“The history of Science is the history of bad ideas.”

This is a quote that I heard recently. I think that it is a rather tongue-in-cheek way of expressing our (post)modern culture’s current attitude with respect to the authority of science. During the modern period, science was king. The scientific revolution produced hopes of a Utopian society where virtually all problems would be solved due to human innovation, evolution, and advancement. But during the postmodern period, science has been humbled due to a realization that the process was not as clean as we thought. Human contamination, insufficient data, faulty presuppositions, and religiously and politically motivated studies have tainted our hopes that science is truly king.

Euclid said, “The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God.” Such is true, but how do we know that we have properly interpreted the “mathematical thoughts of God”? I believe in the authority of nature and many of our (scientific) conclusions about such. Every Christian should. I have written about this in times past. Romans 1 says that creation itself leaves people without an epistemic excuse about God’s reality. This, among many other things, provides a firm biblical foundation for cosmology, biology, physics, and rationality in the Christian life. In this sense, the study of nature is mandated for the Christian.

However, we need to be timid about our conclusions that come from science, knowing the ways that it, like the Bible, can be manipulated. More important for what I am talking about now, we need to realize how dynamic the conclusions of science can be.

I was a fitness trainer through the nineties as well as working in the fields of sports medicine. I was very good at what I did and understood the issues (at least I thought). I focused on weight loss physiology. I wanted to provide people with the best—the most scientifically accurate—routine for weight loss. When it came to losing weight though, I would tell people to engage in a steady-state cardio routine. This is one in which you would keep your heart rate up consistently and moderately for above thirty-minutes. Then about fifteen minutes of resistance training. Without getting into all the details of why, suffice it to say that this was the most accepted scientific method for such goals. When it came to nutrition, I was not faddish at all. I repudiated the fads. I wanted to stick to that which was scientifically verifiable and accepted: the food pyramid. However both have changed since the nineties. Now, in order to lose weight, your cardio must include more of a circuit training where your heart rate gets up into its anaerobic state every so often. This is something that I used to teach against with (scientific) resolve. On top of this, the food pyramid has been turned upside down and subjectivized! Now, I am not saying what I did before did not work…it did. But it was not really right. There is a stability to say that exercise and proper nutrition are essential to weight loss. But I am no longer quite so committed to a particular type of exercise and nutrition. It is not so stable. Some of my theories have been literally turned upside down! That is just one example of the sort of things that can dissolution a person toward so-called scientific conclusions.

Here is a list of some other things that have changed over the years with regard to scientific ideas:

  • Maternal impression (the mother’s thoughts can influence the child’s)
  • Human cell (simplistic to complex)
  • The status of Pluto (no longer a planet)
  • Piltdown man (scientific hoax about a “missing link” in evolution)
  • The food pyramid (turned upside down)
  • Health benefits of alcohol (bad for you one day, good for you the next)
  • Leeches (depending on the century you are in, very good for medicinal purposes—which? Who knows?)
  • Darwinian evolution (changes much faster than we do!)
  • Light (what is it? particles? waves? emitter theory, etc),
  • Speed of light (is it steady or relative?)
  • The osculating universe (the universe is eternally osculating)
  • Steady state theory (the universe has never changed)
  • Big bang theory (a big bang started it all–superseded both the osculating universe and steady state theories)
  • Nature of time (relativity theories are the current standard)
  • Global Warming (do I need to explain?)
  • Global Cooling (oh yeah, we have those theories too)
  • Creation science (can I even make this a single category?)
  • Spontaneous generation (the way it all began…then again, maybe not)
  • Y2K (oh yeah! This did come from the scientific community)
  • Punctuated equilibrium (a drastic change in how species evolve)
  • Phlogiston theory(superseded by Lavoisier’s work on oxidation)
  • The blank slate theory of social behavior (disproven by cross-cultural universals)
  • Aristotelian physics (superseded by Newtonian physics which was [somewhat] superseded by Einstein)
  • Just about everything in Freudian psychology (most have been discredited, yet this influenced so much for so long)
  • Telegony (a discredited belief that people could inherit traits of previous sexual partners of their mother)
  • Continental drift (replaced by plate tectonics)
  • Catastropheism (belief that a catastrophe has drastically changed the way things are)
  • Uniformatarianism (the current replacement for Catastropheism—that is, until catastropheism takes back over and then everything is up in the air in so many areas)
  • The so-called Open Polar Sea (you know, that sea without any ice that was supposed to be around the north poll?)
  • The expanding earth theory (wait, isn’t this how the continents divided? Depends on which century you are in)
  • Quantum mechanics (the new kid on the block)

