Christians in Science: The Philosopher of Science
Jim Stump is a philosopher of science who has his PhD in philosophy from Boston University. He is the senior editor at BioLogos and works shoulder to shoulder with Francis Collins, the scientist who led the mapping of the human genome project, and who is now the head of the National Institutes of Health.
This writer recently had the opportunity to interview Jim about his work in the field of scientific philosophy and his belief in God.
Science, Education, and Theology
Jim Stump grew up in a world saturated with two certainties: the existence of God and the effectiveness of science. Stump’s father was a junior high science teacher. As an educator, this man instilled an early love and understanding of science in Jim’s mind. Jim’s family were also believing Christians. From the word go, Jim was brought up with a strong Christian faith rooted in a Christian worldview.
In Jim’s small high school, bright students were funneled into math and science programs, and his interest in science only increased as he settled into that program. Like his father, Jim pursued a degree in Science Education. Upon receiving the degree, he spent a year teaching at a missionary school in Leone, West Africa. In graduate school, Jim took the path of philosophy. But he had his foundations in science and even continued to take some science courses. So it was natural for him to eventually philosophize about science. All along this academic path, Jim continued to have an interest in how science and Christian faith were related.
Jim eventually became involved with the groundbreaking scientist and Christian, Francis Collins. After Collins’ breakthrough in the mapping of the human genome, he received a flood of questions from both Christians and non-Christians about his thoughts on science and religion.
In an attempt to address this apparent concern, Collins founded BioLogos, and hired Jim as the senior editor. Says Jim:
“BioLogos continues to operate at the intersection of science and faith. We are persuaded that God’s two “books” (Scripture he inspired, and the natural world he created) are not ultimately in conflict. Much of my time is spent working with scientists, theologians, historians, and philosophers who are interested in the academic discipline of science and religion. We do our best to understand contemporary science and to stand in the line of faithful, orthodox Christians. And we attempt to explain and otherwise convey science to the Church and show that robust, serious Christian faith can be maintained in the context of what science has discovered about the world.”
Science or Scientism?
In his position as senior editor, Stump has authored seven books and countless articles related to science and Christianity.
Jim finds God to be a necessary part of the scientific process, since science cannot operate without transcendent references such as math, logic, design and natural law. Says Jim:
“My work is heavily involved in interpreting and explaining science, and worldview considerations have a significant impact in this. As Christians, we don’t think that matter and energy is all there is to reality. So scientific explanations will necessarily be limited and incomplete. Science is very good at describing and explaining material processes, but cannot be allowed to claim to be the ultimate authority on all aspects of reality. That is scientism—not science—and Christians must resist it.”
Jim Stump on Biologos
An Internal Conflict
In his work, Jim receives as much criticism from Christians as he does from non-Christians. This is because BioLogos embraces a classical view of evolution – something that is largely rejected in religious circles. Jim stresses that he does not believe that this view compromises Biblical integrity, and that these views should be given space for rational discussion within the church rather than outright dismissal. Says Jim:
“There are legitimate theological concerns that need to be addressed, and the Church must provide safe spaces for honest discussion about them instead of vilifying those who have worked to understand the created order. The Gospel does not stand or fall on one’s position on creation and evolution—the how and when of creation has been debated within the Church for more than 1500 years. But if the Church denies an aspect of reality that has become abundantly clear to scientists, our witness will suffer as we exchange the truth for a lie. Harmony is possible between contemporary science and biblical, Christian faith.”