The most basic theme of the Does God Exist? ministry is that science and Christianity are friends — not enemies. For over forty years we have been trying to get people to understand that if God created and made the cosmos, and if that same God gave mankind a written set of instructions about how to live and told us something about our past, the two have to agree, because they have the same Author. If they do not agree, either we have misunderstood God’s written word or we have misunderstood the evidence recorded in the natural world we observe.

Our opponents in this endeavor have been both from the atheist community and from the religious community. These are people who WANT a conflict between science and belief in God. The atheist group Magazine coversbelieves that their best bet in destroying faith in God is to promote the view that science is supported by evidence and intelligent thinking, and religion is supported by emotionalism and ignorance. The religious group considers all of science and those who are a part of it to be suspect at best. Their view is that science is a human endeavor, full of human error and selfish motives and of minimal importance in the grand scheme of things.

These two groups are engaged in an escalating war of words with the gap between them growing daily. On the atheist side there has been a rapid growth of atheist activity on every front. Many cities are now seeing billboards and bus panels touting atheist themes. Atheists now have a variety of magazines and journals, some of them being expensive four-color journals printed on coated paper and with a wide range of talented writers. Skeptic, Skeptical Inquirer, American Atheist, Skeptical Briefs, and the Humanist are just a few of the more visible magazines/newsletters in general circulation. Organizations like The Committee for the Advancement of Science Education have morphed from pro-education organizations to out-and-out efforts to slam religion and discredit belief in God. Atheists are involved in a wide range of books and materials aimed at the general public, and have been incredibly successful, with books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and others reaching the best seller lists. Anti-creation sections are now seen in scientific journals such as Science and Scientific American. There are so many lawsuits going on opposing religion and belief in God that those of us who are involved in apologetics rarely have a day when we are not informed of another one.

On the religious side we see similar growth and extension. The home-school market is dominated by religious fundamentalists who have extreme views about both science and the Bible. There are at least teacher & classa dozen creation museums around the country. Some of these are very small, low budget operations, but others such as Ken Ham’s museum in Kentucky and Kent Hovind’s in Florida and are in the multimillion-dollar category. A variety of new publishing houses have sprung up, printing and distributing materials opposing things from science which are seen as contradictory to a certain group’s religious views. In Ronald Number’s book The Creationist, there is a listing of those viewed as a part of the religious community opposing evolution. Over 90 percent of those in Number’s study are dispensational-millennialists, meaning they have a particular religious doctrine they feel is threatened by some area of science. The number of creationist television channels that are now on cable, Direct TV, and Dish Network is very large — 26 channels in the area where your author lives. The number of creationist journals continues to grow. Like the atheist materials some of them are expensive, high-quality printing with four-color pictures and flashy promotions.

boy & classmatesWhere will all of this end? It appears that the government is ultimately going to get involved, and one has to ask if a political solution is a possibility? What are the courts likely to do? With the advent of private schools, charter schools, the growth of homeschooling, and continued pushing to have government control of education what does the future hold? The problem in this situation is that the real victims of this whole polarization are the children. Young people have become pawns in the battles that take place between adults.

As someone who has been on both sides of this issue there are five observations I would like to make. I hope these will cause at least some people to think about their own role in this situation, and perhaps make a small step toward finding some resolution of the conflict and minimize the damage to young people.

subtitle 1
This statement is true individually and on a general level. Science is defined in the dictionary as “systematic knowledge.” Someone may object to a theory or a belief, but real science uses theory as a tool, and systematic knowledge is neutral in its application. The more knowledge we have, the better our decisions will be and the less likely we are to make an error in what we do. Pure religion is defined in the Bible as “… to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, NIV). Knowledge can only assist us in our religion, and science cannot determine the uses to which its “systematic knowledge” will be put. In 1 Timothy 6:20 Paul tells Timothy to “Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge [science]” (NIV). Someone who has a degree in science may have all kinds of personal ideas that have nothing to do with the area of science in which he is trained. A large percentage of what causes conflict between faith and science is generated by people with science backgrounds making statements that have nothing to do with their field of expertise. Richard Dawkins is undoubtedly the most visible scientist who is doing this, but so are a number of other scientists who are atheists. As atheists accelerate the conflict between science and faith in God, they erode public confidence in science and impede children from entering science and reduce the funding of science by the general population.

I have told the story many times of having a student in my AP Physics class who was one of the most capable and brightest students I have ever had in 41 years of teaching in the public schools. This young man taught himself calculus as we did the physics experiments, and was exceptional in his class work. At the end of the year he came in to see me and we talked about his ability. I encouraged him to become a scientist. He told me he really wanted to be a scientist and was unhappy that he could not go into science as a career. I asked him why he could not and his reply was, “My faith is important to me, and I can’t go into science and be a Christian.” This is not only tragic — it is wrong! Many capable young people are being propelled away from science because of the misconceptions promoted by atheists and religious people about the relationship between these two areas of study.