Once again, most of these represent theories that were once accepted as true or those that are the current champions in their particular area. The point is to recognize the dynamic nature of the history of science. You can add your own to the list. Please do.

We live in a postmodern world where people are disillusioned with all authoritative means of knowledge, science and the Bible included. For the most part, it is due to the fact that things change. Interpretations change. Theories change. Presuppositions change. The data changes. Our experience changes.

This does not mean that the truth itself is dynamic, but it might help you to understand why people are so confused about truth these days. It might also help you to understand why science does not reign the way it once did. While I love science, appreciate its discoveries and am intrigued by its conclusions, I am very careful about committing myself to whatever the prevailing notion is today. I think you should be tentative as well. While I don’t think the history of science is the history of bad idea, it is the history of dynamic change and discovery that is not as stable as we once thought.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    49 replies to "The History of Science is the History of Bad Ideas"

    • Vance


      This post is an oversimplification and is subject to some logical errors. You paint scientifically derived conclusions about the natural world with one brush, as if we should be skeptical of all because of the failures of some.

      I think it would be foolish to refuse to accept that the earth revolves around the sun, or that bacteria cause infection, or that plants derive energy through photosynthesis, etc ad infinitum. I could make such a list of things that you and everyone else here DO accept without question that would go on for days. This is entirely the case of the exception proving the rule, and that rule is that there are, indeed, things about our natural world that we have reliably discovered through the scientific process. In fact, you get through every single day by utterly depending on the truth of dozens of scientific conclusions every day. From the soap you use, to the clothes you put on, to the food you eat, to the car you drive, to the computer you use, to the medicine you take, to the light you turn on, etc, etc, etc.

      And your list is flawed in particular in that much of what is there was not a scientific consensus or was not such a consensus for an extended period of time. And, some of them HAVE stood the test of time and SHOULD be accepted with a very high degree of likelihood.

      I think you have succumbed to the post-modern skepticism of science which is as dangerously wrong as the modern skepticism of “that which can not be established by science”. A balanced approach is in order: in which we accept that the vast majority of what we now know about our natural world is very likely correct, but we do not require that science be the ultimate arbiter of TRUTH, and accept that there are things outside of the natural that science can not address, either for or against.

    • anonymous reader

      Interesting perspective. Yes, science is never a “done deal” even though many treat it that way. Science is the processing of testing and re-testing hypotheses to further knowledge which means science will always be growing and changing. So I think it’s overstatement and misleading to say science is the history of bad ideas. And the danger with this perspective is that too many Christians already think they have the option to cast aside science as if it’s not worthwhile or it’s all biased or it’s just “theory” that doesn’t have to be taken seriously. Fwiw, post-modernism would also say that theology is the history of bad ideas. And there are plenty of theological ideas that have been discarded as bad ideas.

    • Ed Kratz

      Vance, I think you read this through different eyes, thinking I was saying something I am not. I am certainly not advancing a all out postmodern distrust in science. I am attempting to 1) temper our trust (just like I do about people’s interpretation of the Scripture) and 2) help people to understand why many have become skeptical.

      I have even included a scriptural mandate to study nature!

      I agree that there are things that are pretty well established. Even, as I said, in the fitness industry there are certain norms that can be trusted even if the particulars are not stable.

