It has left me very frustrated. Apologetics is, or should be, a defense of the Christian faith. It really should stem from 1 Peter 3v15:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (NIV)I find it interesting that the word 'reason' features so centrally in that verse. For it is the lack of reason in apologetics which is annoying me.
The Scientific Method
The scientific method is a tried and tested way of using evidence (generally, but not always, in the form of experiments) to confirm or refute hypotheses. The process goes something like this:
- Propose hypothesis or range of hypotheses. These may be based on prior knowledge or may be pure speculation.
- Carry out experiment or make observation which is able to provide evidence relevant to the hypotheses.
- Attempt to falsify the hypotheses using the evidence.
- Hypotheses which are refuted (shown to be falsifiable) by the evidence are dismissed.
- Hypotheses which are unable to be falsified are considered to be reasonable and are held to be valid until further evidence is found.
Apologetics also considers evidence and hypotheses. However, the chain of events is somewhat different:
- Start with a range of hypotheses (i.e. beliefs), generally derived from the bible or church tradition.
- When new evidence is presented, formulate a plausible argument which can be used to explain why the evidence is consistent with the prior hypotheses.
- If no plausible argument can be found, attempt to discredit or refute the evidence. In extreme cases, simply ignore the evidence.
- If none of that works, simply get the argument bogged down in really technical theories so that the audience is bamboozled or loses interest.
- Assert that the hypothesis is validated.
The second problem falls in the plausible argument. Just because an argument is plausible, doesn't mean that its probable or actually true.
The crux of the issue is that when there is a tension between hypothesis and evidence, science assumes that the hypothesis is flawed, while apologetics assumes that the evidence is flawed.
Of course, the evidence could be flawed. But apologetics will never lead to refinements in the hypotheses, thus will never take us closer to the truth about reality. Science just might.