Can Science and Faith Be Reconciled?

"Does science favor unbelief? And must Christians reject science? Is science another religion that believers must separate from in order to stay true to God?" - Ref21

913 reads

There are 16 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Another excerpt...

Ours is not the first scientific age. Many other scientists—who were learning things about the universe never previously known—retained their faith in God. Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Newton, Mendel, Pasteur, and Carver along with hundreds of Nobel Prize winners have believed in the God of Scripture. The world’s wisest person was a scientist who studied trees, beasts, birds, reptiles, and fish (1 Kings 5:33–34), and believed in God.

This is a topic I wish more pastors were well equipped and interested in addressing. It's a huge piece of Christian living in these times because "the science" is so often viewed culturally as the argument to end all arguments. At the same time, increasing numbers of believers--if my experience is any indication--are comfortable dismissing science entirely from questions of health and medicine, and completely closed to the social sciences (rather than appropriately skeptical but open to what they have to offer).

Believers need a Bible-based and well-applied grid for approaching claims and counterclaims of "science" that doesn't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

It's a huge piece of Christian living in these times because "the science" is so often viewed culturally as the argument to end all arguments. At the same time, increasing numbers of believers--if my experience is any indication--are comfortable dismissing science entirely from questions of health and medicine, and completely closed to the social sciences (rather than appropriately skeptical but open to what they have to offer).

I'm absolutely comfortable dismissing politicized "settled science," and not just for health and medicine.  This applies to other areas as well like climate "science" where dissenting thought is shut down instead of evaluated and added (as appropriate) to the sum of knowledge -- you know, actually doing science.  I'm not trying to imply that climate science isn't real, but when scientific inquiry can only be from one direction, that makes any "results" suspect.

The reason the number of believers that dismiss such science is increasing is because they can see that it's just a rhetorical weapon being wielded by whichever side is in power.  Misusing science like that makes it no more believable than any other political claim either without evidence or made in spite of what we can obviously see with our own eyes.  The claim being made might not always be wrong, but if it can't be subjected to testing it for falsifiability, it is still not trustworthy.

This doesn't mean I want to ignore all science, but I'm not making decisions or big changes in my life based on dubious results that can't be taken at face value.

Dave Barnhart

dgszweda's picture

dcbii wrote:

 

 

This doesn't mean I want to ignore all science, but I'm not making decisions or big changes in my life based on dubious results that can't be taken at face value.

I don't disagree with your concerns.  The problems that I see is that most Christians are ill-equipped to truly evaluate science.  I see it in the arguments around the vaccine.  So instead they have their concerns, they listen to the side the supports their concerns and then they use that politicized angle to just ignore large chunks of science.  This is the biggest issue I see with COVID right now.  For example, someone doesn't like Fauci because of a statement(s) he made that they felt was contradictory, lying.... so they then take the stand that Fauci needs to go and I am no longer listening to Fauci.  This is despite the fact that maybe some or a lot of what Fauci says is still true.  So they throw the whole thing out and jump to the other side which has an equally problematic agenda and now they are believing their are chips, conspiracy.....

As a scientist, it is such an incredible mess in the population, and everyone is all over the place.  At the end, it is misinformation that is now ruling the day.

Back to topic, I don't think Faith and science can be reconciled.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.  Science relies on the evidence of things seen.  At the very core they are contradictory.  That doesn't mean that Christians can't be scientists or that science and faith overlaps.  But science as it stands today, places man at its center, and faith places God at its center.  Some day in eternity they will be reconciled, but it will take God to make that happen.

 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

dgszweda wrote:
The problems that I see is that most Christians are ill-equipped to truly evaluate science.  I see it in the arguments around the vaccine.

You're right.  Even though I'm a mathematician and engineer, I'm not a scientist, strictly speaking, and I can't evaluate scientific arguments as well as those who actually are doing the work.  I think that applies even moreso to other segments of the population.  However, all of us are equipped with a nonsense-detector that may be more or less trained.  When anyone can see that negative results are being hidden, suppressed, or explained away, it doesn't matter how much actual weight they hold -- they will be given an inordinate amount of weight due to the entire fact of being hidden.  That's just human nature.