      The list I gave was varied and meant to demonstrate significant issues that a significant number of “scientists” have believed in the past. Many of them were accepted by all. Many were just theories that were assumed to be along a progressive path. Some come from “fringe” groups. Some were the previous “fringe” groups who have not been exonerated.

      While the tone of this article is not “pro” science it is not “anti” science either. I am pro-God’s communication with man-kind, whatever means he chooses. I call upon everyone to be careful in outright acceptance of anyones interpretation in any area of discovery, biblical studies (especially) included. As well, one cannot deny the evolving nature of our understanding and the manipulations that are present in these areas (science or the Bible). Therefore, a good dose of proverbial discernment is in order. I say this to you as well. Be careful about committing yourself too much to some of these things. Not because you might be wrong, but to represent the true epistemic humility that much of this demands.

      Like in the Bible, there are some things that are very clear and some things that are not. There are areas of obscurity that people can manipulate to fit their model or even create a whole new model. There are things that are foundational and things that are secondary. There are things revealed and mysteries. Be ready to accept this not only with regard to God’s written revelation, but also his revelation through nature.

    • Ed Kratz

      Most importantly (to all),

      Do not let this turn into a debate about evolution/creation! I will start deleting posts that go there.

    • Ed Kratz

      Who am I kidding, I rarely see the comments…BUT one the the moderators will start deleting!

    • Vance

      Ah, you notice I did not go “there”! :0)

      I guess my problem with this is that I believe the vast majority of what the scientific community asserts, when a consensus is reached, is very likely to be the correct explanation in the big picture (with fine tuning expected after that). The exceptions are, by comparison, SO rare that you CAN actually start creating a list. The tone really does seem to be that most scientific conclusions are equally shaky or untrustworthy in the long run, and I think that this would be a wrong position.

      And, the problem in the Christian community is not an overly naive acceptance of science, but an unreasonably skeptical denial of what science has to tell us. You are preaching a message to a community (evangelical Christians) which does not have the problem your message seeks to fix, but just the opposite problem!

      My approach is to accept what science says with the degree of assurance that is warranted by the evidence to support it, and with a certain degree of trust in the hugely competitive nature of the scientific community to weed out that which does not work. After all, the reason you can even compile a list of “failed” science is because the scientific process, by its very nature, ends up rejecting bad science.

    • Ed Kratz

      Vance, first of all, you underestimate the size that this list can be. As I researched it from various sources, it seemed that it could be never ending, beside all the anecdotal ones that I and others could provide, especially from the medical community. Then there are the intricacies and anomalies that add so much.

      The problem runs much deeper than a surface level acceptance of science and the evidence, it runs into the criteria of evidence and a multitude of presuppositions that everyone brings to the table.

      You said:
      “You are preaching a message to a community (evangelical Christians) which does not have the problem your message seeks to fix, but just the opposite problem!”

      I don’t necessarily agree. Yes, fundamentalism, but not really most of the type of people who come here. We have a very large audience that represents a variety of approaches.

      In the end, I am telling people to be discerning and timid about outright acceptance of things, especially with the history of idea and the prevailing controversies that become used as political and religious leverage for an agenda. Christians believe in truth, but this does not mean we have to commit ourselves in every area. There is a lot of mystery left in the world that makes so much data hard to read.

      With Scripture, the parameters and pool of data are a little more tight, but, even then, we still have our problems. How much more so in science.

    • Kent S

      Interesting post, but is not Theology a type of science too?

      How do we know that we have properly interpreted the “Scriptural thoughts of God”? I believe in the authority of Scripture and many of our (theological ) conclusions about such. …
      However, we need to be timid about our conclusions that come from theology, knowing the ways that it, like Nature, can be manipulated. More important, we need to realize how dynamic the conclusions of theology can be.

      Shall I make a list of theological positions that have come and gone out of vogue?

      As has often been said. Science and scripture are two books written by one author, they can not contradict. It’s their interpretations that do.

