Science and Religion: An Evolving Relationship
There is an emerging idea that science dethrones the belief in God. It claims that science has taken the dignity of religion, by being able to explain sophisticated natural phenomenon which is before considered as God's complexity in creation, from which comes the term “God of the gap”. It also hopes that religion will reallocate its position in society, i.e. to receive science as the truth instead of excluding itself from science. Not enough with this, we can generally see that most universities and colleges all over the world are secular (separating itself from religion), and even most people now think that science is incompatible with religion, or even worse: contradicting. This alleged conflict is sometimes done by limiting the role of religion or the Bible to matters of faith and science to matters of fact.1
The Birth of Science
Historically, it is irrefutable that religion gives birth to science. C.S. Lewis put it crisply, “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver.”2 Most scientists from the 15th century to the 19th century were all theists, most of them Christians. Their belief in God, far from being a hindrance to their science, was often the main inspiration for it.3 The conflict between science, like the one experienced by Copernicus, was merely the erroneous interpretation of the Bible by churchmen at that time, for example the earth is interpreted to be flat as the Bible have the phrase 'the four corners of the earth'. Sooner or later it is realized that science bolsters and proves the truth of the revealed Word of God.
The term “God of the gap” was misunderstood by many people. John Lennox explains the term “bad gaps” and “good gaps”. Bad gaps were the gaps that could be explained by science, but attributed to God's mystery. Good gaps were the gaps that is revealed by science as not being within its explanatory power, such as the singularity point during the Big Bang as well as miracles. Science is advancing to reveal out the bad gaps, but it could never fill the good gap.
At first, science begin with the principle of causality, i.e. there is a cause for an event. Else no scientific phenomenon can be observed if there is no cause for that phenomenon. This traces back to prima causa, which is one of the classical argument for God. The new physics, such as quantum physics, discovered that in the microscopic or atomic world there is no cause in quantum world. This incorrect interpretation of the scientific discoveries is self-defeating in nature. The claim that modern science has been able to dethrone God was mere nonsense. We will see in modern science, more and more discoveries points out towards God.
The Creation of Universe
After the advance of science, some scientists have been intrigued by the wonder of nature, which directs them to the creator of this natural wonder. For instance, there is a marvelous fine-tuning of the universe. Should there be a minuscule difference in one of the physical constants, universe and humans could not survive. This should points out to a wonderful design of our universe, which directs us further to the designer of the universe.
Even further, a German physicist, Gerard L. Schroeder, have calculated the time required since the big bang up to now. It was ±16 billion years ago using the current time reference, but even more fascinating it was also equal to 7 days using the beginning of time reference.4 Even the details of each day strikes a chord with scientific explanation of the evolution of universe. The only Being who could count that 7 days was no doubt the one who stands in eternity, before and after the beginning of time he was there, and he was the God who creates the world. We could also found that the earth was claimed to be round (Isaiah 40:22). Now, we could only ponder about how terrific the accounts of creation written in the Bible is.
The law of thermodynamics also support a theistic worldview. 1st law of thermodynamics states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Another way to state this law is that 'the amount of actual energy in the universe remain constant'.1 It does not assert anything about the origin/source of the energy, but combined with the theory of Big Bang we know that at the beginning there is a burst of massive energy. Who creates that energy? In addition, 2nd law of thermodynamics also states that the universe is heading towards disorder, which makes scientists throughout the ages wondered about the source of the first order. It also implies that the universe is not eternal, as the universe is running down. Even evolutionists had to admit that they could not explain the source of information that is present in creatures. It is barely impossible with the current knowledge (and maybe will never be comprehended) to understand the origin of information burst that directs the evolution (if evolution is true). Science has found that in the beginning there is a source of energy, order, information that raises the question of who is the one creating them. Theists attributes this to God, whereas atheists attributes this to either some coincidence or they try to develop absurd theories.
