What happens when science and religion agree?
Let’s imagine you have a bicycle. The purpose of this bike is to move you toward a better understand of God. One of the wheels on the bicycle is called scripture, the other is called science. Could you ride the bike with only one wheel? Well, yes you could but it would be a very wobbly, ridiculous ride. We need both wheels on our bike. We need both scripture (specific revelation) and science (general revelation).
These two wheels represent the two main methods that a religious person uses to pursue an understanding of God. These two methods are SPECIFIC REVELATION and GENERAL REVELATION. Specific revelation includes all the things that God has specifically said, that are written down. SCRIPTURE falls into the category specific revelation. General revelation includes all the things that God has created. That is, the study of his creation. SCIENCE falls into this category. (One’s personal religious experience could fall into either of these categories, but this article will not be covering personal experience.)
So to recap there are two main ways to know God – SCRIPTURE, and SCIENCE. Both are vital.
There is something troubling going on in the scientific community today. The atheistic scientists and the agnostic world view have tried to marginalize scientists who are religious. I hear it continually online, “anyone who considers the supernatural a possibility, is not being scientific.”
Now let’s remember. Science is one of the main two ways that we gain understanding and knowledge about God. If we as believers pull out of the scientific community, we are neglecting one of our main methods for religious pursuit of the Creator. We are avoiding our longstanding commitment to understand God’s GENERAL REVELATION. That is his creation.
This dilemma has lead believers to do one of two things in order to correct the dissonance between science and faith. Believers either ignore science, or try to control it. Let’s talk first about what happens when we ignore science.
The wellness movement is a great example of a group that is willing to ignore the science of medicine. Despite repeated attempts to empirically prove that healing happens through religious fervor and faith there is little scientific evidence that healing is taking place today as it did in Jesus time. That, however, does not stop some from denying the administration of vaccines, and medical care. There have been enough cases of people dying from treatable diseases because they were told that, “if you have enough faith God will heal you.” They closed their eyes to science, trusted only their religious leaders, and died for it. The fact that scripture DOES NOT TEACH that anyone will be healed is swept under the rug by their religious leaders. This misinterpretation of scripture is why we need science. Good science should keep bad religious leaders honest. We need both wheels on the bike, Science and Scripture.
There were many times throughout history that the church leaned only on the one wheel of scripture and totally neglected the advice of science… and things went badly. In those cases, they went badly because of their limited ability to interpret scripture accurately. If we could interpret scripture perfectly, then maybe we wouldn’t need science… but I’m not going to hold my breath. It’s a bent and broken world, and we need checks and balances. We need both Science and Scripture.
There are also examples of times when only science and popular consensus was considered and scripture was completely neglected or forgotten… in those cases things went even worse.
I think that most believers have bought into the lie that science and scripture can’t get along. So if one is going to be abandoned, it’s going to be science. We as believers are not going to abandon the scriptures, and rightfully so. Because of our commitment to the scripture, and because it’s sometimes hard to harmonize the two, we have a desire abandon science. I can understand why this is the decision, but I question why either has to be abandoned at all.
It’s like a parent who has two children but only one seat in the car. This parent could abandon one of the children so that she can continue to use the car, but the obvious thing to do is to just get a bigger car. She might say, “but getting another car is too much work.” Although that is true, it reveals that she is willing to abandon one of her children because she’s too lazy to find an adequate form of transportation. Ultimately abandoning science in order to hang on to scripture is done out of laziness, not because it’s the reasonable thing to do. We need both science and scripture. To abandon either is extremely irresponsible.
Another consideration is what happens to science, if no believers remain. Science is bending toward naturalism. If believers were to completely pull out of the sciences there would be no voice to speak up for supernaturalism. We need a presence in the sciences. Otherwise we will be completely one-wheeled before too long.
So, I said that believers tend to do one of two things to correct the dissonance between science and faith. First (as stated above) they may abandon science. The second option is to try and CONTROL science. Let’s talk about what happens if you try to control.
It is intellectual laziness and ideological fear that makes the religious community want to CONTROL science. Trust me on this one, we need science to be able to operate free of the preconceptions of Scripture. It is also true that we need scientist to be open to the supernatural, but if we try to pressure them into that notion, we are making a mistake. This is because if scientists are pressured to come up with a pre-scripted interpretation of facts then their interpretation will almost always be wrong.
Imagine a research scientist whose entire funding comes from a interest group who wants to see a specific outcome to support their extremely divisive position. Let’s say that the Pepsi corporation HIRES scientists to prove that Mountain Dew is not the most toxic soft drink on the market. You can bet that those scientists will feel a tremendous amount of pressure to comply with the intended outcome… We would hope that they would stand up to the pressure but… Well let’s just say, this is not how we want our science done. We instinctively know that this will not produce the most honest science. This is why we want our universities to be unbiased places of free thought and research. Scientists need the freedom to follow the clues where they lead. If they have too much pressure to produce a desired result then the science is not honest.
Believers badly want science to support their worldview, however if they applied pressure to the sciences in order to get a desired result they are no better than that interest group. Furthermore, If scripture accurately represents the truth and science pursues truth, then eventually scientists will come to a harmonic understanding of the natural world that supports scripture. If scripture was not based on the truth then science is our only hope for ever discovering that to be the case.
So: If believers control science what results isn’t science. If believers abandon science what results is naturalism. So ultimately these two approaches are moribund. Christians need another approach in terms of how they interact with science.
