How (not?) to speak to scientists about Jesus

I saw this article on Facebook the other day and I’d like to ask what everyone thinks of it.

The author makes some good points and seems well intentioned to me, but there are a few things about the article that make me twitch a bit. Perhaps it’s because I’m jaded by YECists repeatedly crying “assumptions” as if it were some sort of get-out-of-jail-free card, but I wasn’t comfortable with him recommending that we “ask about underlying assumptions” or that we “ask about underlying motivations.” Besides the fact that this approach seems a bit passive-aggressive and questions such as these seem pretty loaded, it’s straight out of the YEC playbook that views assumptions as some sort of free pass to let them reject anything and everything about science that they don’t like. He doesn’t identify as YEC himself, but given that some of his readers will do, and that they have that kind of mentality, I would have thought that making such a recommendation is rather ill-advised, even if he does make some good points while making them.

Any thoughts? How should we talk to scientists (or more generally, to scientifically literate people) about Jesus? I have some thoughts of my own here, but I’d like to see what everybody else thinks.


Id assume since they are already scientific literate they have already made up their mind. That’s it from me

After looking at the “about” section of the publishing entity and reading the article, I didn’t see too much to get offended about, though I think it was a little simplistic. I think the idea to ask questions was good, but there was not a lot of emphasis on listening to the answers and relating to the speakers, just comments on how to respond the what the expected answers were.
It also did not differentiate between speaking to Christian vs. non-Christian scientists, and of course, their are a lot of different flavors of non-Christians so it is not a one size fits all situation.
I think the advise to ask questions and learn about assumptions is actually good in dealing with almost anyone as a way to get to know them, though I am not so keen on the probing into motivations, as that can be an intimate question to discuss if you do not have a deep relationship with someone, and is rife with problems as we often impute motivations to others falsely.
I see the chairman of the governing board of The Christian Unions is a science professor. Good for them.
Personally, I wish more YEC folk would follow this advice. I would welcome them asking what my assumptions are as an EC rather than the way it usually comes off. It would be good to discuss such assumptions as “All truth is God’s Truth” and that “the Bible is correct is saying creation reflects his glory and tells us of God’s nature, so that observations of creation are accurate and factual.”


To be honest, I think this is very condescending to scientists and out of touch with reality. Consider this:

Science also depends on scientists wanting to do science. The whole scientific enterprise would come to a complete halt if no one wanted to do science. So why do you do it? This is another great area to ask scientists about, and again is an area that often scientists haven’t given much thought to.

So scientists in general haven’t given much thought to why they do science, even though a career in science requires many years of education and hard work. Seriously? Stuff like this will surely reinforce anti-Christian stereotypes.


I suspect many people in science don’t understand the true nature of science from a philosophical perspective.

And I would ask about all the curious coincidences that lined up for advanced life in our universe.


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That’s a very good point. If YECs were to actually ask scientists what assumptions they make, they would find that the answers are not what they expect.

Been there, seen it, done it, got the T-shirt.

He seems to have some kind of stereotype of scientists as motivated entirely by a mission to falsify the existence of God. In fact he actually says as much:

But many scientists are very quick to dismiss Christianity as being non-scientific or irrational or as simply irrelevant now that we have science to explain the world.

There’s one point in particular that he missed, and that is the main reason why talking to scientists can be so daunting. It’s because they expect you to know what you are talking about. The hostility isn’t towards Christianity or faith per se, but towards such things as sloppy thinking, falsehood and misinformation, unsubstantiated claims, resistance to correction, wilful ignorance, conspiracy theories, or expecting them to do your homework for you. You have to make sure your facts are straight and to expect them to be scrutinised, and if they aren’t straight you’ll be told about it in no uncertain terms. To anyone who isn’t used to that kind of scrutiny, or the directness with which the responses are given, it can be quite a shock to the system.


To add more to my two cents: using agenda pushing, politically charged and anonymous documents-- that are literarily dependent on one another and were written 30-70 years after the events they allegedly narrate – as evidence for miraculous claims about Jesus is probably not a good way to go. Real scientists should have high standards of evidence…and “some guy told this in a story 2,000 years ago” doesn’t really fit that bill. I can’t expect any scientists worth his salt to think historical apologetics is persuasive unless they like special pleading and confirmation bias. How could an anonymous story written 40 years later, or even one by a known author serve as legitimate evidence someone rose from the dead 2000 years ago? It is absurd if you think about the type of evidence and data scientists are normally accustomed to working with. Not to mention a surface reading of the Bible shows lots of internal conflict and contradiction. Maybe just present the Gospel? We do our job and have faith in the Holy Spirit to do His job.



