Looking for Peace in the Science and Religion Relationship

One of the fundamental purposes of this journal and of the Does God Exist? program that produces it is to attempt to convince people that science and faith are not enemies. There continues to be a great deal of hostility promoted from the pulpits, the media, and visible scientists around the world in this area. Some preachers suggest to their congregations that science is evil and opposed to morality and belief in God. Some visible scientists suggest that religion is an out-of-date mythological belief system that opposes progress and enslaves people to a lifestyle that brings them harm. The media seems to take delight in vilifying religion and promoting the inconsistencies of those who claim to be religious.

In recent months, there has been a growth in this hostility due to an increased aggressiveness in the presentation of the "Intelligent Design" (ID) movement. The ID movement has been catalyzed by a number of books written by qualified scientists like Michael Behe and William Dembinski which have promoted the idea that chance is an invalid mechanism to explain the complexities that we see in nature, and that any theory that depends totally on chance cannot be true. We have reviewed a number of these books and others on the same theme during the past several years, and we have pointed out that these books are excellent sources to use in understanding the evidence for design in the cosmos. Material like this is helpful in looking at a series of choices about how the creation came into existence, and realizing that the existence of God is supported by these choices. There is scientific evidence that shows that the cosmos had a beginning and that the beginning was caused. The final question about this line of thinking is to ask what the cause was. Was the cause God or was blind, mechanistic, opportunistic chance the cause? Material on and examples of design in the cosmos help answer this question, and the material by Behe and Dembinski and others have been most helpful in approaching this final choice.

What has precipitated the controversy over the ID movement has been the attempts by some to use the design material as a club against science, especially evolutionary theory. Behe's first book Darwin's Black Box used Darwin's theory as an example of a situation where there were scientific limits on what Darwin proposed caused by situations where many variables were interdependent. In this case, normal Darwinian methods would not work well. Many in the scientific community wrote Behe off as just another wild creationist when Behe started being cited as a resource in anti-evolution material. The complaint of these antagonists to ID is that they feel it stifles and stops science. If you say that anything you study in nature is too complex to be understood scientifically because God uniquely and miraculously zapped it into existence, then science comes to a complete standstill. It is not hard to understand why this view is taken, and it is important that this charge be responded to.

A part of the problem in this matter is the inability of many people on all sides of the issue to understand how science works, what believing in design leads us to, and how evolution fits into what both science and the Bible say. Another part of the problem has been that some evolutionists and some religious personalities just want to have a good fight and do not understand the opposing view or try to make peace with it. The result is tragic. As a public school science teacher, I frequently had students who were extremely talented in science and who obviously enjoyed their studies in science who indicated that they would like to have a career in science, but were unwilling to give up their religious faith to do so. They had been given the notion that if they majored in science they would automatically have to abandon their faith in God. It was a series of experiences like these which culminated in our beginning the Does God Exist? program as a way to stop such erosion of capable students from science and also to stop the erosion of faith in those students who did decide to major in science.

Those who work to solve problems scientifically have a method that they use to approach problems. The problem is stated in a way that allows it to be addressed in some experimental way. The experiments can be physical, logical, historical, or model experiments. A hypothesis is formulated as a solution to the problem being addressed. Exhaustive experimentation is conducted to see if the hypothesis is verified or denied by the experiments conducted. If the hypothesis is strongly supported by the experiments, other experiments will be conceived to continue the testing process. A theory is always open to being disproved or modified. A theory also can lead to positive changes in our understanding even if the theory is wrong, and it can have applications that help mankind. Research in evolution has led to many new things in agriculture and medicine. In many cases the discovery that was made disproved the concept of evolution held at the time, but as experiments were conducted new ways of producing food were seen and applied to man's food problems.