Let's take Covid and the vaccine.  For someone my age, healthy, no co-morbidities, my chances of dying from Covid are, from the published numbers, around 1-2 out of 1000.  The chances of dying from the vaccine are, again from the numbers we can see, much smaller.  However, there are cases of myocarditis and GBS occurring, among other issues.  I don't have real numbers on those, because people are trying to explain them away, or hide them, but even from what I can see, they are probably at least 1000 times less.  From the numbers alone, that would tend to indicate that the risk from the vaccine is much less than that from Covid.  But that takes the human factor out of the equation.  (And, that completely leaves out the issues of long-term effects, which many, like yourself, don't think exist, but there is no proof.)  The very fact that some people are going to great lengths to suppress any negative results will have most people thinking that the risks are much higher than they really are.  The entire effort to brainwash people into thinking the vaccine as completely safe, without any side-effects, has the opposite of the intended effect, and engenders a lack of trust in the science, or really, those talking about it, rather than trusting the results.  The actual science is then not equal to what is being portrayed.

Quote:
This is despite the fact that maybe some or a lot of what Fauci says is still true.

But you see, this is the problem -- that only some or a lot is true, not all of it.  What do people do with a source where only some or lot of what comes out of it is true?  They tend to distrust it.  Would you trust your pastor if one message he preached out of all of them for the year was promoting baptismal regeneration, even if every other message was 100% true to scripture?  Untruths from Fauci might lead some people to run to the wrong sources, but for many of us, they do just what you said -- they leave us swimming in a sea of misinformation, or even disinformation.  When that happens, people almost always default to non-action over action, hence many people not getting vaccinated because that's "easier" (and seems less dangerous in the moment) than doing so.  Again, human nature.

Dave Barnhart

irvcobb's picture

Sorry to quote from a science fiction author, but Arthur C. Clark said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I think he's right. Science has become extremely complex, and is beyond the understanding the "average" person. In school, most of us could probably figure out, at least vaguely, how an electromagnet works. But science today is no where near that simple. Add to that complexity the degradation of our education system, our tendency to think and learn in sound bites, and the belief that clicking around on social media is fact-finding and you have a perfect storm of non-science happening in the minds of laypeople (non-scientists).

Factor in the church, which IMVHO, has been and is being influenced to a very large degree by the rebellion that those of us of a certain age learned in the '60's, and which has encouraged mistrust of science, politicization of the Kingdom, and some unbelievably foolish views of prophecy, and you have a mess.

Can science and faith be reconciled? Of course. Science is knowledge, and true knowledge will see creation as God created it. Can modern science be reconciled with modern faith? Probably not. I fear both "sides" are (at least) a bit too far from the truth and too strongly tied to their world-views to change.

dgszweda's picture

dcbii wrote:

But you see, this is the problem -- that only some or a lot is true, not all of it.  What do people do with a source where only some or lot of what comes out of it is true?  They tend to distrust it.  

You are equating scientific truth like with Scripture.  Science is constantly evolving.  It evolves when the current the situation is wrong or broken.  Science progresses when the current understanding no longer fits what is seen.  Classic example, Newton's gravity being replaced with Einsteins's theory of relativity.  The problem is that everyone expects science to be 100% factually correct throughout all of time.  If it is not, then we need to try to find an agenda and begin discrediting everything someone is saying.  In my opinion, we need to constantly be evaluating everything and be careful.  Understand that science, especially something like a virus which is not just creating new data, but in and off itself is evolving and changing, will change.  The fact that it changes, or it was untrue today compared to yesterday, doesn't mean science is not working.

irvcobb's picture

Newton's gravity being replaced with Einsteins's theory of relativity.

This goes to my comment above. Most of at least think we get Newton, but are lost by Einstein. Drop a hammer on my foot? That's Newton, and I get what happened. Einstein? Something vague about relativity (a bad word to people who believe in a constant God), the speed of light, and maybe wormholes?     [I'm aware that Newton is a maybe just a tad more complex than I make Him out to be.]

To be fair, maybe, we've done the same thing with spiritual thinking. We've too often taught the scriptures like we completely understand and grasp every word and concept. But if we are honest, we don't. And when people find that out, they retreat to what they think they understand (KJVO, for instance), decide they can't understand any of it (and turn away from Christ or to some kind of "Christian" mysticism), or tune out and wait for us to turn to something they think they can understand (watch the average congregation during a heavily theological message). Very few will actually listen and think about things that stretch their minds and take them outside their comfort range.

All of that said, I'm profoundly thankful that the gospel I believe is easily understood, not relative, and anchored in a God much bigger than I am.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

dgszweda wrote:
You are equating scientific truth like with Scripture.