    • Vance

      Yes, the list of previously held beliefs about the natural world which are no longer believed could be very long, indeed! But, that is discounting the greater and greater rigor with which science, and scientific concepts, are handled. You will notice when you go through any such list that it gets shorter and shorter as you move closer to the present time. We are simply better at this than before.

      And that is due to the accumulate of knowledge over time. Yes, new areas of uncertainty and uncharted areas of study are opening as we speak, with quantam physics, etc. But, what we DO know, we know with greater and greater certainty and with ever-increasing evidentiary support. Again, no matter HOW long you make your list, the list of things which you already DO accept wholeheartedly, without doubt or skepticism or timidity, would be even longer. Let’s measure. Think about how “timidly” you hold to the explanation of photosynthesis? Or that the earth spins on its axis? Or that bacteria can cause infection? I would assume you accept these scientific statements with little or no timidity at all!

      Commitment? Well, that should be on a spectrum, and you make it sound as if all scientific conclusions should be held equally lightly. I am sorry, but I will hold to the explanation of photosynthesis MUCH more strongly than I will hold to String Theory! :0)

    • Brett

      Not so. Science has made many mistakes; but then its history is confessing its mistakes, and coming up with something better. And over the last few thousand years, science has taken us up from starving in mud huts, to a prosperous world in which 6 billion people worldwide, are well much better fed and clothed than the few starving millions of a few thousand years ago.

      Today, thanks in large part to science and technology, we have powers that 2,000 years ago, would have been called miraculous. I can press a single button, and talk to a person on the other side of the planet; or even in the heavens. We can bring many of the dead, the nearly flatlined, back to life. We have the power to measure the earth, and to fly millions of people in the sky, at 600 miles an hour, to every part of the earth.

      Now, try to do that as regularly and reliably, with just faith and a prayer? How are you doing? Even science does not do these things perfectly of course. But it does them with remarkable reliability.

      To be sure, this is not to reject religion, Christianity. But to suggest that you look to discover the many places where after all, the Bible itself supports practical knowledge of the various trades and technologies for example. Jesus himself seems to have known something about farming, agronomy; and fishing; and carpentry. And we were often told to “work” with our “hands,” at practical/technological things.

      “Come, let us reason together.” The fact is, science and religion are not necessarily opposites. Indeed, Science might just be the most productive side of religion; in spite of popular misconceptions to the contrary.

      “Come, let us reason together.”

    • Kent S

      Oops, I missposted. I should have written: Creation and Scripture are two books written by one Author…

    • Ed Kratz


      “Shall I make a list of theological positions that have come and gone out of vogue?”

      NO! We don’t even have enough room on the server to list all of MY theological positions that have come and gone! (Okay folks, yes, that was an overstatement, calm down).

    • Ed Kratz

      Vance, I agree (timidly) with your spectrum theory.

      In fact, as I have said so often, this does not simply have to do with nature and Scripture, but with all areas where epistemology is concerned: reason, emotions, tradition, and experience included.

      In all of these areas there is going to be epistemic warrant for a particular belief, but all of these need to be tempered in great humility and fear. All I am doing in putting science in the same category. It is not king the way we once thought it was.

      I tell my students that so many people no longer have science in the drivers seat, but we certainly don’t kick it out of the car. Science has produced so many things that are wonderful evidences of the grace of God. But it has also been a catalyst for many dogmatic changes that were not justified.

    • Steve

      I enjoyed the post. Anytime some new “truth” comes along that is contrary to the TRUTH, it eventually gets dealt with. I have noticed, however, that these theories seem to go out a lot quieter than they came in.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      I’m glad that you listed Global Warming.

    • Vance

      Yes, you have heard me discuss how the fault on both sides of the debate tends to be when science was made the “arbiter of all truth”. When the Modern world became so enamored of what science could tell us about the world around us, it came to believe that if science could not explain it, or if it seemed contrary to what science was discovering, it could not be true. The worst result of this “Modernistic” thinking was the fundamentalist knee-jerk reaction to insist that science could prove the Bible, and that any science which seemed contrary to Scripture MUST be “bad science”. They had bought the Modernism hook, line and sinker. The Bible and their theology had to conform to science and vice-versa. In the end, they would reject good science that did not fit with their theology and create bad science that did.

