Saturday, December 15, 2012

The latest 'Church and Society in Asia Today' deals with science

The Church and Society in Asia Today, vol.15, no.2 (2012) discusses the relationship between science and the Christian faith. It is a collection of 5 essays.

Roland Chia's article Science and the Christian Faith gives a broad coverage of the relationship between Christianity and science from history as a rebuttal to the charge that these two cannot go along together. He traces the present discourse back to the medieval West, when theologians deliberated on the relationship between reason and revelation. Even in this preceding form, "reason and revelation are consistent with one another." (p.72) To Roland, the approach to relate the two is through dialogue, which "recognizes important differences between science and religion, it rejects the view that the two are so distinct from each other that it is impossible to bring them together in constructive conversation." (p.83)

The second article Science and Technology is by L. T. Jeyachandran. About a quarter of the article is his identification of the 5 philosophical assumptions that enabled science, and how the Christian worldview supports them. In his concluding remark, L. T. introduces a "hierarchy of disciplines" which lists history as the most fundamental, then followed by theological reflection based on history that provides the philosophical ground for other disciplines like applied sciences, humanities and fine arts. (p.96) When we overturn this hierarchy, we overturn also our perception on technology, allowing it to depersonalizes us and posing ambiguity that, if unchecked, leads to destructive consequences.

Chew Wee's essay Christ and His Cosmological Gospel: Implications for Science and Technology highlights the need for Christians to reconceptualize the engagement in the sciences as an avenue to be "salt and light in the midst of secular scientism." (p.100) The reason for this is because the gospel message concerns not only individual's eternal destiny but also the "salvation of the whole cosmos." (p.104) Therefore, Chew Wee argues, we need to "develop new discipleship approaches" that "recover a biblically informed identity in Christ and to look at secular education and workplace culture through a biblical worldview, which would facilitate the renewal of minds and help Christians become effective witnesses and agents of change." (p.110)

Ng Kam Weng clarified the confusion surrounding Galileo and Christianity in his article Galileo's Trial on Trial: From Teleological Science to Mathematical Empirical Science. Those who reject Christianity in favor of science often brought up Galileo's trial as an example that Christianity is hostile to scientific advancement. This article contends that the "Galileo affair was not a battle between Christianity and science. It was a battle between old science (Aristotelian teleology) and new science (Galileo's mathematical, mechanical science)." (p.114) 

The article also notes that there was less than 10 astronomers who accepted heliocentric system between 1543 to 1600, that Galileo's theory that the earth moves was unacceptable until Newton's gravitational theory is developed in 1687, and Galileo's observation based on tidal phenomenon was dubious. The convincing proof for the rotation of the earth only came about in the "mid-1800s with the introduction of the Foucault pendulum." (p.116) Kam Weng highlighted how well was Galileo treated throughout his trial. After his stay in the palace of the grand duke of Tuscany, Galileo lived at the residence of the archbishop at Siena before he returned to Arcetri and was provided pension until his death in 1642. An appendix examining the famous Scopes Monker trial is included in this essay.

The final article A Scientific Spotlight on Naturalism is written by Perry Chan to highlight "the challenges faced by the church here when we fail to understand the basic underpinnings of science." Perry notes that most churches in this region has not critically examine the alleged conflict between science and Christianity promoted by naturalism in a secular culture. (p.129) So he demonstrates how to critic naturalism by pointing out the improbability for naturalism to generate the biological mechanism of DNA. With regards to equipping the churches to engage in this issue, Perry proposes the training of "clergy in philosophical logic and holding science and faith workshops in the seminary." (p.136) (Speaking of which, there will be a course on this at Trinity Theological College.)

This edition of Church and Society in Asia Today is informative, and I think would be particularly helpful to expose readers to the broad matters involved in the science-Christianity discourse. Personally, I had hoped that there was more attention given to the discussion on the philosophical criteria that define 'science'. Nonetheless, this journal serves as a significant reminder: "For the Christian, scientific knowledge is an important aspect of the providential grace of God. Christians therefore see science and its exciting potentials and promises as God's gift to humankind which, when properly appropriated and applied, would contribute to human flourishing." (p.66)

2 comments:

chin said...

"So he demonstrates how to critic naturalism by pointing out the improbability for naturalism to generate the biological mechanism of DNA." This is perfectly what the naturalist will answer: It is improbable but possible, that's why we need millions of years. To point out the mistake of naturalist, one should point out that it is impossible to account for the existence of DNA as genetic material without a superior being such as God.

reasonable said...

"To point out the mistake of naturalist, one should point out that it is impossible to account for the existence of DNA as genetic material without a superior being such as God."

Perhaps it is impossible to show that it is impossible for DNA to exist without a superior being such as a god.