PHILOSOPHICAL INFLUENCES ON COSMOLOGY

Larry House

ABSTRACT

This paper presents the conflicts between Christianity and Science pertaining to differing cosmologies. Our ultimate concern is whether the sources of conflict between biblical and scientific cosmologies are due to contradictory data or erroneous interpretations of the data. Our contention is that the points of opposition between biblical and scientific cosmologies have arisen primarily due to opposing philosophical views applied to the interpretation of events and statements related to the origin and formation of the universe. Thus our principal objective is to identify the philosophical presuppositions and their influences on the interpretation of cosmological data.

INTRODUCTION

In the last three centuries many conflicts have arisen between science and Christianity on various topics. Two major controversial topics of contemporary concern are the origin and formation of life and the universe. The theories of evolution and cosmology share a number of controversies in common. Although it would be instructive to discuss how these controversies are related the subject of this discussion will be limited to the philosophical issues surrounding modern cosmology.

In addressing the conflicts between scientific and biblical cosmologies, it is important for the sake of clarity to distinguish between the domains of Science and Theology. It can be said in very broad terms that Science is a methodology for interpreting physical data and concerns itself with the description of events. Theology, on the other hand, is a methodology for interpreting biblical text (scriptures as linguistic data) and primarily concerns itself with the significance of events. Science and theology in these broad contexts are somewhat mutually exclusive in that they address topics to which the others methodologies do not apply. Nevertheless, there are biblical statements about the physical world and thus there are overlapping scientific and religious views regarding the nature of the physical world. Conflict arises when the theological and scientific interpretations concerning those events held in common are in disagreement.Footnote1 The nature of the disagreement is sometimes problematic because both theologian and scientist have on occasion commented on issues outside their competence. Furthermore both disciplines, science and theology, have employed their distinctive methodologies to attack problems to which their methods do not apply. This has all contributed to various points of opposition between science and Christianity.

The controversies between biblical and scientific cosmologies will be discussed in the context of the following central questions: