The Science of COVID and “Science”

Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, is also the host of a popular podcast called The Briefing. In a recent episode (August 25, 2021), Mohler talked about the “science” of COVID.

To be sure, Mohler did not want to change anyone’s mind about the “science” of COVID, nor do I want to change anyone’s mind about the “science” of COVID. For one thing, I’m not a trained epidemiologist. For another thing, after more than 18 months with COVID, anyone can find a “scientist” who supports their opinion about COVID.

Therein lies part of the problem. If you’ve paid attention over the last 18 months, you know that the “science” of COVID has changed. It’s changed a lot. At times, it’s changed within days or hours. Was COVID designed in a lab or unleashed by a wet marker? Is COVID organic or man-made? How can you catch COVID? What role do symptomatic or asymptomatic people play in the transmission of COVID? Should we wear masks or not, or should we wear multiple masks? Do vaccines prevent the spread of COVID, or do vaccines simply reduce the severity of COVID? Will the vaccines require boosters, or not? Do ventilators help or hurt? And what about budesonide and ivermectin, are they helpful or not?

Anyone who has paid attention to life over the last 18 months knows that the “science” has been and continues to be all over the place on these issues. My aim, like Mohler’s, is not to convince you to change your mind about the “science” of COVID. Rather, my aim is to note that the word “science” can be both powerful and slippery. Powerful in the sense that no one in the twenty-first century wants to be thought of as unscientific or anti-science. Slippery in the sense that what we call science is not a settled body of knowledge.

The issues surrounding the “science” of COVID reveal two important truths. One, worldview presuppositions impact much of what we call science. Two, the idea that “science” is a settled and authoritative body of knowledge is just plain wrong. Americans would do well to keep these two truths in mind as our culture continues to think about the science of COVID.

Moving beyond the COVID debates, Christians would do well to keep these two truths in mind when it comes to the “science” of origins and the “science” of gender and sexuality.

When it comes to the origin of life and the age of the earth, many people speak as if the “science” is settled and we have nothing new to learn. This is a dangerous way to approach “science.” In effect, any contradictory data or divergent findings end up getting swept under the rug in the name of supporting the settled “science.” This is almost always driven by atheistic, naturalistic, and anti-Christian worldview assumptions.

Even more common in the twenty-first century is the debate over gender and sexuality. Repeatedly we are told that the “science” tells us people’s gender is not necessarily connected to their biological sex as assigned at birth. We are told that “science” shows us that people cannot control who they love or who they are attracted to. The academic elites in the Western world are quick to appeal to the settled “science” as a way of ending all debate and painting their opponents as anti-science. Christians must keep in mind that these claims about “science” are driven by worldview assumptions.

Obviously no one wants to get rid of “science” or take a principled stand as “anti-science.” But we also have to hear what is really being said when people appeal to “science.” Often, people are using a powerful word with a slippery meaning, and behind the manipulative verbiage there are massive worldview assumptions shaping the “science” of today. Often, what Christians stand against is not “science” itself, but the worldview assumptions that shape the “science” of today.

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