The role of science and technology in modern life, particularly in western culture, cannot be slighted. Science has changed (and keeps changing) virtually every facet of our lives, from entertainment to national defense. Even the way we "socialize" today has been altered, be it for good or for bad, by technological advances brought about by science. It should come as no surprise that science has earned highest regard among the disciplines, even by those who have little knowledge of or care about science themselves, but would rather just reap the benefits.
Science is the one discipline today that seems to be seen as a safe-haven for unbelief. Due to the advances brought about by science, it is tempting for many to demand a blind adherence to a strictly materialistic worldview. After all, if science has the answers to how the universe operates, what need is there of any other discipline? Would we not expect science to to provide an answer to any conceivable issue? Some materialists have suggested such.
Bertrand Russell stated that, “Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attainable by scientific methods, and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.” Oxford Professor Peter Atkins reiterates Russell's point. “There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.” Atkins adds, “There is certainly no justification for asserting that the powers of science are circumscribed and that beyond the boundary the only recourse to comprehension is God.” (Chemistry and Industry - January 20 1997). Not to be outdone, mathematician Karl Pearson explains that "...modern science does much more than demand that it shall be left in undisturbed possession of what the theologian and metaphysician please to term its 'legitimate field'. It claims that the whole range of phenomena, mental as well as physical-the entire universe-is its field. It asserts that the scientific method is the sole gateway to the whole region of knowledge." (The Grammar of Science (1892), 29-30.)
The case is clear. Advocates of materialism want more than just to have science be a useful tool to tell us about the world we live in. For them, science is absolute in its authority and unlimited in its scope. It is the "sole gateway to the whole region of knowledge" and any challenge to strict materialism must be impugned and placed in the category of mythology. There can be no room for Divine Revelation. One of the most brazen admissions concerning the metaphysical commitment to materialism can be found in this statement by Biologist Richard Lewontin.
“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a priori commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” (Richard Lewontin, “Billions and billions of demons,” The New York Review (January 9, 1997), 31.)
Of all the criticisms leveled against Christendom today, the charge of being "unscientific" seems to invoke more dread than any other. Does science have the absolute final word to all truth claims? If one were, for the sake of argument, accept materialistic presuppositions, a hosts of questions naturally arise. A brief glance at the history of science shows that a variety of scientific paradigms have existed in past ages. If science demands absolute authority, we need to decide which paradigm should be granted such authority. Would it be Aristotle's Dynamics, Newton's Mechanism, Einstein's Relativity, Modern Quantum Theory, or the next scientific revolution that is sure to take place within the next 200 years? In attempting to answer that question, we are faced with what is referred to as the Demarcation Problem. What do we accept as scientific truth, and what is myth?
"If these out-of-date beliefs are to be called myths, then myths can be produced by the same sorts of methods and held for the same sorts of reasons that now lead to scientific knowledge. If, on the other hand, they are to be called science, then science has included bodies of belief quite incompatible with the ones we hold today." (Thomas Kuhn - The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p. 2)
If the scientific method can produce either myth or contradictory beliefs, then what are we to make of this "sole gateway to the whole region of knowledge"? One may object to this problem by suggesting that science is "self-correcting", but not only does that not solve the problem, it introduces a whole new set of problems. For one, how can one verify that something is "self-correcting" without some standard of truth by which to compare it? Moreover, something that is constantly "self-correcting" must needs also be constantly false. That which is true needs no correction.
In addition to the fact that science seems to change paradigms quite often, more foundational issues arise. Can science operate in any type of worldview? If not, what are the metaphysical requirements needed for science to function? Can science itself be justified among those who demand human autonomy in terms of natural reason or materialism? What exactly are the laws of nature? Are they universal? Are scientific laws "discovered" or are they "selected"? What type of role, if any, does science plays in establishing truth? And what of the scientific method itself? Is it really "the sole gateway to the whole region of knowledge", or merely a useful tool? Can it really prove anything as being objectively true? And most important of all, what, if anything, does science have to say about God?