      The better approach is to see science as just “one tool in the box” for discovering Truth. It is the tool that gives us the best natural explanation for natural events. It can very accurately explain how our natural world works . . . naturally. We can not expect it, or require it, to consider the supernatural, even when we believe that doing so is essential to find the ultimate answer, because finding the ultimate answer is not science’s job. Science can not prove God or disprove God, or anything else supernatural because it is just that: super-natural, beyond nature, and nature is the limited sandbox in which science does its thing.

    • Brett

      Except that God is extremely involved in the material world, and nature. In the beginning, he made heaven and the material “earth”; and said it was good. Then God said he “filled all things,” heaven “and earth.” And God promised many material physical, wonders in this physical natural existence, to those who believed.

      To try to entirely separate religion or spirit, from material things and science, is not true to the Bible itself.

      No doubt when Fundamentalism tried to get into the science game, it did this badly. So let’s do this much better.

    • Vance

      Yes, but God created a natural world which works entirely naturally, except when He decides to intervene SUPERnaturally. Yes, the reality of what happens in our lives and even on this planet is a mixture of the natural and the supernatural, no doubt. And, as seekers of truth, we need to always keep that in mind when trying to reach conclusions (or, better, tentative conclusions).

      But, science is simply not equipped to make any statements or conclusions about things which are outside of the natural. Science, and the scientific method must be scene only as a finite tool, with a very specific range of usefulness. It is a wrench, and we can not use it to saw wood. We should use science for the specific purpose of telling us how God created the natural world to work in its natural state, KNOWING that because the supernatural exists and acts in our world, that scientific answer will not necessarily be the FINAL answer. It provides data that we then use to reach our final conclusions, along with theology, Scripture, etc.

      For example, we can’t use science to establish that Jesus rose again. But at the same time, no one can use science to say that Jesus did NOT rise again. All science can tell us is that, absent some supernatural agency, people do not rise from the dead in the natural world.

    • Ed Kratz

      Here is what I wrote in the other article referenced in this post:

      “Once we recognize that science is simply the interpretation of God’s “book of nature,” it will no longer be seen as a threat. The scientist can give valuable information to the theologian in the same way the exegete does. Seeming conflict will no longer present the dilemma of having to choose which source is more authoritative, but which source speaks to the issue more clearly. Rhetoric between the ones who study human origins from God’s word in Scripture and those who study God’s word in creation will tamed. Both sides will see that we are ultimately on the same team, even if we may sometimes interpret each source of God’s voice differently.”

      I stand by that.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Authority of Scripture >> authority of science.

    • Ed Kratz

      I would not put it that way. Not sure if I did. But Scripture and Science are not parallel here. It is Scripture and Nature. Science is a method of interpreting nature and a mutifacited one at that. It would be more like:

      Historical Grammatical hermeneutics/Scientific method
      Authorial intent hermeneutics/rationalism
      Reader respons/empericism

      But even then, “scientific method”, etc are to broad.

      In other words, science is just descriptive of one method of “exegeting” nature. The best one we have.

      Hope that makes sense.

    • mbaker

      CMP, RE: 21

      Unfortunately, it’s seems the only one we have. I’m not quite understanding how they differ, unless science is trying to prove a completely man made explanation, which can change with each new ‘discovery’. The idea of a completely scientific idea of life, as diametrically opposed to the natural laws of God’s creation, (and I am not a creationist in the strictest sense that it is mostly often applied). Perhaps someone can explain this dichotomy, not as science versus Christians, but how the two can relate in harmony? Not saying they have to, but why don’t they, given the evidence of nature?

