Is scientific knowledge reliable?The simple answer is "usually." The hard part, of course, is to know when it is and when it isn't. Unfortunately, we humans lack the omniscience that would let us know which of the findings of science are reliable, and which aren't.
God has revealed Himself to us in several ways. Some of these are:
the wisdom of godly people
the guidance of the Holy Spirit
the evidence of nature, and especially
Himself, Jesus Christ, the God/man
The bible is clear that God does reveal Himself through the evidence of nature. In other words, through the observations of science. Here are two passages that say that:
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Both of these are from the ESV, which allows such use, if proper attribution is given. I thank them.
There are two very good reasons for thinking that scientific knowledge is, at least partly, reliable. First, it works. Second, it is one of the ways God is revealed to us.
So scientific knowledge is, at least often, reliable. Again, how do we know how reliable it is, and which knowledge is reliable, and which isn't? We don't know which, or how reliable. One thing history teaches us is that science is pretty good at making predictions. As scientists begin to observe various types of phenomena, they almost always get better and better at being able to tell us what is going to happen in the future, related to that particular phenomenon. This was true of astronomy, which is nearly perfect in the predictions it makes. Weather prediction has improved greatly within my lifetime. So has medical prognosis.
Another thing history teaches us is that, although the predictions may be very good, the underlying explanations often change, sometimes radically. If you are interested in explanations that have been mostly or entirely discarded, see phlogiston, or aether. Consider also the progression in our concept of gravity: 1) heavy things fall 2) Newton said that gravity was an attractive force and 3) Einstein said that gravity was due to the warping of space-time. Good predictions were made before Newton was ever born. But the explanation of gravity has changed markedly.
A third thing history teaches us is that some statements that seem to be scientific are not. Carl Sagan famously said that "The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." Carl Sagan, Cosmos, p. 4. New York, Random House, 1980. (The book was based on the TV series of the same name.) This was a statement of faith, not of science. Sagan had no experimental evidence ruling out extra-cosmic entities. (I don't have any experimental evidence showing that there is a God, outside the cosmos, either.) But he was a famous scientist, hence his statement seemed to be scientific. He may have thought of it that way himself. But he was wrong.
Science, with its experiments, and its replication, is a pretty good system. It tells us a great deal about God's creation. But it isn't perfect.
Amplified from a post of Jan 19, 2005.
Thanks for reading