The Scientific Method According to Accelerated Christian Education
ACE frequently distorts the truth about science for its students. To make this possible, obviously the students can’t have a proper understanding of the scientific method. Sure enough, if we look at what they’re told, we see that students are misled about how science works.
First of all, the basis for inquiry – logical reasoning – is thrown out:
Man should never trust his own reasoning – his reasoning may be incorrect because man’s reasoning is not God’s reasoning.
OK, so if we can’t get to the right answer through reason, how can we get there? Well, luckily God has told us the right answers.
Although many modern scientific discoveries are not mentioned in Scripture, any scientific theory should be compared with Scripture. True science will never contradict the Bible because God created both the universe and Scripture. Some scientists may, like the early philosophers, contradict the Bible because their interpretation of their observations or their philosophical presuppositions are wrong, but the Bible, God’s Word, is infallible. If a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded.
So, if all the data contradicts the Bible, the data is wrong. So how come scientists manage to come to wrong conclusions?
The conclusions a scientist draws in his observations and experiments are based on his preconceived ideas or presuppositions. A scientist who believes the Bible may interpret certain “facts” much differently than a scientist who believes the theory of evolution. A scientist’s preconceived ideas may even limit what ‘facts’ he chooses to consider in formulating his theories. In your study of science, you should always remember that what you read is the work of a scientist who had certain presuppositions before he began his experimentation. All scientific ‘facts’ must be interpreted on the basis of God’s Word, the infallible source of knowledge.
Until the last sentence, this is all (sort of) true. The work of an individual scientist may indeed be affected by presuppositions. This would be an excellent time for ACE to tell us how science has solved this problem through the system of published, peer-reviewed journals. They should tell us how experimental findings must be repeatable in order to be valid. They should explain how fellow scientists are invited to critique the methodology of the experiment in order to improve the reliability of the data. They should explain how the conclusions are analysed to see whether the claims made are supported by the data. And they should tell students that findings which fail this rigorous process are rejected.
Instead, science is misrepresented as a field of bias and lies. Why has a science textbook been written by someone who either knows nothing about science, or doesn’t want students to understand it? The other ACE practice is to imply that fundamentalist Christians make up a significant proportion of the scientific community, as in many examples like this one:
As scientists began to realize that God is God of order and that His Creation is orderly, they gradually accepted three basic assumptions. First, the physical universe was created by the infinite and infallible God and is structured according to certain orderly laws… Science can be defined as man’s organized knowledge of God’s creation.
ACE’s anti-science bias is made clear by the inclusion on the syllabus of a poisonous book called When Science Fails (“explodes the naïve assumption that science has all the answers”), which I’ll probably consider in some detail at a later date.
What impact does this have on the students’ worldview? Well, apparently, it helps them to learn critical thinking skills, as one student attests:
It [the school’s training] provided a biblical foundation upon which to question and analyse academic and personal opinions/theories and beliefs. I was taught not just to accept what science dictates.
[cited here, p. 10]
I somehow doubt he means he learned how to critically evaluate scientific methodology and whether the findings of studies can be generalised. And what about questioning the Biblical foundation itself? I am not claiming here that the Bible is not true; I do contend that any belief has no value unless it has been challenged.
In ACE, there is constant sniping at science because it does not know everything, whereas God does know everything. Science has changed its mind, while their God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This, combined with the fact that the curriculum contains no experimental or practical science whatsoever, leads to a denigration of science. In fact, science makes no claims to knowing everything, and changes in science are down to progress and new evidence.
I did not learn any critical thinking skills from ACE. When I encountered critical thinking in the Research Methods module of my undergraduate degree, many concepts were genuinely new to me. And that is a scandal.
[All quotations are from the Accelerated Christian Education Science PACE 1109, Physical Science 1, 1996 revision, pp. 5, 7, 9, 12]