The scientific method is the systematic process by which a person seeks to solve a problem or answer a question in the realm of the natural sciences. The steps are as follows:
1. Make an observation.
2. Ask a question.
3. Form a hypothesis, or testable explanation.
4. Make a prediction based on the hypothesis.
5. Test the prediction.
6. Iterate: use the results to make new hypotheses or predictions.
This method is used across multiple sciences, including biology, physics, geology, and many others. Aristotle is credited with developing the first known form of systematically analyzing nature and science.
The Bible does not specifically enumerate the scientific method as a process to know and understand the world. If the point of the scientific method is to attain truth or knowledge, then it must not take precedence over the source of all knowledge, which is God Himself (Proverbs 2:6). However, we can see forerunners to this process in the way that humans have interacted with the world from the very beginning.
Humans have been asking “what if” and “why” for centuries, testing God’s world and God’s Word along the way. Eve wondered if she would really die if she ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6–7). Abraham asked God if He would really destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16–33). Moses asked God how on earth he could be the man for the job (Exodus 3:7–14). Job asked God why tragedy had befallen him (Job 7:11–21). These individuals were all seeking to understand the world around them.
The scientific method is based on observation and an if-this-then-that supposition to predict behavior or outcome. The scientific method has been successful in helping humanity understand much that happens in the natural world, and the result has been countless advances in industry, medicine, transportation, etc. The scientific method has also furthered the social sciences, archaeology, statistical analysis, and other diverse fields of study.
All of creation is through and for the all-powerful, all-knowing God (Colossians 1:15–17). He has created the universe in such a way as to make exploration and understanding possible—there are certain “laws” by which nature functions and identifiable patterns of behavior we can observe. God set the stars in their places (Psalm 8:3–4), “set the earth on its foundations” (Psalm 104:5), and “gave the sea its boundary” (Proverbs 8:29). “The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). Wonder and curiosity also come from God, and the scientific method is simply a way that mankind uses God-given wonder and wisdom to better understand God’s creation.
Thomas Torrance, theologian and minister, spent considerable time reconciling science and theology in a biblical way, seeing them as “allies in a common front where each faces the same insidious enemy, namely, man himself assuming the role of Creator” (Theological Science, Oxford University Press, 1969). The scientific method, though not expressly communicated by the Bible, is not in conflict with it, either.
Some of the great pioneers of science have been committed to a belief in God as the Creator and to learning of God’s handiwork through the scientific method. A few of the theists who have made a mark in science are
• Roger Bacon, an early advocate of the modern scientific method and the man responsible for popularizing the concept of the “laws of nature.”
• William Turner, the “father of English botany.”
• John Napier, the inventor of logarithms and known for promoting the use of decimals.
• Blaise Pascal, famous for developing “Pascal’s Law” in physics and “Pascal’s Theorem” in mathematics.
• Robert Boyle, a founder of modern chemistry who did pioneering work in the scientific method.
• Carolus Linnaeus, the “father of modern taxonomy.”
• James Clerk Maxwell, who formulated electromagnetic theory and predicted the existence of radio waves.
• Max Planck, the founder of quantum mechanics and winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics.
• Sir Robert Boyd, a pioneer in space science.