Is Science “Awe”some for Christians?

A recent study seems to suggest that watching nature videos reaffirms viewers’ belief in God at the expense of science. But does it?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

The interesting thing about this question is that the only scientific answer is to cite other research supporting or controverting the cited study.

If, as is more lilkely, some of us say that the practice of science only serves to increase our awe (or conversly, that awe improves our science), it will merely be anecdotal. Dang the unforgiving scientific method!

I often think about what drew me to David Attenborough’s nature shows as a young child (Attenborough is, in my opinion, an international treasure,–naturalist par excellence). I think he shows, as this article alludes, that enthusiasm-for and description-of nature were never meant to be separate spheres.

Although he is apparently not a Christian, he shows us the way forward.

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I’m afraid I have to disagree with this statement of yours, Jon. One can “scientifically” destroy a paper by scrutinizing the quality of its logic, without necessarily citing other research. In fact, this is what peer reviewers of academic journals do on a regular basis. Even then, many papers get through that process despite not really deserving publication in retrospect (based on logic).

I think this paper also really requires improvements in its formulation. For example, a short inspection of this particular paper reveals that these researchers did not study actual attitudes towards science per se, but instead they studied attitudes towards scientism. Participants were literally asked whether they believed in science “as a superior, even exclusive, guide to reality, and as possessing unique and central value". This was done using items like “We can only rationally believe in what is scientifically provable." With questions intentionally excluding any other beliefs like that, it’s not strange that theists disagreed with these items more often. It seems natural that the awe-provoking scenes served to prime or reinforce the beliefs of the theistic respondents, automatically amplifying their disagreement with scientism.

I think the authors of this paper are seriously confused about the difference between scientific explanations and scientism (a metaphysical belief which is in itself not scientific). This is a logical critique, on basis of which we can reject the conclusions as they were formulated by these authors, without conducting additional research or citing other work. To improve their findings, one might devise a questionnaire that taps into the explanatory power of science without resorting to scientism. But even then, one might find other confounds that need to be disentangled.

Cheers, Casper


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