Science aids scripture interpretation. I believe that scripture is an accurate representation of the truth. The problem is that humans are allowed to interpret it. Humans are not always truthful, knowledgable, or wise. Those of faith, have been known to get it wrong quite ofteen. We want to know the truth. We want the best possible interpretation of scripture, and science has proven over the years to aid in that pursuit.
A great example of this is the fact that the science/consensus once believed that the earth was flat. Both secular and religious population believe this. When by mathematics it was eventually proved that the earth was spherical The scriptural text that references a round earth was employed to support that scientific understand. (Isaiah 40.22) It was science that taught us that the world was round but scripture supported that science, and therefore scripture was trusted all the more.
Many would like to claim that science was wrong and religion was right in this case. That is a false interpretation of what actually happened. Instead both religious people and the general population/science were wrong. Up until this point religious people had misinterpreted that verse, and secular people had misinterpreted the natural world. Both were wrong. This is an important point when we look at the current conflict between religion and faith. There are many cases when both the religious and the scientific community are wrong. However because of the nature of science, eventually science should lead to the truth.
Science is not a static body of knowledge, it’s a dynamic changing arrangement of understandings. Science wins when it removes bad interpretations of the natural world. Religion wins, when it carves away bad interpretations of scripture. There are times when religion can only do this with the help of science. Therefore, Those who interpret Scripture need science. It is by science that scriptural interpreters have a better understanding of the Scriptures.
Another great example of bad interpretation of scripture was known as the curse of Ham (genesis 9.25). This has nothing to do with pork and bacon. Instead this focuses on one of the sons of Noah whose name was Ham. It was taught that he was cursed before he gave birth to an entire race of people. Therefore this race of people were all cursed and were a lesser quality of human. “What race did Ham give birth to?” You might ask. Ham was the father of the people that went into the African continent. This concept was used to support British and American slavery of the dark skinned people of Africa. There dark skin was supposedly a sign of their curse. It was therefore taught that those with dark skin were meant to be owned and sold by others with lighter skin. Allegedly, the white peoples of Europe were a “higher quality version of man.” Before you wag your finger and say, “those evil Christians” you have to understand that this idea was not unique to Christendom.
The alternate title to Charles Darwin’s origin of species was originally, “Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” Many argue that this is talking only of species in the animal kingdom. However, it is clear that Darwin and many others of his time were quite racist. Here is a quote from Darwin himself.
“At some future period… the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes…will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest Allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as the baboon, instead of as now between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla.”
Darwin believed that the Caucasian was a more worthy race, and would exterminate what he called the “anthropomorphous apes” which was apparently his name for the indigenous people of Africa and Australia. He put them in the same category as the gorilla.
Stephen Jay Gould said this, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.”
Apparently Adolf Hitler saw the social implications of the evolutionary theory. He based much of his ideology of the mighty German race’s right to rule on the evolutionary theory. Here is a quote from Hitler, explaining why their racism and later genocide was necessary.
“The Germans were the higher race, destined for a glorious evolutionary future. For this reason it was essential that the Jews should be segregated, otherwise mixed marriages would take place. Were this to happen, all nature’s efforts ‘to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being may thus be rendered futile’ (Mein Kampf).”
Hitler’s regime was scientific in it’s approach. Their argument had all the trappings of science attached to it. Truly, Hitler’s genocide was supported by the science of eugenics. I think we can all agree that it was bad science, but it was science none the less in the same way that the curse of Ham, was bad religion.
So, if you I think that racism is wrong then you disagree with the past generations of scientists and religious leaders. (it should be noted that not all scientist and not all religious leaders believed in racism.) If racism is an incorrect worldview then both the scientific community and the religious community were wrong to believe and teach it, but both did.
The scary thing is that this was a point in time where both the religious community and the scientific community agreed in general terms, however they were both dead wrong. Because they agreed with each other, there was a certain level of power generated. This agreement between the religious and scientific community created an unmeasurable amount of human suffering through racist genocide, slavery, and inequality. Just because science and religion agree does not mean they are right.
A closer examination of the scriptural support for the curse of Ham has proven the notion false. These versus in Genesis do not teach that there is a less quality race of man. In fact, this idea was propagated by wishful thinking and poor interpretation on the part of the religious leadership of the time. (unfortunately this idea is still alive in certain parts of the world today). Whether evolution promotes racism is for the biologists to determine, but it certainly will not be admired in the halls of human experiments if it does. One of the great challenges of the evolutionary theory is tied up in this idea. Natural selection, as Darwin put it, is the survival of “favored races.” However, in society it is still wrong to kill the weak and sick. This alone does not mean that natural selection is a false theory, it just brings up a lot of questions.
So, what’s the point? The point is that an accurate view of God and his creation requires both scripture, and science. If scientists are forced to come to Christian viewpoints by their research, then we are doing our society a disservice. On the other hand, if religious people are mocked and ridiculed for coming to religious conclusions by way of science, then science is also doing society a disservice.
Science wants to be free. Hard line naturalists need to take the handcuffs off of religious scientists and let them come to the conclusions they come to. Religious scientists need to stop presenting the naturalist viewpoint as a straw-man and respond with a scientific and intellectual approach.
I think I’ve said enough. I’d like to finish with a note to scientists.
A note to scientists:
Scientists, we’re trusting you to bring us the truth in a similar way to how we are trusting our pastors and religious leaders. You know, scientists, that most of us are unable to give the time needed to fully understand all the aspects of the argument. Play fair, and be honest. Religious scientists, and secular scientists, please stop pretending like everyone on the other side of the line is an idiot. We know you are smart, we just want the truth. Admit that your intellectual opponents are intelligent and let’s have some quality debate.