any theology at all is
necessary to do good science. Is any reference to God necessary or can science be done
_etsi deus non daretur_? I would answer that indeed no reference to God is needed, and
that the world can be described though (or, as Torrance would prefer, "as if") God were
not given.
A basis for that claim within Christian theology itself was suggested in a
fragmentary way by Bonhoeffer in his _Letters and Papers from Prison_ and developed in a
quite profound way - though without dealing with science - by Juengel in his _God as the
Mystery of the World_. I have tried to work out some implications of this for
science-theology dialogue in several articles. The basis for all this is a proper
theology of the crucified - i.e., good theology.
However, _bad_ theology can definitely be a hindrance to science. E.g., A
notion that God continually intervenes in the natural order in arbitrary ways would make
the development of science difficult but not impossible. Johnson's theology isn't that
bad but his assumption that God must "leave his fingerprints all over the evidence"
instead of being the God who hides (Isaiah 45:15) & "empties" (Phil.2:5-11) himself is
bad theology which is likely to distort any science which it influences.

George L. Murphy