Albert Einstein once created a hypothetical constant to make the earth to be non-expanding, or in other words to avoid the beginning of the universe. Later he admitted that it was the biggest blunder in his life. Scientists should not escape from the real fact they discover just to make it looks like what they want. It is absurd. What they found is fact, which points out to the truth, and truth shall never be compensated.
Science has also boast itself that it could explain how human beings comes to be, i.e. by means of evolution. However we have to remember that this is only a theory, i.e. theory of evolution, and not a law. Theory means that it is not proved yet, whereas law means that it stands firm with proofs. A shift from evolution as knowledge to evolution is a leap of faith. Either evolution theory is true or false, it speaks nothing about the nature of its creator. Let's say that one day evolution gains a sophisticated proof, one should also ask the question of who creates this mechanism. Isn't it very plausible that God creates the evolution mechanism to bring forth humans? If we find a watch in a desert, and later find out that this watch was produced by a factory operated by dozens of robots, we should also ponder out who created that robots. Hence, whatever the conclusion of evolution is, it will still point out to the first cause.
The evolution theory is now defective of evidence. Dr. Collin Patterson, author of the book Evolution and a lifelong macroevolutionist, once asks the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History this question: “Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing, any one thing that is true?” The answer was silence. When he asked the same question to the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar at the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, one person answers: “I do know one thing - it ought not to be taught in high school.”5,6
Even more, all this time we have been taught half-truth in the high school. Science itself has admit that the miller experiment, Darwin's tree of life, Haeckel's embryos, the Archaeopteryx missing link, any may be even more, are altered and partly fabricated. There is even now the term “Haeckel's sin” to point out his deception in the evolution theory. The analysis of these findings was made with a strong tendency towards naturalism or evolution.7 Innocent high school students are deceived to believe that the proof of evolution was ample, whereas the truth is the opposite. This in my opinion was a human pride that they are able to explain everything scientifically. As a scientist, there is a self-satisfaction when seeing that we have an explanation for what we observe, making the open question of the origin of species an open-ended question. This is indeed the task of all scientist, but coercing a theory that is totally lacking of evident was naïve.
Some people hold that science is the only way to obtain the truth, which is called scientism. Its implication was the undermining of religion, philosophy, as well as ethics. It is obvious that science could not tell whether murder is ethical or unethical, no scientific experiment can tell us. However, this scientism is incoherent and self-defeating. The claim of scientism itself is not a statement of science, and therefore could not be proved in the laboratory, hence it contradict itself. Science itself is not sufficient for humans to find the truth. We definitely need revelations to know the things that humans will never be able to attain by any means.
John Lennox gives a vivid illustration on the relation between science and revelation.3 Science could only investigate what is in nature, but it could not answer the question of ultimate purpose. The ultimate purpose could only be known to us by revelation of God, i.e. if the creator reveal his purpose to his creation. If there is no God, there is no nature and creation, and there will be nothing for science to investigate. In fact science also requires faith, as science is based on logic and no scientific experiment can verify logic. Consequently, in order for science to be sound, it must keep the faith it has in reason, and correct reasoning logically depends upon the existence of a thinking entity (God).6 Scientism has placed science above God, despite the fact that God himself is the prerequisite of science. What scientism do is just the same as cutting a branch on which science sit on. It is self-defeating.
Lastly, there is a classical question of whether miracles are scientifically impossible. If it is, then the reputation of the Bible full of miracle will be fallacious. Scientific mistrust of the Bible began with the Enlightenment belief that miracles cannot be reconciled to a modern, rational view of the world.8 Do science have the rights to scrutinize miracles just because it is scientifically impossible? Not at all. Alvin Plantinga draws an analogy: If we drop our car key, and only search for the key under the streetlight on the grounds, it is science. The key may fall in a darkened area that we could not search for. Hence, isn't it irrational to claim that there is no dropped key just because we don't find it under the streetlight? In the word of Francis S. Collins:
In my view, there is no conflict in being a rigorous scientist and a person who believes in a God who takes a personal interest in each one of us. Science's domain is to explore nature. God's domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science.9
Science is unable to answer the ultimate question such as the purpose of life, morality, etc. Now that we have known the domain, playground, and limitations of science, we may proceed to miracles.
