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A story is told that during the days of the Cold War a two-car automobile race took place between the United States and the former Soviet Union. An American newspaper reporter described the result of the race this way: “American car beats out Soviet competitor.” The Russian newspaper reported the same automotive contest from a slightly different perspective: “Soviet car finishes second; American car is next-to-last.” Both papers reported the same event. Both accounts were factually true, up to a point. In order to put the best face on Soviet technology, the facts were positioned in a pre-determined way to obtain a certain result. The outcome for the Soviets was inevitable in order to create the illusion that Communism is better than capitalism. The lesson is obvious: “It’s not that two bits of data contradict one another; it’s that the same bit of data can be read in (at least) two ways.”
Many Christians and most secularists argue as if facts are self-interpreting, that reasonable men and women will come to the same reasonable conclusion when presented with a reasonable argument based on a fair and reasonable presentation of the facts. This rarely happens. As William Watkins writes, “Facts do not come with interpretation tags, telling us how to view them. . . . Both sides haggle over the facts. Both sides search for new facts to add to their arsenals. Both sides raise accusations, yet it’s a rare day indeed when both sides acknowledge that their differences stem from something much more basic than facts. Their differences are rooted in opposing worldviews, which in turn are permeated with philosophical assumptions and commitments.”
Joy Browne, looking at things from a psychologist’s perspective, tells us that most people assume that “the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who think logically and those who are nincompoops. . . .” She informs her readers that this is not at all the case. “Believe it or not, there is no such thing as human action without reason. When we look at someone else’s behavior and deem it nutty, we are simply unaware of the link between that person’s thoughts and actions, but a link does exist. Once you accept that you and everyone else act on the basis of interior logic, then you simply look for the clues, assemble the pieces, and ask for explanations.” Finding a person’s “inner logic” is the key to discerning how facts and experiences are interpreted.
The coldly objective, rationalistic, and materialistic field of science claims to be immune from presuppositional bias. At least that’s what scientists want us to believe. Science is not an objective field of study, and it doesn’t operate independent of certain non-empirical starting assumptions, as Paul Davies, Professor of Mathematical Physics, points out:
However successful our scientific explanations may be, they always have certain starting assumptions built in. For example, an explanation of some phenomenon in terms of physics presupposes the validity of the laws of physics, which are taken as given. But one may ask where these laws come from in the first place. One could even question the origin of logic upon which all scientific reasoning is founded. Sooner or later we all have to accept something as given, whether is God, or logic, or a set of laws, or some other foundation for existence. Thus “ultimate” questions will always lie beyond the scope of empirical science as it is usually defined.
Beyond these “ultimate” questions, there are certain presuppositions that prevail among materialist philosophers and scientists that color the facts. How is it possible to reason with Lawrence Lerner, professor emeritus at California State University in Long Beach, when he claims that “There are no alternatives to evolution that are science,” and that all the “alternatives are religious”? Any piece of evidence that is put forth that might contradict the evolutionary model will be dismissed out of hand as non-factual, creating an interpretive “Catch-22.” At the same time, Lerner and other evolutionists will claim that they are being scientifically objective when they evaluate the facts.
R. J. Rushdoony relates the following observation which dispels the widely held belief that science is coldly objective:
Louis Leakey, director of Kenya’s Centre for Prehistory and Palaeontology in Nairobi, described his discovery, together with his wife Mary, of a bit of skull and two teeth, in these words: “We knelt together to examine the treasure . . . and almost cried with sheer joy. For years people had been telling us that we’d better stop looking, but I felt deep down that it had to be there. You must be patient about these things.” The time was July 17, 1959. This scene is a curious one on two accounts. First, the scientist Leakey knew what he had found before he examined it: he worked by faith, and viewed his findings by faith. He was finding “proof” for a theory already accepted, and he accepted his finding as “proof” on sight. Second, the intense emotionalism and joy sound more like a revival experience than a scientific analysis.
Phillip E. Johnson, an advocate for the intelligent design theory of origins, makes a similar point: “If, for example, there is some process by which animals became human beings-apes or whatever-no one knows how this happened. And such documentation as there is for it is found only by people who are already completely convinced that the process happened and go looking for confirming evidence.”
We can never assume that “facts alone” will be enough to confirm the validity of the Christian faith to someone whose interior logic begins with naturalistic presuppositions. Jesus performed many miracles before many eyewitnesses, and still they did not believe. For example, the Sadducees, “who say there is no resurrection” (Matt. 22:23), heard every reasoned claim of a resurrection but filtered the information through an anti-supernatural hearing device. Why did those in Athens “sneer” (Acts 17:32) when Paul spoke of the resurrection before they heard his account of it? The very idea of a resurrection did not fit their naturalistic worldview. All talk about the “facts” of a resurrection would be discarded because an anti-supernatural worldview cannot (will not) account or make room for any supernatural claim.