Religion and Science

In the past couple of blogs, we have chronicled the fact that science is not always a reliable guide when we search for what is true.  In the next few blogs, we will turn our attention to religion.  That religion has its problems and faults is without question and we will discuss four of them:  religion has not been a reliable guide of knowledge about our natural world, religion has a history of coercing belief, religion is dogmatic in that each religion believes it is the one true religion and all others are wrong, and religious groups do not always practice what they preach.

When it attempts to explain our natural world, religion has not always proved to be a reliable guide.  If religion has been given to us by God, why is it not?  I agree with Christians that the Bible is accurate in the science it describes but the problem is in how we interpret what the Bible says when it discusses scientific issues.  The prime example of this is the argument that erupted between Galileo and the Christian faith when he proposed the theory that the earth revolves around the sun instead of the sun revolving around the earth.  At that time, Martin Luther stated:  “The fool will turn the whole science of Astronomy upside down.  But as Holy Writ [Joshua 10:12-13] declares, it was the Sun and not the Earth which Joshua commanded to stand still”. [1]  Luther was right in what the Bible said, but by interpreting what the Bible said to fit in with his limited scientific knowledge, he provided generations of critics of Christianity an opportunity to condemn it for its backward thinking.  Luther was not alone in his thinking; the Catholic Church also used its heavy hand to stifle this new scientific revolution.  Christians should learn from this error when they propose any scientific theory they believe is taught in the Bible.  The Bible’s main aim is to lead us to God and God uses language that relates to humans and their imperfect nature.  God does not necessarily use the technical terms of science.  If Christians desire to prove a scientific point they must utilize the methods of science.  The Bible can give them guidance in deciding which hypothesis to test just like secular scientist use their belief system to guide them, but Christians must test that hypothesis to obtain scientific proof instead of just relying on what the Bible says.  That is the best way to determine if our interpretation of the science in the Bible is accurate.  Any other way is lazy and prone to errors.

Religion, of all our humans institutions, should understand we humans are finite and do not have all the answers to life at this time.  It seems that this fact should provoke a degree of humility on the part of religion and should keep it from taking unsupported positions in areas of science.  An example is creationism.  Those who hold to the creationist’s view of the beginning the world assume that God exists and that the Bible is the word of God.  We will grant the creationists both of these assumptions.  However, based on what they read in a couple of chapters in Genesis and a few other verses in the Bible, the creationists are prepared to tell us exactly what happened thousands, millions, or billions of years ago.  How can they do this?  They say the Bible tells them how the world was created by God but what does “create” mean?  Does it mean God did the work himself?  I am a businessman.  I say that I accomplished this or that, but did I do all the work?  Not necessarily.  More than likely, I created the plan and delegated it to someone else to do the work.  Could not God have done so as well?  Could not have God set evolution in motion and intervened occasionally to accomplish his ends?  Matthew 6:26 states:  “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. . .”  Does God literally feed the birds?  No one would believe that; no one has seen God feed the birds.  If someone had, we would not debate God’s existence.  Instead God has created a system on this earth that provides food for the birds without his direct intervention.  So, in a similar fashion, could not have God set in place a system that evolves over time and produces our universe and world?  The creation story in Genesis 1 contains 751 words (in the NIV Bible).  Based on these 751 words can we really know all the detail of how God created this magnificent world?  I think not.  The Bible only states that God created the plan and made it happen in a certain sequence.  Anything else is sheer speculation.

This is not to say the theory of evolution is a fact.  Given the limits of the scientific method we discussed in the past couple of blogs, the only valid scientific belief for the beginning of the universe and life is agnosticism.  We simply do not have sufficient information to determine how the universe and life began.  We can have theories but we must remember they are only theories and not facts.


[1]  Colin A. Ronan, Galileo (New York:  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1974), p. 29.

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