TITLE

Background Beliefs Ideology, and Science

AUTHOR(S)
van der Meer, Jitse
PUB. DATE
June 2013
SOURCE
Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith;Jun2013, Vol. 65 Issue 2, p87
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
The notion that not only facts but also personal and communal beliefs contribute to scientific knowledge has become commonplace. It raises two important questions. How can people with very different belief systems work together in science? Can scientific knowledge be trusted if it is shaped and sometimes distorted by beliefs operating in the background of science? I begin by pointing out that scholars who believe in the existence of a mind-independent reality have the moral calling to oppose distortion in their understanding of natural phenomena. I then explain why background beliefs are required for the construction of theories in science. I argue that background beliefs do not necessarily distort scientific knowledge because God created an objectively existing reality that resists distortion. When distortion occurs, science has standard ways of detecting that distortion. These include convergence of mutually independent lines of evidence on the same explanation, the possibility to disconnect background beliefs from scientific explanation, and the self-destruction of background beliefs that assume a dogmatic function. Next I show that in their work scientists, in fact, do sometimes oppose their personal background beliefs. The conclusion is that the background beliefs of scientists do not dictate the content of scientific knowledge, and that people with different belief systems, including Christians, can work together in scientific research. This is not to suggest a return to a Christian form of neopositivism because it fully incorporates what has been learned over the last decades about the extent to which science is embedded in a sociocultural context.
ACCESSION #
87725641

 

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