Statements about Science that Bother Me Part 2

Statements about Science that Bother Me Part 2

I once heard a scientist say the following:

Only scientists are qualified to speak about matters of science.

Understood in a general sense, this point seems reasonable. For example, for a person to comment intelligently about a field of study one would expect that person to be adequately acquainted with that particular discipline. Since the various fields of science are highly specialized, rigorous training is often required to obtain a mastery of a given scientific discipline. This is, of course, why RTB employs highly trained scientists to work on the scholar team of a science apologetics organization.

However, as I pointed out in part one of this series, to assert that only scientists can speak intelligently about science ignores the reality that the scientific enterprise itself involves many assumptions that are not technically part of the natural sciences.

Some of these philosophical presuppositions foundational to the study of science include: (1) the existence of an objectively real cosmos; (2) the comprehensibility of that cosmos; (3) the general reliability of sense perception and human rationality; (4) the uniformity of the laws of nature; and (5) the validity of mathematics and logic.

Given these philosophical assumptions, philosophers of science potentially have much to say of vital importance concerning the nature of the scientific enterprise. In addition, mathematicians and logicians can authoritatively comment on scientific matters. In fact, the scientific enterprise is directly dependent upon the soundness of mathematics and logic.

When I listen to my scientifically trained friends at RTB talk about their fields, I note how the claims of science often come down to the issue of who has the best argument. Whose model best explains the data? Whose model has the superior explanatory power? These are specifically issues of logic and argumentation.

Even Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was essentially an inference to the best explanation type of logical argument. Deciding whether some form of creationism or naturalistic evolution is best supported by the scientific data involves something like an abductive form of logical reasoning.

Could not logicians appropriately comment about the arguments made by scientists without themselves being formally trained in a given scientific discipline? Of course they can!

Could not lawyers, familiar with the use of arguments and evidence, also carefully evaluate scientists’ conclusions and conceivably add something significant? Yes.

Good science involves very specialized learning. But it also involves careful thinking. When it comes to thinking, some nonscientists can indeed speak intelligently to important aspects of science.

In the next installment of this series I will raise the issue as to whether theology has anything of importance to contribute to matters of science.

Additional Resources:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3