In reality, the scientific method is used daily by everyone. You used it while reading the last sentence. The words were assimilated as individual units of thought and then assembled into a group, thereby producing a specific idea. Reading requires the use of the inductive method.
Another example of the inductive method of reasoning occurs when one visits the doctor. He takes the blood pressure, checks the body temperature, listens to the heartbeat and looks inside the ears. Then he draws a reasoned conclusion based on the evidence. The doctor does not take an infinite number of readings. A few readings is all he needs to draw a sound, probable conclusion. That conclusion is what is termed "the truth." Based on this truth, the doctor prescribes a medicine that the patient takes. The patient takes the medicine because he or she trusts the ability of the doctor to analyze and see patterns in the data.
A third example deals with the doctrine of Christ. To find out what the New Testament writers believed about the deity of Jesus, a person looks at all the passages relating to the question. Then by careful analysis of each, the researcher sees if a pattern of thought emerges. Upon doing this, it is found that Jesus was believed to be the unique Son of God, one in mind with God. This conclusion can be tested by looking at the testimony of early church writers. The writings of the early Christians are used corroboratively and not authoritatively. Did they see Jesus this way? The answer is that they did see Jesus uniquely as the Son of God, and this further firms up our conclusion.
The design argument from the natural world for the
existence of God is based upon reason. Again, facts are gathered, and a conclusion
is reached. Clearly, the evidence best supports the conclusion that all that
we see in the world about us could not be the result of chance acting alone.
Implication and inference are wrapped up in the basic
act of reading. Words do not speak. They are symbols that stand for ideas.
The idea must be inferred from seeing the symbols. People who want to downplay
inference simply have been in the sun too long. For anyone who is so bent
against inference, try this experiment: The doctor looks you in the eye and
says "You have liver cancer." What does that imply? No person, upon hearing
these facts, negates the importance of inference. You start getting in line
for chemotherapy, don't you?
In Christianity, no evidence exists, for the first few centuries after the apostles, that Christians understood baptism to be anything but immersion. No evidence can show that sprinkling or pouring was ever used for baptism. Does this speak to us? Neither is there any evidence from the New Testament writings on the future primacy of Peter or the perpetual virginity of Mary. These ideas are absent and are no more a part of Christianity than Mormon New World History is part of true history.
Consider this: one of the cornerstones of Christian
evidences for the Resurrection is that no one found the body of Jesus. Negative
evidence speaks. What is not there is significant.
Sane people go with what is most probable. The preponderance of evidence determines our actions and thoughts. No one rejects a 99 percent certainty to accept a one percent uncertainty. Most people will go with much less. An 80 percent chance of liver cancer is enough to send most folks looking for their burial policies.
How can we be more certain? One way is to let independent sources look at the same data and see if the same conclusions are reached. For example, Christians have always used the design argument to validate a creation perspective. But when non-Christians such as Robert Jastrow, Fred Hoyle, Paul Davies and other eminent scientists look at the same data and likewise conclude that things are too complex to have just happened, then the force of the argument increases. In fact, it is far more solid than its opposite, chance.
The principle of independent support can also be applied
to the field of New Testament doctrine. For example, when scholars without
an ax to grind testify that baptism in the New Testament was immersion,
although their particular theology allows otherwise, we are on solid
ground in believing and teaching that immersion is the gospel pattern.
Having first appeared online as part of the Web site of the West-Ark church of Christ, the above article was featured in the Gospel Advocate magazine, Vol. 140, No. 1, January 1998, pp. 35-36.
Link to other Evidences by John Lankford