The Role Of Reason

Paradigm shifts—the change from one model of explaining natural phenomena to another—have occurred periodically in the history of science. To conduct their work, scientists observe various phenomena and make deductions that explain why things happen as they do. Over time, they build a paradigm that best accounts for the evidence and then they use that para-digm to make predictions and explain future discoveries. In science, paradigms cannot necessarily account for every single fact that is discovered, but they endure as long as they can explain the major-ity of the evidence to the best satisfaction of scientists. But when anomalies build up and paradigms show themselves less able to provide a coherent explanation for the available data, a better par-adigm may be suggested and accepted. One of the most important of these paradigm shifts occurred when Galileo’s discoveries con-firmed that the Ptolemaic paradigm for astronomy was inferior to the Copernican paradigm. Astronomy was never the same because a better model was found to explain the phenomena.

The point is that science can advance only through a combina-tion of inductive analysis of the evidence and deductive conclu-sions that form an overall paradigm within which further study can take place. These paradigms inform scientists so that they can make testable hypotheses and then seek to confirm or disprove them. By way of analytical study, science has increased our knowl-edge of the natural world and how what we refer to in theology as secondary causes work.

In inductive study, we move from particular examples to general conclusions. We see this clearly in the scientific method, wherein data is gathered, generalizations are suggested, and conclusions are made. Deductive study moves from the general to the particular. One example of a deductive argument is this syllogism: “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.” This syllogism is both valid and true—the premises of the argument correspond to reality, so it gives facts about reality, and the conclu-sion flows necessarily from the premises.

Religious people are often accused of irrationality because many of them care little for understanding the evidence for their faith and using logic to argue for it. But scientists can be irrational as well, as we will see in our coming studies

Coram Deo

Even our Savior used both induction and deduction in His ministry. For example, when arguing with the Sadducees about the resurrection (Matt. 22:23–33), He considered the evidence from the text inductively and then deduced a conclusion from it. To interpret Scripture correctly, we must use both induction and deduction, so it pays for us to have a basic understanding of how these analytical processes work.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 6:5
Isaiah 26:3
Luke 10:25–28
Philippians 4:5a

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