This method works very well. It has given mankind many wonderful things that we all enjoy, and has generally improved the standard of living in places where science has been employed extensively. True scientists will never accept a scapegoat answer for the area of study they are trying to understand. They also will not refuse to investigate something just because there is a current scientific belief held or a viewpoint based in philosophy or theology that might oppose what they see. In the history of mankind there have been many widely held beliefs that were in error, but were believed by both science and religion. There was a time when scientists and theologians both believed that the earth was flat. Scientists looked at the horizon and saw that it looked flat and developed a whole astronomical concept of the earth that fit what they saw. Theologians looked at biblical passages like Revelation 7:1 and assumed that the reference was to a flat earth. As Eratosthenes saw the sun shining right down a well on March 21 when he knew it did not shine down a well to the north of where he was, he realized that there was scientific evidence that the earth was round, and even calculated its circumference. Sailors reported islands off the coast that could not be seen until one sailed out many miles into the ocean, and that gave more evidence. People looked at Revelation 7 more carefully and saw that the type of literature that it was did not give physical descriptions of the earth, but had spiritual significance, and they even found other passages that suggested that the earth was round.

Suppose we find that chance is not a possible explanation for what we see, and everyone agrees to that. Does that mean that scientific research should not continue to come to an understanding of how it works or how it got to be as it is? There are two ways that God functions in our world. God acts directly sometimes when he essentially zaps something into existence. There is even a Hebrew word bara that is used in the Bible when such a process is used. In the Genesis account, bara is used when the creation of the cosmos is described, when life is created, and when man's soul is created (Genesis 1:20, 26). The other process that God uses is a natural process in which a final result is achieved by a series of events that God controls or makes possible. We can attach labels like the providence of God or the handiwork of God, but the point is that there is a process that man can understand and sometimes copy.

Henry F. Schaefer has said "The significance and joy in my science comes in those occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, `So that's how God did it.' My goal is to understand a little corner of God's plan." Charles Darwin said "I look at every thing as having resulted from designed laws." If there are designed laws, then there is a designer who has engineered and placed those laws in order so that the cosmos can function. Discovering how those laws work and function does not violate the Bible or anything in science. Francis Collins who has directed the human genome project is a fundamental believer in Jesus Christ. Here is a Christian who has been responsible for one of the major scientific undertakings of the past decade. When the human genome is fully mapped and every genetic marker has been identified will that reflect negatively on the belief of many scientists that the complexity of this code is too complex to have happened by chance? We would suggest the answer is definitely "no!" There will be some scientists who will believe that all of this happened without intelligent guidance. Will that belief be affected by Dr. Collins' religious beliefs? Scientists may have different understandings, and people in the ID movement can provide evidence that chance is not a valid mechanism to produce the human genome but the research and the applications will not be affected by these two viewpoints. The religious and philosophical implications of the ID movement are great and have huge interest to many people, but they should not stifle science or stop it.

Albert Einstein said "Religion without science is lame, but science without religion is blind." The place where significant problems arise, as far as those who believe blind chance is the cause of all we see, is in the applications of science to discoveries. Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist biologist, has said:

"In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won't find any rhyme or reasoning to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music" (Out of Eden, New York: Basic Books, 1992, page 133).

If one believes this statement then man is simply a meaningless ship in the winds of chance, and survival of the fittest and chance are the only determiners of who survives and who does not. If there is no good and no evil and everything is blind, then you have no case for morality and how discoveries like the human genome are to be used has no real direction. As Einstein said, "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind" (Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein, Bonanza Books, page 46, 1954). If, on the other hand, there is purpose in the cosmos, and especially if that purpose is uniquely connected to man as the Bible describes it, then all humans have value and man is the steward of all that a great intelligence has given us. Discoveries like the human genome, cloning, and the like will be used to benefit all of mankind and to take care of the earth in a way that makes it function as it was designed to function.

Science and faith are friends, not enemies. The Intelligent Design movement should not be a call to stop science, but to provide support for ethics, morality, and the way in which science is used. If we can understand more of the creation, we can also understand more of the creator.

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JanFeb04.