Developing Your Own Bogus-Science Detector, Part 4: Discerning the Bad and the Good

By Brandon Aldinger Published on April 8, 2024

In this four-part series, I have been discussing principles for judging whether the scientific conclusions of that expert on TV are trustworthy, honestly mistaken, or intentionally misleading. This final part will cover the last two principles, focusing on how Christians should approach the modern scientific establishment.

Fruit Inspectors

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against false prophets, saying “By their fruit you will recognize them … every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:16-17). A similar principle can be applied to science experts and their pronouncements. Could their recommendations contradict the tenets of a Christian worldview? What would be the effect of that?

Consider the prevailing climate-change narrative, that the world is heating up to dangerous levels, primarily due to human industry. Strangely, none of the experts’ proposed solutions would result in greater freedom or a higher standard of living for the average person. Instead, policymakers insist that we must quickly subsidize “green” energy sources, mandate electric cars, invest in carbon sequestration, and reduce meat consumption, among many other recommendations.

Almost all these solutions entail more powerful government, lower standards of living, and higher taxes. These detrimental effects don’t prove the experts are wrong. Still, when proposed policies impoverish the citizen and empower the elite — which naturally includes the expert — healthy skepticism is certainly warranted.

Evil Branded as “Science” Is Still Evil

Some expert recommendations are outright evil. Citing scientific research, a 2017 opinion piece appeared at NBC News, titled “Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them.” The author posited that each child born requires so many resources and causes so many carbon emissions that not having children is a morally superior decision.

This anti-human stance directly conflicts with the God-given directive to “be fruitful, increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). God would not have given this command if it would lead to destruction of the Earth. If the Christian worldview is true, then we can immediately know that the thinking behind this “remain childless” research is deeply flawed.

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For another example, radical gender ideology claims that gender is fluid, innumerable genders exist, and gender change is not only possible, but vital as a life-saving therapy. The American Association of Pediatricians (AAP) and the American Medical Association (AMA), with thousands of members apiece, affirm these claims, including recommending gender-change surgery for minors.

Radical gender theories run counter to the historic Christian worldview, where “God created mankind in his own image … male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). No matter how many M.D.s or Ph.D.s there are in the AAP or AMA, they are wrong on gender and are promoting exceedingly harmful treatments. (The “science” behind their claims isn’t what they say it is anyway.)

As Christians, when evaluating scientific discoveries or theories, we need to get beyond surface-level thinking and consider the consequences of a course of action. Does it bear good fruit that helps God’s creation and His people, or does it bear bad fruit that harms humans and leads them away from God? If the latter, spit it out.

Finally: Avoiding an Anti-Science Mindset

This four-part series may seem to have painted a pessimistic view of modern science. There are reasons for that, for the line between modern political trends and the scientific establishment has become increasingly blurred. Secular bias, political pressure, and funding incentives form a poisonous brew that taints much of the science filtering down to the public.

Nevertheless, while I hope the tools covered here will help you separate the wheat from the tares, there is a risk of going too far, dismissing every scientist’s opinion on everything. Good science is still good; it’s bogus science we need to watch out for. Here are three reasons why Christians should avoid adopting an anti-science mindset.

Goodness and Grace

First, the scientific method has undeniably led to technological advances that improve the lives of billions and feed millions. Some of the greatest achievements in human history, like the moon landing, have been enabled by science.

Properly understood, science reveals truths about the created world that have been placed there by God Himself. As the great astronomer Johannes Kepler said 400 years ago, his research was merely “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” Indeed, the very foundations of science depend on many aspects of the Christian worldview. Rejecting science completely makes Christians guilty of ignoring the Book of Nature, one of two ways in which God reveals Himself to mankind.

“Hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil”

Second, just as we appreciate when grace is extended to us in our mistakes, scientists who honestly hold different opinions should be extended respect and understanding. Many scientists stay out of the limelight, dig into their specialized fields, and sincerely desire to make a lasting contribution to human knowledge. It is the highly visible “experts,” self-appointed paladins of science, who perpetrate the worst stereotypes.

Owning Our Responsibility

Finally, Christians are partly to blame for the secularization of science. Thirty years ago, Christian historian Mark Noll, in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind identified that scandal as “that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” American evangelicals have abandoned intellectual pursuits, and to some extent, have treated them with contempt. We left the universities to the secularists, and the unsurprising result is that secularism now reigns there. The Christian worldview is laughed at rather than respected.

The dearth of Christian scholars has begun to reverse in subjects like philosophy, but the university landscape remains starkly anti-Christian. Through decades of discouraging young Christians from pursuing higher education in fields like science, we have ceded that territory to secular opponents of Christianity. Theirs voices are the only ones heard by the next generation of scientists-in-training.

So when it comes to science, Christians should exercise the same care Scripture urges for spiritual matters: “Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21-22). Our faith in God isn’t a blind faith; neither should we blindly accept the prognostications of experts, no matter their resumes.

The principles in these articles can help you to discern good science from bogus science. A healthy scientific enterprise inspires wonder about this amazing universe, promotes human flourishing, and most importantly, glorifies the Creator who made it all.

But when you see a lab coat on TV, “be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.”

 

Brandon Aldinger is a chemist with a doctoral degree who works in an industrial research laboratory. He’s had lifelong interest in issues of science and faith, and he is passionate about training fellow Christians to think clearly about and stand firm on their beliefs within a hostile culture.

 

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