Science and Christianity
Many people think there is an irreconcilable conflict between science and Christianity. Some commit to science and use that commitment to deny or perhaps seek to disprove Christianity; others commit to Christianity then try to disprove significant scientific ideas. Many try to find ways to reconcile the two, often drawing on unnecessary interpretations of the Bible and/or science.
I think the Bible is correct in Isaiah chapter 55:8,9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
So, I am not surprised when, like everyone else, I do not understand perfectly how things work and how to understand the Bible and I become wary when someone gives me a definitive interpretation of a passage (like the early chapters of Genesis) about which there are alternative interpretations. In this case, it is good to be a bit open-minded. In fact, I do not expect to fully understand the entire Bible until it is fully revealed to me in heaven.
At the same time very few scientific ideas are absolutely determined. Most are still being tested and developed as yet more discoveries and interpretations are uncovered. Science covers an enormous amount of human effort and thinking and I do not believe anyone can fully understand it all.
For these reasons I have come to the conclusion that the Bible is true and correct even though I do not understand it all and that man’s attempt to describe how the universe works is perfectly legitimate, still developing and incomplete and not fully understood. I expect that when we get it all worked out we will find no conflict at all.
There are two positions people take which are equally unreasonable.
One is the scientist who seeks to dismiss Christianity with representations of Christian belief that are simply not true. It is easy to dismiss a representation of Christianity that suits your own arguments. I have heard people tell me my Christian beliefs and point out the faults in them when the beliefs they attribute to me are not what I believe at all. I call this the “straw man” argument. It is easy to knock down a “straw man” you have built for the purpose, especially when that “straw man” is nothing like the real one. Sometimes they also show they do not grasp important big ideas from an area of science not their own.
The other is the Christian who argues the case while revealing they do not really understand what the science argument is, how science works and often on the basis of firmly held beliefs about the Bible which are open to question.
The unreasonableness of these positions is that neither really tries to understand the other and often does not even fully understand their own position.
Even worse, there are many who have drawn conclusions without understanding either science or Christianity, unquestioningly accepting the statements of others while making decisions on the basis of their own ignorance.
Science without God
It is certainly possible to study science in its multitude of disciplines and do so without taking into account the possibility of the existence of God.
For some their study of science leads them conclude that God does not fit into their understanding of the universe around them. This confusion arises when it is not understood that God does not “fit into” anything but rather that whatever our thinking and understanding is must “fit into” God. Asking how God “fits into” our understanding is an example of asking the wrong question or of asking a question of the wrong source. There are questions which do not fall into the gamut of science.
Although some have sought to find scientific answers with the rigour and measurement of science there has not been much success defining some human experiences like beauty, love and awe. Attempts to provide psychological accounts, hormonal measurements and neurological connections do not seem to completely satisfy our questions.
Artistic creativity is a legitimate human activity which can make use of science but such activity and science can also be carried out independently of each other.
Determining philosophical questions such as seeking purpose, ethics, entitlements etc. can impact on science but usually are not suitable for scientific research.
At the very end of his book A Brief History of Time, after outlining the search for a grand unified theory that explains the entire universe, Stephen Hawking says this:
Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to the bother of existing?
It is quite possible to study scientifically and at the same time ignore other human involvements such as creativity, philosophy and religion just as it is possible to ignore science itself. As far as any of us can cope with the whole range of human activity it is surely best to seek to have an understanding of as much as we can.
Albert Einstein wrote
“It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.”
So, some people decide to follow scientific studies and also decide to do so ignoring the question as to whether God exists. Doing this is a decision taken understanding that the existence of God is not provable or disprovable and that some scientists study their discipline and at least acknowledge that God might exist or accept that he does or even become Christians.
It is possible to be a scientist or to believe in what science teaches but science certainly does not disprove God.
Some quotes from Scientists about belief in God are collected here.
Christianity without Science
There are Christians who are frightened by science or are misled by others to accept the myth that science can disprove what the Bible teaches. The Bible does not speak explicitly about human endeavours which came about hundreds of years after the Bible was written but there are ideas in it which would encourage us to understand scientific ideas.
In the first chapters of the Bible God allocates to humans responsibility for the care and use of the animals and plants, even to giving them names.
The psalmist tells us “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1)
Jesus’ teaching and his parables often refer to natural events around him.
The apostle Paul writes to the Romans in words which encourage us to study the universe we live in. (Romans 1:19,20)
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
Unfortunately there have been some who have tried to create a tension between science and the Bible but there is no need to accept this supposed conflict and I say more about this in the following chapters.
CS Lewis wrote about the Christian view of Science and some quotes are here
Some comments, many sarcastic, by scientists and others about science are here
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
― Albert Einstein