Faith And Science


For many people the difference between faith and science is as distinct as night and day.   They see these two categories as having nothing in common.  More than that, many feel that these two disciplines are in opposition to each other; one cannot hold to one while also holding to the other.  Some think that having faith means you must disregard science.  Others think that if you are of a scientific mindset then you will disregard much of what faith offers.  In my opinion, both of these extremes are incorrect, and likely reflect a strong prejudice against the “opposing side.”

For many, many years science had been a puppet of the Church.  For example, during the Middle Ages scientists could develop no theory that went against Church teaching.  But after the Reformation, and when people began to think independently from the Church, a new brand of “thinkers” began.  These independent thinkers began to question the authority of the Church.  They began to wrestle free the leash that the Church had placed on scientists, and think in a new freedom.  This type of “thinker” would soon usher in what we call “The Age of Enlightenment.”

During the Age of Enlightenment, scientists found the freedom to question everything. In particular, they began to question the concept of “Authority.”  No more would they allow the Church to be the authority on matters of science and philosophy.  Authority, instead, was given to whatever could be deduced through logic and reason.

In a sense, logic and reason soon became the new gods.  The priests of this new religion were the rationalists who worked out formulas and measured anew our world.  These rationalists then turned a condescending eye toward those who were believers in God.  After all, faith could not be measured; no formula for belief could be devised.  Believers were seen as part of the old, dying world.  The new age of thinkers was here, and they were entrusted to figure out the mysteries of the world.

There exists to this day a tension between the rationalist and the faithful.  But, what are we to make of this tension?  Well, let’s look rationally at it.

Science by definition is a discipline that offers theories based on observable data.  It conducts experiments and then contemplates possible explanations based on the results of these experiments.

If we consider this definition we immediately recognize an obvious limit to the discipline of science; it only works with observable – or measurable data.  By its own definition, science cannot develop theories on subjects where there is no observable data.  For example, science cannot give us concrete evidence for cowardice.  It cannot measure and develop theories on loyalty.  It cannot explain love in scientific jargon.  It cannot do these things because it is not designed to tell us about things that which it cannot measure.  In this sense, science is a very limited schoolmaster.

Science is also an unpredictable teacher.  It sometimes brings us conclusions that are later challenged and overturned.  A very good example of this is the recent conclusion concerning the former planet Pluto.  When I was in school we were taught that Pluto was a planet.  Science now teaches us that it is not a planet but a star.  The list of subjects that newer scientific evidence has overturned is nearly endless.  Nearly every field of study or discipline is evolving as new discoveries are made.  Nursing books from the 1920s are no longer used in modern nursing programs because the best data of the 1920s has been replaced.  And the best data of today will be replaced tomorrow.  Simply put, science is not an exact science.

So what of faith?  Is it for people who have disbanded rationality?  Is it reserved only for those who have decided not to think any longer?  If science has not discovered a god, is belief in god irrational?  These are all good questions; questions that are not offensive to me in the least.

Just because science has not “discovered” God does not mean that God does not exist.  As mentioned earlier, there are many things of which science cannot comment, yet only a fool would claim that love, cowardice, loyalty, bravery, and trust do not exist because science cannot measure them.  Likewise, only a fool would say that God does not exist because of lack of scientific evidence.  That would be like saying that there is no weight to an apple because you cannot find it on a ruler.

Is faith for the un-witted, who don’t like to think?  On the contrary, Biblical faith is a reaction to evidence.  We place faith in something when we find that that something is trustworthy.  One believes in God when one judges God to be a trustworthy being. The Bible nowhere encourages people to believe in God without some type of evidence for that belief.  The “blind leap of faith” is a very poor representation of the Christian faith.

Personally, I believe in God because of the large body of evidence in favor of that belief.  In a sense, one could say that I have taken a scientific – or logical – approach to faith.  I appreciate what science has contributed to our world, but I recognize its limits.

If I discover a contradiction between faith (specifically the Bible) and science, I must assume one of the following conclusions based upon my years of holding both faith and appreciating science:

  1. Science has drawn an inaccurate conclusion just as it has in many previous cases
  2. The interpretation of the Bible may not be accurate – just as Christians have wrongly been interpreting the Bible for years.

In my estimation, a person of faith can easily agree to the scientific method.  As well, a scientist can quite easily become a person of faith.  There should be no obvious contradiction.

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