By Patrick Miller
Have you ever wondered, “Does science disprove the Bible?”
Well, you clicked on this post, so I’m betting the answer is yes. If that’s the case, you’ll want to stick around and keep reading.
I hear this question a lot. Usually people say one of the following: “Science disproves the Bible’s…
- …creation story.”
(Note: We’re not going to cover the third one in depth here, but if you’d like to hear more on that topic, check out my interview with Dr. Joshua S. Swamidass, an Ivy League scientist and researcher.)
So, are those claims true? Does science really disprove the Bible? Let’s dive in. But first, we’ll need to start by asking a different question.
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What is science?
Rather than asking what science disproves, we need to start by asking what science can prove. To answer this, we need a definition of science:
“Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.”
By using the scientific method, scientists have developed an immense understanding of our physical universe. Science can uncover how the body works, how planets form, how chemical compounds interact, and more. Science helps us understand the physical universe from its most granular bits up to the billions of monstrosities we call galaxies.
Let’s be honest. Science is awesome.
But anyone with common sense knows there are things science cannot explain. No scientific experiment can determine which sunset is most beautiful. No experiment can prove or disprove whether I love my wife. Scientific research will never tell us whether adultery is moral or immoral or amoral. Likewise, science cannot give us the values we should hold onto as a society. Heck, science can’t even prove whether you were born on the day you believe you were born on!
I’m not saying that we can’t come to reasonable conclusions about all of these things. We most certainly can. But this proves—to any reasonable person—that science has its limitations.
The difference between science and scientism
The belief that science really can tell us everything about reality is not science. It’s a metaphysical philosophy called scientism. In this worldview, science can determine aesthetics, ethics, public policy, and so on.
The best philosophers abandoned scientism as a live option decades ago. That might surprise you. It also might surprise Richard Dawkins. It won’t surprise most experts.
Why? Because scientism is a philosophical house of cards.
Scientism is built on the basic assumption that our human senses are actually sensible. By sensible, I mean reliable and accurate. Likewise, scientism requires that our human capacity to reason and deduce is designed to allow us to draw trustworthy conclusions about the universe.
For example, chimpanzees have enough reasoning faculties to build tools, but these faculties are for survival. A chimpanzee’s reasoning faculty does not allow it, even with Harvard trained educators, to draw conclusions about the nature of the world.
This example highlights the one simple problem which sends scientism’s house of cards tumbling down: how natural selection works. Winners in evolution are survival experts, not science experts.
Our brain chemistry may, in fact, trick us into thinking that rationality is rational. But really, our rationality was honed by natural selection to help us survive. It’s not meant to drill into the mysteries of the universe.
Science stands on the foundational belief that human reason is reliable and accurate. And it says that human reason is a tool that, whether by luck or design, is well suited to the task of scientific exploration. No experiment can prove this point, because every experiment is created by and filtered through human reason.
Trusting human reason in this way is an act of faith, not science.
Now we can see the problem with scientism:
If its foundation does not meet its own rigorous standards for determining truth and falsehood… then is scientism valid? And if science cannot even prove its own foundations, should we trust it as an all-knowing source of all truth, including matters of ethics and aesthetics?
At this point, it’s worth reiterating: most scientists do not buy into scientism.
They are normal people who have enough common sense to understand that science, like most things, has limits. And their experience as scientists only proves the point.
In fact, many people who are deeply committed to scientism, are actually not scientists at all. They are atheist ideologues.
And all this takes us back to the Bible.
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Does science disprove the historical accounts in the Bible?
Once we set aside the irrational notion that science is the sole authority of all truth, we can see that science isn’t well-suited for “proving” or “disproving” much about the Bible. Put differently, science is the wrong tool for this purpose.
Why is science the wrong tool? Because science can’t prove anything about small scale historical events.
Yes, geologists can tell us about large scale events in the earth’s geological history. Cosmologists can tell us a lot about the development of the universe. Biologists can tell us a lot about the development of species.
But scientists can’t test for small scale human events in history.
There’s no experiment which can determine whether Caesar indeed crossed the Rubicon. Or whether Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in Gettysburg.
Historical events are non-repeatable. You can’t put them in a lab. You can’t test and repeat them. They happen once. And then they are gone.
Science, however, tells us about repeatable things. Things that we can test again and again through experimentation. Despite the cliché that history repeats itself, it never actually does. Which means science is the wrong tool for determining historical accuracy.
So how do we know anything about human history, if science can’t help us?
Everything we know is based on eyewitnesses and their reports. Those reports come to us in varied forms—books, newspapers, ancient scrolls, or stone inscriptions—but the sources remain the same: people who witnessed the event tell what happened (truthfully or not) to those who did not witness it.
The question is not, “Does science prove your story?” The question is, “Should I trust you? Do I have good reason to put confidence in your testimony?”
Does science disprove the miracles that happen in the Bible?
Some of you might be thinking at this point, “But what about miracles? Doesn’t science disprove those? And doesn’t that mean science disproves the Bible?”
Miracles are exceedingly rare in the Bible. I get the sense from people who haven’t read the Bible that they expect a miracle on every page. That’s not what they’ll find.
Of course, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. A miracle is a miracle precisely because it’s unexpected and unusual. That means two things:
1. Miracles are (by definition) non-repeatable. This means it is impossible to recreate the circumstances of a miracle in a lab setting for testing.
2. Miracles are events in history. Like all historical events, we cannot reproduce them for study.
We should be careful though. Neither of these observations proves the existence of miracles. They simply shows that science is the wrong tool for disproving them. Again, we are left with the same question: should I trust the testimony of the eyewitnesses?
So… does science disprove the Bible?
No. Because it can’t.
Science has limitations. It can’t be expected to prove or disprove everything. Furthermore, science is the wrong tool for determining the reliability of a historical account. And the Bible is, largely, a historical account!
Now before all the Christians start cheering, we should remember that the opposite is true too. Just because science can’t disprove the Bible doesn’t prove that the Bible is true! The accuracy and reliability of the Bible stands and falls on the accuracy and reliability of the eyewitness accounts it records.
Instead, we should be asking: “Can I trust the eyewitness testimony of the Bible?” Let’s turn to that question now…
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Inside you’ll find:
- What makes eye-witness testimony credible and trustworthy
- Evidence that the historical accounts in the Gospels meet this criteria
- The role that “blind faith” plays in how people view the Bible