I should have expected you to take that from my example.  My bad for the inept example.  My point was that if someone you trust tells you untruths (lies), you tend to not trust them even when they are telling the truth.  Would "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" be a better example for you?  That leaves scripture out of it.

Quote:
Science is constantly evolving.  It evolves when the current the situation is wrong or broken.  Science progresses when the current understanding no longer fits what is seen.  Classic example, Newton's gravity being replaced with Einsteins's theory of relativity.

Of course science changes, but here I could infer that you are implying that everything Fauci said that was inaccurate was because of changing science, and that's manifestly not true.  I understand that there are people who think that science never changes, but that's certainly not what I think (note my disdain for the idea of "settled science" a couple posts above), and I don't know many (if any) who think that science doesn't change.  Even for those who don't have a really big background in science, many who have at least some higher education have heard of the example Irv used comparing Newtonian with Einsteinian physics, even if they have no understanding of the differences.

Quote:
The problem is that everyone expects science to be 100% factually correct throughout all of time.  If it is not, then we need to try to find an agenda and begin discrediting everything someone is saying.

Actually, most of the "agendas" I've seen come when someone wants to use an isolated scientific finding that might be true on its own, or in very specific circumstances to promote their agenda.  I've seen it with both pro and anti Covid vax people.  However, you are right.  When the science changes, some people will use that as an excuse to discount the person saying it.  In my experience though, that happens less often than when someone covers up, or even discounts contrary data and it becomes known.

In any case, leaders that want us to change our behaviors for the common good had better not be doing any lying if they want people to believe what they are saying.  Anything true will be forgotten when any lies become known.

Quote:
In my opinion, we need to constantly be evaluating everything and be careful.  Understand that science, especially something like a virus which is not just creating new data, but in and off itself is evolving and changing, will change.  The fact that it changes, or it was untrue today compared to yesterday, doesn't mean science is not working.

Finally, something we agree on.

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm absolutely comfortable dismissing politicized "settled science," and not just for health and medicine. This applies to other areas as well like climate "science" where dissenting thought is shut down instead of ...

This is not dismissing science. It's dismissing abuse of science or false claims to being science, or just sloppy generalization in the name of science. 

The problem I'm often seeing is not really rejection of these distortions and abuses of alleged science, but actual rejection of the discipline of observation and reasoning from evidence. So I guess what I'm getting at is that I think we have an epistemology problem in a lot of our churches, an anti-intellectualism. What it often boils down to is a distrust of reason and evidence in favor of intuitive ways of knowing.

I'm not against intuitive ways of knowing, and I've given some thought to whether reason really should be considered superior. I've come to the conclusion that indeed it should for a variety of reasons, the biggest being that reason can be tested with reason. Intuitive ways of knowing can be tested with reason, but then, if you're going to do that, what's the point of bypassing reason in the first place? In my experience, when people embrace an intuitive way of knowing (other than when we have no choice because there is too little information or too little time) it's because they have no intention of making reason part of the process. And then we're back to anti-intellectualism.

So the challenge I think we face is weaning people off of the idea that feeling is better than thinking. (A separate but related problem is when people are feeling their way to conclusions then reverse engineering the reasoning in a half-hearted superficial way. So, in action they prefer feeling over thinking, but they don't see that that's what they're actually doing.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark_Smith's picture

The article is asking does science make belief in God and Jesus and the Bible untenable? The answer, obviously, is no. It then goes through all the usual tropes for this question. There is nothing even remotely creative about this article.

Miracles: No scientific experiment will EVER disprove any miracle. This is a matter of definition and has nothing to do with what the miracle is, or what science is. I wish "scientists" and "Christians" both would recognize this. Miracles, by definition, are supernatural... meaning they are beyond the natural. No natural law can limit a miracle.

What does matter is your Worldview... Is there a legitimate source for miracles in your worldview? Are your miracles logically consistent? Example: you say the world is flat but photo after photo shows a round Earth hanging in space. Is the God of the Bible logically consistent? Using things like that you can build up the consistency and reliability of the Bible, and of your faith in it.

Mark_Smith's picture

First, there is no "Einstein's Law of Relativity." There are 2 laws of relativity that Einstein developed. They are separate but related. His special theory of relativity, and his general theory of relativity.

Second, Einstein's special theory of relativity has NOT "replaced" Newton's law of gravity or motion. Newton's laws are taught every semester to physics and engineering students! What has happened is we recognize that Newton's description is the low velocity limit of Einstein's more general description. In the low velocity limit Newton is perfectly usable and accurate. It works!

