I see, on a fairly regular basis, reports that a general distrust of science exists in the public-at-large. This is typically in reference to issues like evolution and anthropogenic global warming, the distrust of which is a barrier for more widespread acceptance of the ideas put forth by the scientific consensus.
If I may, I would suggest that the origin of this distrust is very simple. It is likely the result of a very vocal segment in modern science attempting to assert itself in areas that it has no place, primarily in the realms of philosophy, ethics and religion. These attempted incursions involve a 'leap of faith' into a discipline in which natural science has no clout, little experience and an embarrasing lack of knowledge and understanding. The general public is smarter than this faction of the scientific community gives due credit, and for the most part, I believe the the average person can clearly see when an atheist/naturalist scientist steps 'out of bounds' in this way. After all, if a scientist is so clearly uninformed about critical matters of faith, why should this person be trusted or even given an ear in other matters of perceived lesser importance and relevance?
This is evident in many debates between Christian apologists and the top figures in New Atheism, which are available on the internet for all to see (Google or Youtube search for Hitchens, Lennox, Dawkins, Craig, Harris, Habermas, Licona, etc). I also see it constantly on blogs, social media and viral images. Most New Atheist scientists/writers/public figures and their followers have great confidence in their abysmally poor grasp on why people believe in God, the Bible and Christianity. This is something that is clearly evident to most people of faith, but invisible and undetectable among the ranks of New Atheism. It is truly an 'emperor with no clothes' situation.
I'll give one example. Most New Atheists are unwilling to entertain (either deliberately or unwittingly) to see something as simple as that the supernatural is capable of 'overriding' a natural process - so that the natural explanation, while mathematically/geologically/biologically correct, might not be telling us the whole story of what happened in the past. This is something that most people of faith understand well. The discovery of a solid scientific explanation of a natural process doesn't rule out that a supernatural element could have been involved at its creation. This type of thing is a matter of faith that is beyond the ability of natural science to speak about, much less give a final word. True, science cannot prove the supernatural, but it certainly cannot disprove it (By the way - I wrote an entire other blog post on this very subject).
If this vocal segment of scientists would stick to science and stop using their platform to assert themselves into matters of philosophy and faith that are clearly "out of their league", I believe they would find that it would go a long way to gaining the trust of the public at large in whatever consensus they may reach.
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The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:
"certainly cannot disprove it", That's because in science you cannot prove a null hypothesis but that is absolutely no reason to accept the alternative which would be a failure of logic. A fundamental difference between the fanatics and the rational is that the fanatics will accept fantasy even in place of facts and reality to satisfy their world views, where as a rational man would challenge his own views against that of the evidence.
Some feel so threatened by emerging science that they will claim conspiracy in science for any belief that contradicts their faith. This is part of the modern anti-intellectualism seen within the far right. As for AGW, dissent tends to be politically motivated rather than driven by evidence (usually by the far right).
As for your condescending statement toward scientist being out of their league and not sticking to science, theologians often try to control science in negative ways as we seen with Bush's ban on stem cell research (religiously motivated). It only disrupted valuable research and delayed regenerative medicine development in the US. You paint a one sided picture as science attacking religion but in reality it's almost the other way around which is why more scientist are becoming outspoken about these matters as they often influence investment and funding into future research. It would be naive to think that all of the policies pushed to remove things like evolution and teaching about stellar astronomy from the classrooms is not very much an attack on secularism and science. - Posted by Keiv from Roskov
Keiv, I appreciate your comments. In my investigation I haven't encountered developments in science that threaten theism or Christianity. At best there are certain extrabiblical beliefs that one may need to refine as science progresses. What I was attempting to point out is that the Christian is free to follow science wherever it leads in describing every detail of the natural world, as science cannot make the 'leap' into making claims about the supernatural. William Lane Craig and John Lennox have some good talks and debate topics on the compatibility of science and faith (some are on Youtube). - Posted by Dan Robinson from New Baden, IL
One can always make up out of whole cloth supernatural explanations. But they are always without evidence or reason. Then "the faithful" will say that God is beyond space and time and therefore not subject to the methods of science. Of course they can never explain how they know anything is beyond space and time since they themselves are incapable of knowing it. They simply leap into the absurdity to defend their absurd rejection of naturalism and belief in the supernatural. - Posted by bruce
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