How can we approach gracious dialogue to counter science cynicism?

I think it is largely reactionary and the biggest factors are extremist non-believers, who frankly have gone to genocidal extremes (a good example being Mao Tse Tung). There are atheists who are just as eager to jump on evolution as a “proof” God does not exists as there are theists eager to jump on the fact that the universe had a beginning as a “proof” God does exist. The hostile approach of such as Dawkins and Carl Sagan co-opting science as something “on their side,” has only inflamed the irrationality on both sides. Before them it was others like the social darwinists who created this anti-science reaction.

Begin by defusing the reactionary tendencies by making it clear that there is a big difference between science and naturalism. It is probably a good idea to acknowledge that some of what science discovers is likely to make some changes in our beliefs about God and the universe, but while we may have to rethink a few things, this is no reason to throw out everything.

I also think it is likely to help to broach science topics in sermons or bring in visiting speakers who make connections between the findings of science and issues of faith (correctly).

Not very well. My patience is definitely a little bit frayed in that area.


I think most Christians do not view scientists as part of their in-group (even when they are talking to a scientist they go to church with.) So, I think part of the task of BioLogos and their network is to try to raise awareness about the idea that science can be a Christian vocation and there are currently Christian role models who are scientists. When people in my Christian circles say, “I think climate change is a hoax,” I ask, “Oh, have you ever heard of Katharine Hayhoe? She is a missionary kid and a pastor’s wife and one of the world’s leading climatologists. She has some great videos about why climate change should matter to Christians. I’ll send you some links.” That switches the narrative from “us against them” to something different, because I have included a scientist in my “we.” It’s easier to ignore what people say when you have made them an “other.” One of the things I like about the BioLogos podcasts is how they often ask the scientist or theologian they are interviewing personal questions about their faith and the listeners get to hear very familiar sounding testimonies and affirmations of core tenets of faith. It’s not all arguments and new information.

I think the most obvious area to get people involved is with creation care. You don’t need special expertise to get involved in hands-on ways and make a tangible difference. Plus, I think creation care is maybe less freighted with baggage and easier to tie in with biblical values than evolution and age of the earth, so it’s a good on-ramp for a lot of people to get them listening to and taking seriously Christian scientists in their communities.

I have found that the average person is less committed to ideas than to people. So if I have a relationship with the person, and the person trusts me as a Christian they like and respect, I can push back on anti-science ideas and just say, “I’ve done some looking into that topic, and I’ve found that the Christians I know personally who have a PhD in geology/paleontology/biology/whatever assure me that … Don’t you think we should listen to the members of the body of Christ who have deeply studied these things?” Usually then people just admit they don’t really know much and back off. I don’t know if it does anything to change their mind, but I feel like at least I’ve communicated not all Christians share their view and their horizons have been broadened slightly.


7 posts were split to a new topic: Compelling scientific evidence that creationists have the best arguments

thanks for this great advice. I appreciate it!

Also very helpful advice: to always put the person foremost, genuinely love and care for their needs, and help them find the truth rather than feeling the need to provide definitive answers right away.

Hello Michelle,

I quite enjoyed reading your blog post; and “Almighty science?”. I think they’re both reasonably balanced and I didn’t think Belz was condescending or promoting a cynical view of science.

This is a loaded question. It suggests people are skeptical, or not, of science as a whole; if you’re skeptical about one scientific theory then you’re skeptical about science. But science is field composed of many parts and people can be skeptical about parts, and to different degrees, while being quite confident in other parts of science. You don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I have lived through several changes in dietary advice from scientists and while when younger I eagerly embraced the latest advice I now am somewhat skeptical to the latest pronouncements. I won’t be in the least surprised if dietary advice changes again in the near future.

One distinction that is sometimes made is between operational and historical science. Darwin introduced historicity into science. Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science—the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.

Operational science gives us air travel, computers, colour television, safe bridges (mostly) and many other benefits. Laws and experiments are appropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes.

Indeed it is scientifically healthy to be skeptical. Any scientific theory should in principal be open to questioning, review, and if found wanting, discarded. The history of science is littered with discarded theories.

Now if you’re really looking for science skeptics go to the post modern SJW’s. Objectivity is “cultural discrimination” (or sexist), Newtonian physics is exploitative, mathematics is a “dehumanizing tool” (if not white privilege), and algebra creates hurdles for disadvantaged groups. And mavericks in science are a problem because they tend to be wealthy, white, and male.


Isn’t that the truth! If one doesn’t like this week’s advice about coffee or chocolate or wine, then just wait another week for the next frenetic news feed declaring that “a little of this actually helps your heart!” or if you don’t like that then wait a week for the next oscillation toward “stay away from this stuff.”

But here’s the thing: have you ever lived through any flip-flopping of “the earth moves / doesn’t move” or “germs and bacteria can spread disease / or it doesn’t” or “the earth is billions of years old / it isn’t.” Sure you can find fringe groups to argue about some of those, but among mainstream science, the flip-flopping on every one of these stopped many years ago (centuries ago in some cases).

So there is a difference between popular cultural “science” of the day, and settled science of the mainstream scientific community. Sure that all exists on a continuum, and there will be many things found in a “middle world” between these two. But the existence of that middle world does not negate the settled status of some things.


One obvious thing that may not have been mentioned yet above is this: that there are scientists even still today that are happy to fuel this animosity by making anti-religious declarations (far beyond the needed, yet ultimately friendly critique that organized religion always needs - but of the more draconian “there is no legitimate place for religion in this world” sort of declaration.) Granted, there is nothing we can do about that - one can’t just make such people go away - or shouldn’t do that even if they could. But people can provide counter-examples showing that there are many religious believers and Christians who are not dismissive of these settled sciences. And that goes a long way to addressing your question #2.

[…though having said this, is it my imagination? or are the strident anti-religious voices fading ever so slightly in recent years - at least in volume and persistence? Not that there wouldn’t be many people who still think this, of course, but I have to hopefully think that the existence of cultural challenge to it (which includes Biologos!) might be affecting the stridency of some of those voices who may be softening a bit. Not that strong anti-religious convictions aren’t still maintained or even growing among young people, but I do have to wonder if they are failing to inherit or take up the un-nuanced, blanket anti-religious dogmatism of some of their more elderly standard-bearers.]

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I am completely skeptical of the area of all the life sciences. Here is the issue. The most valuable advice, healing that I have received has come from people who cannot make enough money to earn a living healing people. Dr. Robert Pastore, for example, has helped countless people live happy lives through proper nutrition, avoiding foods that cause inflammation, allergies, etc. Without his own food line, he cannot earn a living doing this live-changing work. If he just wrote perceptions for statins, insulin, etc, he could. So what do the majority of doctors do? They prescribe treatments covered by insurance, which is lobbied by the drug companies, which funds many scientists. I could go on for days with many other examples, but will stop here.

Regarding dietary advice, @aarceng, @Mervin_Bitikofer, and @Shawn_Murphy, I would argue that the science has not changed so much as has the pseudoscience driven by book sales and commercial ventures. If you look at university trained dietitians rather than internet creditialed “nutritionalists” you find good science that has avoided the latest fad of the week. Dietary science is hard to do because it is the messiness of biology combined with the messiness of humanity. When combined with commercialism, what with book sales, advertising and industry propaganda, it is tough to sort out. Not a lot unlike the origins debate.
Interestingly, we see church people seemingly more susceptible to the dubious claims in both cases. No where do you see the sales of whatever supplement of the day more than in church groups. Are we just more trusting? More gullible? Do we as a group tend to respect and honor authority and thus are more easily led astray by false teaching no matter the genre?


I agree with you you completely. Since when is skepticism a bad thing? We do have to guard against it progressing to cynicism however. Paul instructs Timothy to beware false teaching. What is true for spiritual things can be projected into secular matters as well. And following that, Paul states in 1 Timothy verse 5,“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Well, since you asked … from where I sit does seem that the belief that there is an all knowing being intimately concerned with your well being whose good favor you work hard to maintain might set one up for trusting a tad too much at times.