I just kind of skimmed it. I thought it was kind of written in a very outdated silly way. First of all, scientists are not any more anti social than fishermen. It’s a stereotype that many scientist actually complain about. It’s a common trope even in horror. The anti social scientist who is so work oriented that they are driven to madness in their pursuits of unlocking the secrets of the universe.

I’ve met plenty of scientists who range from Christian to Muslim and atheism to even picking Wiccan. No one faith is any more intellectual than the next. They all require faith in something that science just can’t explain.

So a lot more is involved than if they are a scientist or not. After all some scientists are “ young earthers who reject vaccines “ and so on .

But let’s say the scientists is an anti social , liberal atheist who thinks the “ church “ has some issue. Our paradigms will likely be very similar. Just instead of atheism, I choose to believe in God. But as far as science is concerned, or the existence of powers of the spirit and politics…. We will essentially have the same view and I’ll easily be able to talk about my faith with them.

Typically with liberal atheist scientists the most contentious discussions I have with them is usually why veganism is better than a diet that consists of supporting the commercialization of corpses through psychological and physical abuse ending in their bloody deaths.


And what is that?

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We shouldn’t forget that many scientist are people of faith. And even members of the clergy.


These should get you started.

Scientists are not immune to bias, hatred, racism and fallacious thinking either:

Every time I see a scientist use the word “proof” or “prove” I cringe. How many things once “proven” by science are now only approximations of reality?


One suggestion: rather than asking a scientist about their assumptions or motivations, ask them about their research.

It’s a great way of building relationships, showing that you care about them as a person, and learning interesting new things at the same time.


Note that it helps if you actually do care about them as a person and like learning new things.


Resistance to correction, poorly substantiated claims, and occasional willful ignorance are why sorting out certain scientific papers is an effective route to madness.

I would consider any identification to species of a “turrid” by someone who doesn’t work in molluscan systematics to be doubtful simply because they are hard to get right (not as difficult as skeimorphs, pyramidellids, or eulimids, but very difficult nonetheless). And even within the field there are certain individuals where I would not take any identification other than one which includes a type designation as accurate without outside corroboration (e.g., Paul Bartsch or Ed Petuch).


I agree that that is poor usage in most situations. The exceptions that I can think of are “[data] proves [hypothesis] to be false” and statements like “The presence of Argopecten anteamplicostatus (Mansfield, 1936) in the lower Waccamaw Formation proves that it survived the extinction 3.2 MYA.”


Why does that bother you? Lots of innocent defendants have been proven guilty in court, too. ‘Prove’ doesn’t normally mean ‘beyond any possibility of error’.


Me, too, James.
I haven’t had a chance to read all the replies in the thread, so, I’m probably repeating what other said. Sorry, if that’s the case. Here’s what I found, though:

you can tell the social physicists because they look at your shoes

I hate stereotypes. I’m breaking out, before the author even gets to his topic.

But many scientists are very quick to dismiss Christianity as being non-scientific or irrational or as simply irrelevant now that we have science to explain the world.

Maybe. One would have to ask first, rather than going in with THIS assumption.

I find speaking with scientists about Jesus a challenge

Only scientists? The author is miles and miles ahead of me.

I found this One method: ask questions section particularly problematic, and potentially, intellectually dishonest.
Let’s look at the discussion about technique:

Have you ever stopped and reflected on why Jesus asks these questions?

Yes, yes I have. Hopefully most of us have, and most of us understand Jesus’s purpose in asking these questions. His technique was used to demonstrate the hypocrisy and wrong thinking hidden in the questions of the specialists in the Law. Jesus used them to expose them to themselves as well as their listeners, not because he was curious.

Is this the technique that is being promoted in this article? One needs a pretty high opinion of one’s insights to feel qualified to use this method for these reasons, or it comes from much longer background of discussions (since none of us has the insight of the Son of God), where one has become aware of fallacious thinking.

Scientists are naturally curious people, it’s part of why we are scientists…And so asking questions shows we are not abandoning our scientific selves whenever we start thinking about Jesus.

I’m really not sure what this means in this context. We can be curious about aspects of another person that are none of our business. Or if we’re relying on our “scientific selves” are we looking at the other person as a an object of study? Some examples might be helpful (or damning).

Asking questions shows we care about what they think and why they think it.

This is sometimes the case, particularly when practiced by a person who actually DOES care about the other person. When practiced as a way to get a foot in the door, or as a weaponize the answers from the “object of study,” that door will close quickly, and for good reason.
If someone wants to talk about Jesus with a person, and intends to use questions to demonstrate they actually care about the other person, they had better be in this for the long haul, and be prepared to be changed themselves by the way the relationship goes. Otherwise, you’re just selling something.