Third, you probably don't know that Einstein did not name his 2 famous theories. He wanted the special theory of relativity  to be more descriptive, the theory of the absolute speed of light. This is exactly what the special theory (SR) says. In Galilean relativity (classical relativity) time between events and distances between events are absolute. Different frames of reference agree on the respective amounts. Einstein showed this is invalid. Instead, the thing that never changes between different reference frames is the speed of light. If the relative speeds between reference frames is great enough, you can start to notice that the time elapsed increases between the frames, and that the distance traveled decreases!  A reference frame is basically just a different observer. Say I am standing on the sidewalk and a car drives by me going 30 mph down the road. I am one frame, the driver in the car is the second. In my frame, I am at rest and the car is moving one direction. To the driver, she is at rest and the person on the sidewalk is moving the opposite direction!  

The mathematics of SR are generally basic algebra, but in use are probably beyond the comfort level of non-math/physics/engineering majors. 

Einstein's general theory of relativity (GR) is a different animal all together. SR assumes that there is no acceleration between reference frames. Einstein wanted to know what happens when there is acceleration between reference frames. That turned out to take the level of mathematics to a point most people don't know, so it is kind of "magic" if you will (a la Arthur Clarke). It had already been worked out in Einstein's day by mathematicians, but they didn't know what they had. Einstein did!

It turns out by the principle of equivalence that accelerations are the same thing as gravity, and vice versa. They are indistinguishable to an isolated observer. So, GR can be used to describe gravity, and hence "replace" Newton's description. In practice, when you do GR for the basic conditions on Earth, you get Newton! So we just use Newton for basic calculations. Its only if you want really precise numbers that you use GR. As a matter of fact, MOST physics majors, and even graduate students DO NOT LEARN GR... GR is a specialist field, or something you learn on the side. 

Little known fact, gravity (which is really just acceleration remember) changes the measured elapsed time between events as seen by different observers. If I take 2 synchronized atomic clocks, and launch one into space to the space station while leaving the other in Florida. Then have it orbit around a bit, and then return to Earth. Now I compare the two clocks. The one that went to a lower level of strength of Earth's gravity in orbit will have run faster, and say more time elapsed! Time runs faster with less gravity, and slower in more gravity!

Mark_Smith's picture

After 20 years of being a scientist, and 30 years of being a Christian, I conclude 99.9% of Christians know next to nothing about science, and sound absolutely foolish when they talk about it... especially preachers.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

irvcobb wrote:

Then there's this:

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-03691-0

Which isn't helping anything.

I think it actually does help. This is science checking science and exposing inadequate standards. It's how science is supposed to work. I think part of the widespread antipathy is folks not having the right expectations: science is messy. It always has been, always will be (until the eschaton), and that's really a good thing... given the realities of human nature and the complexities of the creation.

And it helps keep us humble.

About miracles...

I've encountered two schools of thought on what a miracle is, as far as 'laws of nature' go. One is that 'laws of nature' are what hold within a system, and nothing acting from outside the system can be said to be violating them. Sounds like what Mark articulated. Read Plantinga advocating for this reacently... and I think also maybe William Lane Craig. Another view I came across in Three Views on Christianity and Science--probably Bruce Gordon's view--was different. I'm not sure I can say it right, because I'm not sure I fully understand it yet. But I think it would be close to this: quantum physics is teaching us that everything is miracle, because everything 'real' is what sort of collapses out of the probabilities because of--well, science doesn't know, but Christians do. I'm sure I butchered that. I need to reread it. It blew my mind at the time. My point on that is that there can be more than one Christian way to understand the relationship between 'nature' and 'miracle.' What they have in common is that they reject the idea that what we know as 'nature' and 'laws of nature' is a closed system. Science has no way of proving that there isn't something more than the material/physical world... though it can certainly produce evidence that this is probable. If memory serves, this was much of what Gordon wanted to convey: that science itself proves the limits of science and seems to shout that there has to be more.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark_Smith's picture

Anytime a philosopher uses quantum physics to describe something, my "sus" alarm goes off. Be very careful my friend. When I hear that Richard Feynman rings in my head. He was asked about things like this and said of quantum physics, "shut up and calculate"... meaning quantum physics is about calculation and prediction, not philosophy.

irvcobb's picture

I think it actually does help. 

You're right. It helps science.

What I intended to say was that it doesn't help the discussion on a popular level - it's one more "proof" that "you can't trust science."