    • I would agree that science is valuable and should not be despised. But I think even in our post-modern times we are still in danger of treating science as an infallible oracle that cannot be questioned. I do not think anything human whether a church or a scientific community should vested with that degree of unquestionable authority. I am convinced that Scripture and nature are both revelations of God (see Psalms 19). But we need to carefully analyze which of our interpretations of either are clear cut and should be affirmed dogmatically and which we need to hold with a loose hand.

    • mbaker

      “I am convinced that Scripture and nature are both revelations of God (see Psalms 19). But we need to carefully analyze which of our interpretations of either are clear cut and should be affirmed dogmatically and which we need to hold with a loose hand.”

      I am in agreement with you there. But where it comes to where the rubber finally meets the road for Christians, I think we should trust in the supreme power of God first.

      He can save us. Science can’t.

    • Ed Kratz


      That is exactly right. I agree that the “it is scientific fact” is still used as a universal trump card in so many areas. It often not only stops the conversation, but keeps us from discovery and understanding.

      Again, I don’t think we should hold all things losely, even in science. For example, with regard to philosophy, I do not hold the law of non-contradiction or the basic reliablity of sense perception losely. They are established fact to a degree that there are not any legitimate contenders for their authority. They are established throughout history. Some things, in every area, are not going ot be dynamic or as tenative as others.

    • Ed Kratz


      Yes, scientism is a very dangerous philosophy that, thankfully, postmodernism has somewhat vanquished on a popular level. (That’s one good thing about postmodernism).

      I also think that Hume (even though most people, especially Christians, despise him, was right about some things in his introduction of radical skepticism. While we can be certain about many truths, no matter what source we are using, we can never have infallible certainty the way God does.

    • Buks van Ellewee

      To understand that Science is the study of the material creation of an all knowing infinitely powerful God and that Theology is the study of the revelation to us of that same infinitely powerful, loving and holy God – should bring me to my knees in humility. I should understand my own limitations and therefore always be listening and learning from others – knowing that they, like me, are grappling with things too wonderful and too great to ever fully comprehend. But the journey in both Science and Theology is awesome! Enjoy it – that I believe is what brings Glory to God.

    • Gary Simmons

      I would have to disagree with Brett’s optimistic explanation of science. Actually, when we had produced too much corn in America in the 1970s, science allowed us to generate high-fructose corn syrup so we can sweeten our breadstuffs and get fatter.

      Also, only 1/6th of the world can access the internet. There are also one billion people trying to live off subsistence farming, and are unable to do so and therefore starving.

      I love science, don’t get me wrong. But religion is not what enabled a Catholic pilot to drop a bomb on Nagasaki and wipe out three Catholic monasteries.

      My point: science has not always been a positive force that brings people closer to God. Only in coordination with the Gospel can that happen.

      And my secondary point was that this world is just as messed up as when people were starving in mud huts. Because some still are.

    • Brett

      As an historian, I’d have to say, consider the status of humankind two thousand years ago, and now? And realistically, honestly compare and contrast? Things today are not perfect; but to suggest that there has been no improvement? Next time you want modern medical care, don’t go. Since you believe there has been no improvement?

      No doubt we should listen to God. But after all, God speaks in part, through Reason.

      “Come, let us reason together.” The very name of God, “Logos,” is often translated “word”; but seems to be a cognate of “logic” as well.

      Let’s follow God. But acknowledge that God speaks not only through the Bible, but from Nature as well. He “fills all things.”

      From the beginning, the greatness of God was perceived in the material “things he has made.”

      Let’s meet Science and Nature halfway; just as the Bible does. Jesus observed nature, birds, and used that to convey the message of God.

    • Brett


      I accept your statement #19 as a balanced statement.

    • Ed Kratz

      Brett, I did not see anyone saying or suggesting that science is not good or that things were not much better. Science is a gift of God, just like emotion and experience. We simply don’t always have a perfect understanding of it. Applied science and theoretical sciences have quite a distinction here too.

    • Vance

      I think it is crucial to separate science and “scientism” as Michael described it, or philosophical naturalism, as others call it. The latter is a world view, contrary to Christianity, the former is merely the act of studying God’s creation.

