Scientists often try to make people choose between believing in their discoveries or believing in a Designer who made what they discovered. This is a false choice. The moment we start talking about what it all means in terms of God, Life and personal significance we have left the realm of science.
I’m doing some different writing for a few weeks, because, for various reasons, I won’t have any new sermons to post until August 19th.
A lot of folks seemed to appreciate my last post on faith and science, so I thought I’d share a little more. I just read a pair of articles in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Links are provided, but wait a second before you read them. One was written to defend belief in Evolution: http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/163231226.html.
The other was written in response to the first one, defending the idea that God created the world without Evolution: http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/164491876.html?refer=y.
One of the pieces was written by the fire-chief of a small town. The other was written by a city pediatrician. One cited a number of scientific discoveries. The other spoke of personal experience, and stuck to generalities.
The surprising thing? The article defending evolution was written by the fire chief, and lacked any reference to a single scientific discovery. Instead he spoke of his own personal journey of coming to faith in evolution. The pediatrician defended creationism, and cited many discoveries in support of his beliefs, generally avoiding anecdotes from his own life.
The comments afterwards were also surprising. Many people attacked the Pediatrician for not being a “real scientist.” I wonder what they thought of the Fire-Chief. They insisted that the Pediatrician had offered no support for his argument. I wondered if they actually read what he said. On the other hand, it was apparently assumed that the Fire Chief did not need to actually offer support for his belief.
Now, the truth is, I’m a little bit on the fence about evolution, and I lean toward believing that the universe is about fourteen billion years old (though, obviously, I don’t really know). I also have a rock solid Evangelical Christian faith, and I believe the bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God. But these articles and the comments following it helped me sort through something that has bothering me for some time.
I believe the primary reason for the Creation-Evolution debate is that scientists relentlessly and continually insist that each new discovery they make proves the non-existence of God. In a previous post I shared the non-sequitur of Lawrence M. Krauss – who insisted that the recent discovery of a new particle made God vanish in a cloud of illogic. Krauss is not alone, unfortunately. It seems that the scientific community cannot announce a new discovery without also trying to make it a religious statement. After all, “God does not exist” is a religious statement; in fact it is quite definitely a statement of faith.
What this amounts to is this: many Christians suspect secular scientists of religious motivations, and we have reams of writing to support the suspicion. If science is about God not existing and proving a certain world-view, then it IS a religion, and one that is vehemently opposed to Christianity. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss and many others essentially put it this way: “Science is right and that proves Christianity is wrong.”
This leaves many Christians understandably believing that they can either accept what science says, or what the Bible says, but not both.
The good news is, that is not the case. Dawkins, Hitchens and company are wrong. Science is not a religion. It is a method used to discover the universe around us, but the moment we start talking about what it all means in terms of God, Life and personal significance we have left the realm of science. These questions cannot be subjected to the scientific method. The answers can’t be found in laboratories or particle accelerators, any more than you can answer “what is your favorite movie?” with a mathematical equation.
As I shared before, imagine that ancient Greek scientists have somehow obtained a modern automobile. Through theorizing and testing they learn more and more about how it works. They are often right about what they think they’ve learned. They say, “Now we understand how the ABS brake system works.” That is all well and good, but then they add, “The whole system is automated, therefore this proves there was no designer or driver to the car.” Non-sequitur – it doesn’t follow. The conclusion isn’t even relevant to the work the scientists are supposed to be doing.
In other words, scientists often try to make people choose between believing in their discoveries or believing in a Designer who made what they discovered. This is a false choice.
I can believe that various aspects of the universe are, in fact, as scientists describe, and still believe that Someone designed the whole thing. There is nothing incompatible in those beliefs.
By the way, the Bible does not demand a belief in a literal six day creation. I won’t go into the whole thing here, but if I am an expert in anything, it is the bible. I’ll just give two quick thoughts here. First, the ancient Hebrew word for “day” is “yom,” and it can mean a 24 hour period. But it can also mean simply a segment of time with a definite beginning and end. In this third definition, yom could be several weeks, or years, or even an epoch. The second thing I would point out is that “yom” is certainly not describing a literal 24 hour day until at least the fourth day (Genesis 1:14) because before that, the Bible records that there was no fixed orbital pattern. Therefore you can believe the bible wholly and truly, and also believe that the universe is billions of years old. In fact “young earth” Creationism was not a Christian doctrine at all until the late 1800s. Up until that point in time, Christians did not consider the age of the earth to be significant, nor did they believe the Bible had to be interpreted in such a way that we must believe the earth is very young.
Don’t believe scientists when they start talking religion. At that point they are just un-educated couch-theologians. Understand this: in spite of what people on both sides of the issue may say, science done scientifically does not exclude faith, and Christian faith does not exclude science.