Ask about underlying assumptions

Um. Sure. “Tell me all about your underlying assumptions, (so I can demonstrate how wrong you are about everything).”
Even if any of us is able to immediately identify our underlying assumptions and biases, I just don’t see this working as the author intended. If you try it, be prepared for the tables to be turned.

assuming that if we do everything the same then we should get the same number. This is not something science proves happens, its something science has to assume.

Ok. I understand “prove” gives some people a rash. But this claim seems like nonsense to me.
Don’t y’all attempt to carefully develop and precisely describe methods for a reason? Like to eliminate noise? Like so someone else can repeat it to see if the same results are possible, as well as to determine what prevents the results from being the same?

Christians expect there to be laws of nature because we believe in a law-giver.

Why does anyone need to mention this, much less me?!
There is a difference between prescriptive and descriptive laws (and dictionaries, and literature, and ethnographies, and…)
No one “breaks” the laws of nature and goes to court for the infraction. The things that are called “Laws of Nature” are descriptions of consistent behaviors of nature. Period.

The law that was given was prescriptive, telling how OT Jewish people should live and conduct themselves.

There is no “should” in the laws of nature.

I won’t even touch the ID implications of this section of the article. Y’all see it loud and clear.

Science also depends on scientists wanting to do science. The whole scientific enterprise would come to a complete halt if no one wanted to do science. So why do you do it?

This is probably the most interesting and useful question in the article. If its used, because the questioner actually values it knowing for the sake of knowing the person better. Personally, I love to hear people talk about what they like or find interesting in their work. Even when I don’t understand the details. People who love their work are usually able to articulate it well enough that an outsider can grasp the basics. And their enthusiasm. “How did you get interested in this?” “How has your interest in your field changed over time?” “What factors effected that change?” “Where do you see your interests going next?”

Those are great, relationship-building questions, but also completely non-judgmental and open-ended.

Asking questions about the underlying motives of scientists can really help show that science needs not just philosophical ideas but also to move people to become scientists, people with emotions and desires.

And the point is? All of the scientists I’ve known would be able to explain their emotional connection to their interest in science (unless of course it was a purely pragmatic path to survival). Few of the scientists I’ve known are Christians.

the Christian story just naturally provides us with a fantastic motivation to do science.

And non-christian scientists lack fantastic motivation to do science? This strikes me as entirely self-centered (in the worst way).

Ultimately science needs a bigger story that it can fit into, a story that explains its assumptions but also a story that gives reasons to do it.

Whatever my view on the reality or unreality of “The Big Story” the author never manages to connect this statement to the needs of the scientists he wants to witness to (talk with about Jesus).

Overall the article strikes me as preaching to the choir. It works for insiders, who are not self-critical.

Turn it around and see how convincing any of this would be to a Christian being confronted by a Muslim? You’d need to adjust some things, but is there an apologetic there really?

Sure, and we know this not because reasonable doubt was reintroduced to the case, which may prove there was a mistrial, but because evidence was found which proved their innocence.

And how many of those “proven” guilty based on crappy eyewitness testimony, sloppy use of hair or dental impressions have been exonerated by DNA? And to reinforce my two cents above, the gospels aren’t even eyewitness testimony and a murder isn’t even a nature defying event like a resurrection. I can’t see historical apologetics being of any evidential value to a trained scientists used to working with actual evidence. But I digress.

“Proof” in the legal system which can run poorly or adequately.
“Proof” in the popular sense of being definitive.
“Proof” in the philosophical sense of being a logical necessity based on the premises.
Or crack a dictionary for meriam and webster’s thoughts on proof and prove.

How many non-scientists think “that is just a theory” when in fact a theory is the highest level of acceptance in science? Evolution. That is just a theory right? How many times is this said? What is needed is a clear definition of a scientific “fact” and what that really means. Too easy for miscommunication and equivocation. When you are speaking to a popular audience your terms should be on point. So when the fancy scientists equivocate on terms and use things like theory/fact/proof in a less than ideal fashion, of waffle between scientific and popular meanings, what hope is there for the rest of us plebeians to get them right?


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I agree the usage can be appropriate in limited contexts but even your example still assumes you have identified Argopecten anteamplicostatus correctly (is this always the case), your theories and views and methods on identifying and distinguishing formations are correct and so on. Maybe some extreme geological event occurred or we misdated the extinction. I am just spit-balling but a lot goes into this. We have to know a good deal about the lower Waccamaw formation as well to rule out other possibilities.