      The bottom line is this: Science is what Christians do when they want to discover how God’s Creation works.

    • Derek Knighten

      While science doesn’t move in a straight line, the technology that it creates is moving the human species somewhere. Even if there is an inter-synthetic play between theories. We aren’t standing still, rather we are moving faster and faster somewhere.

      Technological Singularity? (Gen. 5,6)

    • mbaker

      I also think we need to understand that science is often trying to disprove what Christians already understand and accept by faith by Christ’s life, death and resurrection, and through God’s written word. Unfortunately, even among Christians, scientific theory sometimes turns into a tug of war with different streams of theology.

      I am all for scientific study in all fields, and applaud the wonderful medical and technological advances made in this century. However, I agree with CMP that when theory becomes it’s own theology, then we need to step back and examine which we are going to choose to practice as Christians.

      Unfortunately, the two do not always coincide, even in the church, as we see so graphically illustrated nowadays.

    • Greg

      I think many tend to forget the practicality of science, and that this is the main reason why we keep it around. When you start looking at it as a vehicle to ABSOLUTE TRUTH!!!, or on the same level as interpreted scriptural revelation, then you begin to run into problems.

      This is why some act like a lover who’s been cheated on when they invest in science later shown to be inaccurate. It was never meant to be permanent, only practical. Science is useful in as much as it explains the evidence available to it. When new evidence comes to light, stuff that wasn’t known before, the previous conclusions have to be reevaluated.

      Does that mean the previous conclusions were wrong? In an absolute sense, yeah, but not in a practical sense. The previous theory was useful because it adequately explained the evidence at the time and was hopefully useful. Because we are temporal beings trying to do well here in the world, what more can you ask for?

      Take this for example: Gravity is a fact. We experience it all the time. But its also a theory. This theory tries to explain how gravity happens, and explains the current evidence we have available to us. Nothing more. This theory may be overturned someday when better evidence comes to light. Consider that: the theory of gravity may be overturned tomorrow!

      Doesn’t mean gravity will cease to exist, only that our practical explanation of it has succumbed to newer evidence. The FACT of something is known with certainty, like gravity, but the THEORY is still being worked out. CMP, this is also true for certain things on your list that cannot be named at the moment…

      Unfortunately, many people within the Christian community do not understand the practicality of science, so they use debate over a theory to question the fact the theory describes.

    • Greg

      The ancient science that is in the inspired Word of God is another example of practical science. When the ancient Israelites looked at the world around them, they described it using ancient phenomenological methods.

      This is why you see odd things in scripture, such as a firmament with the sun, moon, and stars placed within it, and a massive ocean above all of this. You see descriptions of a three-tiered universe with the heavens above, the underworld below and the actual physical world we live on in the middle. Scripture is full of these ancient descriptions of the world.

      This isn’t a poetic description either; the inspired authors actually believed this. These were their ancient theories of how the world around them worked, and they were based on what they could see with their eyes. Their ancient viewpoint is not ours, and our modern one isn’t theirs. Trying to force one on the other is nothing but a ploy to have scripture conform to our expectations of it.

      The Holy Spirit, in the second-greatest act of accommodation to man (the first being the incarnation of Jesus Christ), used the practical science of the day to reveal great and infallible Messages of Faith that are timeless and understood by all people everywhere.

      One of the advantages of viewing science as a search for practicality, as opposed to ABSOLUTE TRUTH!!!, is that the so-called problem between science and scripture tends to go away over time.

      As “post-moderny” as this sounds, all scientific descriptions are true in their respective time and place in as much as they adequately explain the evidence available to their theorizers at the time. No one can base theories on evidence they do not have.