It is important for science to have a good image in the general population. The distrust of the global warming message, and the resulting confusion created by politicians and opportunists is happening because of the general distrust people have of science. This damages science and brings harm to innocent people.

subtitle 2
One of the major objectives of this journal in the 42 years it has been in existence has been to correct mistaken teachings by people on both sides of the issues. In the last two years there have been some incredibly ignorant statements made by leading atheist scientists, especially Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Sam Harris (The End of Faith). When Alister McGrath responded to Dawkins’ errors in his book The Dawkins Delusion, Michael Ruse, a leading atheist, said that Dawkins’ book had made him ashamed to be an atheist. Dawkins is a great biologist, but he is ignorant of the Bible, and of religion in general, because that is not his field. He has damaged his reputation as a biologist and as a scientist by his unfortunate comments on religion.
book covers
By the same token, we have had numerous articles in this journal on leading religious figures who make statements about science that the average seventh grader would know are not correct. When Arkansas adopted a book to be used in the public schools that opposed evolution, the use of the book was challenged in court. Very few religious people realized that the book claimed that UFOs were angels of Satan coming to earth to begin the battle of Armageddon right before the “rapture.” It was only when Judge Overton said the book was fundamentally flawed that religious people started looking at what the book actually contained.

We all make mistakes and have misunderstandings. No one is infallible, and those of us who speak publicly have a huge responsibility to do our best to make sure we accurately present whatever we say. It is important for adults to check out what they read and to whom they listen. A scientist who is commenting on religion needs to be treated very skeptically, and a religious figure who is explaining science needs to be treated in the same way. We have freedom of speech in America (so far) and people can say almost anything. We cannot minimize the conflict between science and faith as long as we listen to extremists on both sides who have an agenda and explain things which they know very little about.

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Continuing the ideas in point two, we need to understand that teaching kids is incredibly hard. Our world is changing very quickly, and equipping kids so they can live without us in a rough and tumble world is a challenge. I have seen parents homeschooling children who were fundamentally ignorant about the things they were trying to teach the children. I also have seen parents using material that had major flaws in it, but the parent did not know enough about the subject to recognize those flaws.

classmates & globeIf the purpose of homeschooling is to keep the child away from the “nasties” (whatever those nasties might be), it is misdirected. Sooner or later the child is going to have to function in the real world. Running into the nasties while they are still at home and you are able to help them, is far better than keeping them away from the nasties until they leave home, and then have them trying to handle the nasties without help. You cannot put kids in a bottle until age 25 and then dump them out and have them ready to function in the world. If kids learn how to handle conflict and misinformation while they are at home, then when their faith is challenged after they leave home they will not be damaged by it.

If the purpose of homeschooling is to give the child a better education, to protect them from a physically threatening environment, or do something the public schools cannot do, that is another matter.  Homeschooling can be very successful, but it takes dedication and an informed parent to do it. It should not be done just to keep the child from a racial group, an economic group, or a teaching that might violate some of our beliefs.

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I had reasons for not wanting the world to have meaning, and consequently assumed it had none. I am concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why I should not do what I want to. For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, morally and politically.
— A. Huxley
Any individual is free to believe what he wants and to express it as he wishes. Dawkins repeatedly denies that there is such a thing as good or evil (See Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden [New York: BasicBooks, 1995], page 133), but to state this religious view in a science book is an error. Peter Albert David Singer, an Australian philosopher who is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, repeatedly states his opinion that humans with significant disabilities should be euthanized. To state that unfortunate view as a personal opinion is one thing, but to present it as a scientific truth is most unfortunate. It has become fashionable to attack religion outright in the media. Anyone is free to say what he wishes and the media can print whatever they choose to print, but to insert personal attacks on religion in scientific papers and journals simply serves to further polarize the population and generate strife.

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What do the two sides in this situation hope to accomplish? A number of atheists have voiced the opinion that religion must be destroyed. The claim is that religion causes war and that only by militarily destroying religion can what is called “the cancer of religion” be eradicated. The lesson of history is that when atheists or political forces try to destroy faith they do not succeed. In the past, religion has fighting menbeen driven underground but it was not destroyed. Russia, China, and Albania are modern examples of how attempts to destroy religion have failed.man to shake hands

By the same token, the beneficial things that come to mankind from science cannot be debated. Medicine and electronic advances continue to bless all of us. The notion that we can legislate atheism out of existence, along with science we disagree with, is not going to work.

The solution to this whole conflict is education. When fair-minded people sit down and look at the evidence, the issues, and the impact of the conflict, they can minimize the differences and find peace. No one has to compromise his fundamental beliefs, but we all need to learn and understand — and perhaps learn where we have to agree to disagree. Remember, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9, NIV). (See page 14.)

We need to be known for attempts to bring peace and understanding, not conflict and dissension. We need to follow the Apostle Paul’s example and resolve to know nothing “except Christ Jesus and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing” (1 Corinthians 2:2 – 6).
--John N. Clayton

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