Miracles are defined by William Lane Craig as an event which is not producible by the natural causes that are operative at the time and place that the event occurs.10 It is not a violations of the laws of nature as defined by David Hume. It is merely an intervention by supernatural being into our natural realm. An apple that is not falling to the ground because we catch it was not a miracle, indeed it is intervention. C. S. Lewis beautifully concludes:
But if God comes to work miracles, He comes 'like a thief in the night'... If Nature brings forth miracles then doubtless it is as 'natural' for her to do so when impregnated by the masculine force beyond her as it is for a woman to bear children to a man. In calling them miracles we do not mean that they are to bear children to a man. In calling them miracles we do not mean that they are contradictions or outrages; we mean that, left to her own resources, she could never produce them.2
The laws of nature are not violated when miracles happens, it simply conceives the intervention power given to it. Now, we know that science did not disprove miracles. We should now go to the question of the purpose of miracles. I firmly believe that Jesus did miracles to give authenticity of himself as God. The logic is this: if he is God the creator of universe, then he is capable to rule the nature. The fact that Jesus is able to do miracles implies that He is the creator of universe.
I firmly believe that when we do science with a humble heart, science will direct us towards God. When we see the magnificence and grandeur design of nature, along with its complexity yet ordered, we'll bow down in awe to the genius creator of this universe. Scientists who have integrity and honesty, should follow where the evidence of science leads. The evidence with no doubt points out to the supernaturalistic explanations, such as the singularity points in the Big Bang, 2nd law of thermodynamics, any many others. It is more rational to believe that God is the creator of this singularity point along with a burst of massive energy and informations in our DNA, as compared to all the irrationally improbable theory that try to exaggerate beyond science.
In my opinion, the problem with all the scientists is merely the mother of all sin: Pride. I find a coherence between the claim of scientism and the claim of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12-15. Both are the claims of pride, Lucifer boasts its beauty and wants to be exalted more than his creator, whereas scientism boasts its discovery and wants to be exalted more than the creator of science itself. Science found the same thing (Big Bang Theory, Evolution Theory, etc), but what makes the difference is its interpretation. Those prideful scientists interpret them as their success and abandon God because they claim that they are able to explain everything and they don't need God anymore for any explanation. In contrast, humble scientists interpret them as the fascinating and intriguing intellectual objects that makes them bow down in awe of its creator. When the Human Genome Project was finished, Bill Clinton in his speech said: “Today, we are learning the language in which God created life. We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, and the wonder of God's most divine and sacred gift.” After that, the leader of the project, Francis S. Collins added: “It's a happy day for the world. It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God”.9 Again, the sin of scientism falls on human pride and human rebellion against God.
In conclusion, the 'conflict' between science and religion was not a conflict of truth. It was a conflict deep in human heart that either rebels against God or bow down to God. It is again a classical war between the mother of sin (Pride) versus the mother of virtue (Humility). God creates us with a scientific mind for us to be able to stand in awe of his creation. Science should not go beyond its boundary, as it is no longer science. Pride in science will only bring us to destruction, but humility in science will lead us to our creator.
“If Scientific equations are a form of poetry written by Nature's creator, then scientific discovery is an act with spiritual overtones.” - C. N. Yang
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” - Albert Einstein.
- Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker, 1999)
- C. S. Lewis, Miracles (London: Collins, 1947)
- Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion: Living the faith we defend (Thomas Nelson, 2007)
- Gerard L. Schroeder, The Science of God (Broadway, 1997)
- Collin Petterson, “Evolutionism and Creationism”, speech given at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, November 5, 1981, 1, 4.
- Norman Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary answers to crucial questions about the Christian Faith (Bethany House, 2001),
- Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator: an interview with Jonathan Wells (Zondervan, 2004)
- Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Hodder & Stoughton, 2008)
- Francis S. Collins, The Language of God (Free Press, 2006)
- Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith: an interview with William Lane Craig (Zondervan, 2000)