    • L_Hedberg

      I’m just a simple Christian of many years…but I have come to believe this one thing about both science, and theology.
      Unless we approach the study of both in humility, on our knees, before the God who is both, seeking His guidance to understand them, we will never grasp either properly.
      In the realm of Theology, we err in coming to think that we KNOW. Yet God has told us that in this world we will never know but in part. We must always hold our Theology loosely, as we will never know it in full. Only the seeking, questioning heart on its face before God can even take the next step.
      In Science, unfortunately, its very foundation (for most) derives from a desire to be external to God, and try to interpret things withoiut Him.
      Given that He can create children unto himself from the very stones of the ground, I would suggest that Science is far from static, and impossible to be interpreted without God’s revelation as well.
      Very few approach Science from a proper starting point, or perspective. Thus, all science is doomed to constant change and re-interpretation since most knowledge is of human origin…imperfect by nature and unable to grasp truth.
      God is, in my humble opinion, much greater than the credit being given him here, either in the theological or the scientific sense.
      He promises wisdom to the seeker…but the seeker must seek rightly.

    • Bryant

      I think the large hadron collider will solve half the ideas on your list in the near future

    • C. Barton

      In the Bible, there is a use of the word, “wisdom”, which is close to what we today call inquiry and experimentation, or science. Wisdom is credited with proper engineering, agriculture, administration, etc., which sound a lot like advanced degrees in the same subjects which we study today. Hey, when you can live for 900 years, you learn stuff.
      My point is that the tools science uses are resolute: 2+2=4 will always be true, and the syllogism will always produce the proper result, unless you plug the wrong facts into it in the first place.
      And here is the dilemma – our practice of science might be flawless, but our observations can be weak, or wrong. Many of the “accepted, then rejected” ideas in science were conceived in superstition or cultural bias, and were overturned, not by anti-religious sentiments, but by those who had a practical wisdom; and all truth comes from God. We no longer live 900 years each, so many lifetimes will often span the developments of knowledge we see in science today.

    • C. Barton

      And let us not forget that many great discoveries in science were serendipitous! Mme. Curie, Mr. Roentgen, Thomas Edison, et al, had those “eureka!” moments in which they recognized something new.
      Speaking of spectrums, Newton was the first to pass white light through the prism; he also developed his theory of gravity from a fallen apple!

    • William Mayor

      You have made some very good points about problems in science. Likewise I have noted that some p[roblems in theology have likewise been discarded or at least rendered unpopular over time. However, what I see as a problem is a theology that ignores well-stablished science. Some scientific ideas are hardly new, they were old when Jesus walked the earth, yet theolgy ignores them and even contradicts them. Such a theological approach seems, at least to me, to be anti-scriptural.

    • […] Parchment and Pen: The History of Science is the History of Bad Ideas […]

    • Guy Incognito

      Interesting post! Just thought I should point out that plate tectonics didn’t replace continental drift, rather it is the mechanism that explained it.

      There were a few other points, but I’ll come back later. Nice blog!

    • Chuck

      Yes, science is more truthful than any other rubric we’ve devised. Why? Falsifiability. Something theology never invites.

    • Ed Kratz

      Guy, “science”, in this context is too broad for your comments to make much sense. I think a better comparison would be to the varifiability of history. The Christian faith makes historical claims that make or break it. To the degree that historical events can be verified, so can our faith.

    • William Mayor

      Historical verifiability is also a contentious point for theology. Eusebius implies that Acts is not historically accurate when he reports that Jesus’ burial cloth was sent to Edessa shortly after his resurrection and ascention. If this is true then Acts story of Antioch being the first gentile mission is wrong. What I can gather from modern science seems to support Eusebius over Acts, but theology largely prefers the Acts version.

    • Chuck

      C. (or is it Michael?)

      Create for me a rational history for the competing gospel versions of Jesus birth relative to what we know of Herod? Thanks.

    • Ed Kratz

      Chuck, not even close to the purpose of this thread. Please keep on track.

    • Ed Kratz

      That goes for everyone. This is about the history of science and the contengency that we must have in our trust in such. It is not an apologetics thread and does not need to turn there. There, for some odd reason, is too much emotion being introduced and it does not even pertain to what the post is about.

      Please read the rules folks. Be calm and keep on track.

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