Science: Universals and Particulars, again

This universals and particulars thing just isn’t going away.

In this week’s tour (or more correctly, half-tour), Tackett said that philosophy’s task is to deal with the universals, and science’s task is to deal with the particulars, but science is now taking a more philosophical mode and trying to evangelize for materialistic Darwinian philosophy.

This is half true.  The institutions of modern science certainly do evangelize for Darwinian materialism.  But why should scientists stay away from the universals and stick to particulars?  And is that even possible?

No, it isn’t.  Psalm 19 — of which this tour has correctly made much use — works from particulars to universals.  The heavens declare the glory of God.  A scientist rightly studying the heavens will hear them declaring the glory of God, and he will, in turn, glorify God and be thankful.  God has so made the world that the particulars of it educate an observer in certain key universals — notably Yahweh’s eternal power and God-ness — and obligate that observer to worship Him.  When scientists don’t worship, it’s sin.

Moreover, the whole edifice of modern science rests on a Christian worldview to start with, as Pearcey and Thaxton show clearly in The Soul of Science.    The development and long-term support for science in Western culture depends on a series of Christian beliefs:  the material world is really there (Hindus and Buddhists, among others, take it as an article of faith that it isn’t); the material world is separate from God, and valuable, and behaves precisely in an extrinsic order that is comprehensible to man, and so on.  Most of the people in the world do not affirm these things even today, and very few cultures in the history of the world have ever espoused them. So universals and particulars can’t be separated in science because to even do science is to rest on a certain set of universals.

Since these beliefs are Christian, the implication is that science today is subsisting on borrowed capital and institutional momentum, and has been committing a slow and painful suicide for a century.  Exactly.

Everything is an echo of the Trinity.  In the Trinity, universals (one divine Nature) and particulars (three Persons) are equally ultimate.  Universals and particulars must ultimately must be understood together, and in terms of one another, and so it is in science.  Trying to separate universals from particulars is just absurd; we can certainly comprehend partially, but real separation can’t happen in the world God made.  Trying to keep true particulars, but build on false universals, is just as absurd.


2 Responses to Science: Universals and Particulars, again

  1. Sirius says:

    So what you’re saying, more or less, is:

    “If I tell you of earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of spiritual things?” – Jesus to Nicodemus.

    Or perhaps you’re simply reminding us to build our house upon the Rock and not the sand.

    -Sirius Knott

  2. Tim Nichols says:


    Something like that, yes.

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