Is CCEF Anti-Science?

Published: October 22, 2012

CCEF likes science. Of course, everyone likes science—there is no news in that.

To be more specific, we like the disciplines that carefully observe human behavior. These include anthropology, medicine, psychiatry, sociology, literature, history, psychology . . . and another dozen or so. If someone is looking closely and carefully at people, we are interested.

But closely and carefully are the operative words here. All science is not equal. Good science precludes a rush to judgment. It takes time and requires humility.

Arrogant science, humble science

Scientists, as they mature, are increasingly discriminating about their science. Here is one expression of that maturity: the more audacious the claim, the more suspicious we become. For example, did you know that the gene for mania was discovered about twenty years ago? It was announced on the nightly news with fanfare. The problem was that no one was ever able to replicate the study. All of the sciences, especially those that consider human beings, need other careful observers to verify their claims. This means that a mature scientist will have a wait-and-see approach to most research, at least until careful reviews can be made of a number of similar studies. Even then, we know that careful reviewers can come to different conclusions.

Alfred Adler said it well; the science of human nature compels us to modesty.

Qualitative science, quantitative science

Scientists, as they mature, also notice that there are many ways of doing careful observations. Research can use surveys, analysis of a recorded conversation, psychological tests, outcome measures, EEG changes and many other methods. One way to organize these approaches has been to place them on a continuum from qualitative to quantitative. Qualitative studies focus on a few individuals and look in depth. Quantitative studies look at one particular dimension across a large number of people and try to discover general trends.

While both kinds of studies are useful, I would suggest that counselors who focus more on overt behavior, such as behaviorists or cognitive-behaviorists, are drawn to the quantitative studies. Those who believe that there is a lot going on within the person, such as the psychodynamic approaches, tend to prefer the qualitative studies. CCEF, I think, seems to prefer the qualitative approaches that carefully describe a single subject’s experience because it suits our understanding of human nature, though we appreciate many other means of observation.

Not anti-science, science in context

CCEF is occasionally identified as anti-science, especially psychological science, but this is not the case.

We are interested in careful and modest science. When we find it, we work to understand it as part of a larger reality. By that I mean, once we have a reliable observation, we want to “retell” that observation in light of Scripture.[i] We believe this does not diminish the value of useful scientific observation but instead places it in a richer and more meaningful context.

[i] Our 2011 conference on psychiatric disorders would be an example of this retelling.