Sadly too often not enough when it comes to the authority of qualified scientists. But sometimes too much in relying on one own judgment of theological questions based on an untutored reading of the Bible. Neither is necessary as one sees readily amongst the better educated but that education and level of understanding is not well distributed.

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I agree, though it is possible to go overboard with skepticism. When I investigated YEC after encountering too many science and history questions that weren’t adding up (while homeschooling my kids), I went overly skeptical and questioned everything to the point of becoming an atheist. Skepticism isn’t always healthy.

I am a Christian now, and remain skeptical about YEC arguments after seeing too much dishonesty, misrepresentation, and leaving out information in the big YEC organizations’ articles and books written by “creation scientists”. I cannot trust them, especially when they have to sign a faith statement that their “science” will always conform to a specific predetermined conclusion.

A friend of mine is a registered dietitian, and she has many times said how much she hates her field because of the always changing recommendations based on studies. I imagine one the hardest things about studying human nutrition is that you can’t just keep a human in a lab and feed them only what you want to feed them. They are out in the world, eating things from various sources. And even if you provide them food, can you really trust them all not to go outside that diet and sneak in something they really like? And when questioning people about how they eat, how many are completely honest? Oh yes, I’m eating plenty of vegetables… while I’ve had a 1/2 cup of broccoli as the sole vegetable for the day. :laughing:

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And now,for something different as far as an approach to the dialogue, Randal Rauser argues that we should just avoid it, at least in the setting of public forums. (Though I suspect he is still in favor of personal conversations.)


I think he is advocating not publicly taking on people like Ken Ham who have no insight into where God’s word ends and their own interpretation takes off. By denying the science and questioning the Christianity of those who challenge (his interpretation of) God’s word he has isolated himself from challenge. But Ham has set his gullible followers on a course that actually makes their own faith more fragile.

People like Ken Ham have done enough damage already. They don’t need another opportunity to do more. And that’s why I don’t think people like this deserve a platform in the public square, including on programs like Unbelievable .

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Dear Phil,
My comment was against mainstream medicine, using only one of many examples of how we can heal ourselves instead of popping scientifically tested pills. Pills that treat symptoms for some statistical majority but do nothing to correct the underlying cause of chronic ailments. There is no motivation for medical science to put themselves out of business by helping people to take better care of themselves. Read Dr. Edward Bach’s Heal Thyself and you see that the situation has not changed in centuries.
Best Wishes, Shawn

Great blog post, thanks for sharing. Randal makes great points, but denying people the option to speak in a public forum (even if we disagree) sounds far too much like deplatforming. A worrying denial of free-speech which has been (tragically) on the rise in UK universities of late.

In a similar vein to the link above, readers may enjoy this series of blog posts by Ian Panth. He covers the points that Randal’s blog post does and many, many more in much greater detail. I found them extremely helpful as I was exploring alternatives to YEC. Actually, that is probably an understatement.

If you only have time for one, read this one:

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My impression is just the opposite: alternative medicine that works and has data to back it up becomes traditional medicine, whereas the other remains in the realm of snake oil and quackery. Certainly big business has been at fault manipulating data and marketing dubious products, but today big business is now the supplement and alternative medicine industry, pretty much totally unregulated.
Which is pretty far of topic, so let’s agree to disagree on that, and return to the related subject of how to graciously approach science skeptics. Perhaps again, with love and humility. Agreeing with past errors made, and directing towards how to avoid those mistakes in the future, and teaching how to recognize the logs in our own eyes. All the time, being motivated by love in having the best interest of those we are talking to at heart.

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Thanks or posting. From the last article,“Like David Hume, AIG places a great deal of emphasis on our immediate sensory experience in contrast to our “extrapolations” (or inferences) about the causes of what we see.”
This attitude along with the view that scientific findings are relative rather than concrete, are sometime held in common with post-modernism. While Hamm certainly accepts the Bible as having absolute truths, it is interesting how post modern thought dominates his view of science. Perhaps that is part of the attraction, as post-modernism has a big role in contemporary thought in general. I admit however that my knowledge in this area is woefully shallow.

Dear Phil,
I do a agree to disagree as I am speaking of regulated medications resulting from clinical trials. The opioid crisis came from misuse of clinical medications, not supplements.