Science A Friend of Faith
by Kevin King, Beaumont, TX
In past centuries, religion was the dominant force in the world. Those in power looked to the church for guidance and sanction. Science was regarded as a form of mysticism, and those who practiced it lived in fear of being burned as heretics and witches.
In more recent years, science has become the final authority and source of power to the nations. Religion is regarded as a form of mysticism, its followers are regarded as heretical enemies of science and progress. While most people see these two systems of thought as being in conflict, the truth is that science and faith have been closely linked from the beginning.
The Dark Ages are a black mark on the face of history, when science was smothered under the weight of superstition and fear. Many religious leaders discouraged free and creative thought, afraid of losing control of the population, afraid of what they did not understand.
The animosity between science and religion has been mostly born of ignorance. A thing not understood is a thing feared, and a thing feared is a thing hated. Before the time when science became a well-defined, fully explainable system of thought and study, it consisted of not much more than random experimentation and mechanical repetition of certain key rituals. Practical discoveries made by accident, or by a means not understood by the general population, were seen as mystical. Knowledge came only from the church; it could be accepted from no other source.
Now these positions are reversed. Because popular science is seen by many to be the source of all knowledge, guidance is not readily accepted from any other source, including the church. The church, partly in reaction to this viewpoint and partly out of habit from ages past, seems inclined to view science as an adversary.
If the main cause of the problem is ignorance, then the solution must consist of gaining knowledge. The fundamental goal of all science is the gaining of knowledge; therefore, science should be viewed, not as the problem, but as part of the solution. Faith, at its root, should not be opposed to this gaining of knowledge, for faith in a supreme God of order must include faith in His ability to give order to His creation, and in His ability to make Himself understood through that creation. This has always been the case for both true science and true faith, so that at the core the two have a common goal.
Paul Davies, Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Adelaide in Australia, writes on the subject of scientific law and religion. "The concept of a law of nature wasn't invented by any particular philosopher or scientist. Although the idea was crystallized only in the modern scientific era, its origins go back to the dawn of history, and are intimately bound up with religion."1
The Bible encourages the gaining of knowledge, declaring "How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding."2 Men of God in every generation who have taken this to heart have become leaders in scientific research.
Joseph Needham indicates that faith was one of the great advantages that the West had over the East in the realm of science, writing in reference to early Chinese thought. "There was no confidence that the code of nature's laws could ever be unveiled and read, because there was no assurance that a divine being, even more rational than ourselves, had ever formulated such a code capable of being read."3
At the very foundation of science is the belief that there is logic and order to every physical system. The Bible refers to the natural world as a signpost that points to God. "...His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made..."4 and "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands."5
Men of faith observe the world around them and see the work of God, which strengthens their faith and motivates them to look ever deeper into that world with the purpose of learning about God.
Not only has faith in a rational God led men to science, but study has led men of science to a rational God. Robert Boyle wrote: "The excellent contrivance of that great system of the world, and especially the curious fabric of the bodies of the animals and the uses of their sensories and other parts, have been made the great motives that in all ages and nations induced philosophers to acknowledge a Deity as the author of these admirable structures."6
In many ways, those of the scientific community who come to have faith by the things they learn are stronger in their faith than those who merely accept whatever religious leaders choose to teach them. The search for truth continually leads men back to God. Paul Davies remarked on this trend when he wrote: "The severe mauling meted out to the design argument by Hume, Darwin, and others resulted in its being more or less completely abandoned by theologians. It is all the more curious, therefore, that it has been resurrected in recent years by a number of scientists."7
Many of the theories of science, most notably the Theory of Evolution, are used to undermine faith in God. A part of the problem stems from a misunderstanding of science even today. It seems that anybody with an idea can write it down and call it science, and if it is a popular idea then it is accepted as fact. This comes from a misunderstanding of true science. The science being discussed here as a companion to faith is not based on subjective popular opinion, but on objective scientific research.
The Christian author C. S. Lewis, in talking about Evolution, made that distinction between the study of biological development which is the scientific theory of evolution and the subjective opinions about the origin of life which make up the popular "Theory of Evolution." He begins his treatment of the subject with this disclaimer: "I do not mean that the doctrine of Evolution as held by practicing biologists is a Myth. It may be shown, by later biologists, to be a less satisfactory hypothesis than was hoped fifty years ago. But that does not amount to being a Myth. It is a genuine scientific hypothesis. But we must sharply distinguish between Evolution as a biologist theorem and popular Evolutionism or Developmentalism which is certainly a Myth."8
The fact is that the scientific method involves the forming of theories which may or may not be true, and then trying to disprove them. A great many theories have been proposed and argued and even accepted for long periods of time, only to be discarded as false as a result of one new discovery or insight. James Hartle, in relating examples of this kind of error, wrote: "That the earth was the center of the universe went unquestioned for centuries until we found that the universe only seemed that way on account of our location on its surface."9 That a theory exists which contradicts a person's faith is no reason to discard that faith, because it is likely that the theory will be discarded before long.
Those Laws of science which have been proven beyond reasonable doubt inspire a sort of faith even in those who do not have faith in a personal Christian God. Paul Davies is one scientist who was inspired in that way to write: "Science is a noble and enriching quest that helps us to make sense of the world in an objective and methodical manner. It does not deny a meaning behind existence. On the contrary. As I have stressed, the fact that science works, and works so well, points to something profoundly significant about the organization of the cosmos."10
Mr. Davies and others like him are driven by their quest for knowledge to seek for answers beyond the surface of things. In the preface to the work quoted above, he writes: "Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact. There must, it seems to me, be a deeper level of explanation."11
Oxford Mathematician Roger Penrose expressed the same sentiment about the discovery of mathematical truths when he wrote: ".much more comes out of the structure than is put in in the first place. One may take the view that in such cases the mathematicians have stumbled upon the `works of God.'"12
The thing that seems to impress observers most, again and again, is that everywhere they look they find organization and logic that is highly complex, and yet laid out so clearly that they are able to understand how things work. As Albert Einstein said, "The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that the universe is comprehensible."12
Mankind is able to understand the physical world, and no Christian should object to learning about the world. In learning about the thing made, a person learns about the one who made it. If God did put these laws in place, and gave us the ability to understand them, then perhaps it is because He wants us to understand. In the words of Stephen Hawking, "If we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason--for then we would truly know the mind of God."13
The heart of science is the search for truth. Scientists have not yet found ultimate truth, but when they do it must point to God. That search should be the lifetime goal of every believer. Because in the end, knowledge is not the enemy of faith, but its vindication and fulfillment.
1. Paul Davies, The Mind of God, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1992, page 73.
2. Proverbs 3:13, ASV, Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, 1985.
3. Joseph Needham, The Grand Titration: Science and Society in East and West, Allen and Unwin, London, 1969.
4. Romans 1:20, ASV.
5. Psalm 19:1, ASV.
6. Robert Boyle, "A Disquisition About the Final Causes of Natural Things" in Works, (London, 1744) vol. 4, page 522.
7. Paul Davies, The Mind of God, page 203.
8. C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, William B. Eerdmans Publishing
Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1967.
9. James Hartle, "Excess Baggage," in Particle Physics and the Universe: Essays in Honour of Gell-Mann, J.Schwartz, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991.
10 Paul Davies, The Mind of God, page 21.
11. Paul Davies, The Mind of God, page 16.
12. Roger Penrose, The Emperors New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and the Laws of Physics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1989.
13. Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, Bantam, London and New York, 1988.
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