Op-Ed Piece: Why Science & Religion DO Mix
Jul 21, 2014 01:41PM, Published by A Kitchen Drawer Writer , Categories: In Print
By Laurie Cochrane
There are certain debates that seem to rage on for centuries—even millennia—without drawing any closer to reconciliation. One of the foremost of these may be the historical rift between the realms of religion and science, and this false dichotomy has done a great disservice to both disciplines. Good science and sound religion naturally complement one another in mankind’s search for truth and meaning.
Both sides share blame for this often hostile climate. Some scientists harbor contempt for a belief in God, which they see as an unintelligent, naïve credulity that leaves us waiting helplessly, and in ignorance, for whatever God has in store. On the other hand, the Church has persecuted, even executed, many who practiced good science because what they asserted conflicted with the accepted doctrine of the time.
Religion and science have both suffered by doggedly adhering to unreasonable, extremist views. For example, religion has injured its own credibility by teaching human tradition and ancient tribal beliefs as doctrine—and even as scientific truth. Also, the obvious contradictions of some beliefs with reliable scientific findings have led some to dismiss religion as unworthy of serious, intelligent consideration. Case in point, the belief in a creative period of six literal 24-hour days is a supposition that is neither required by Scripture nor scientific. For instance, science and Scripture are easily reconciled by a broader view of a creative “day” as borne out by the use of the Hebrew word yohm, frequently used for time in general or, according to Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, for “a particular season or time when any extraordinary event happens.”
Science has likewise been guilty of pawning off improvable theory as fact. One such example is the theory that life originated entirely by chance—a ludicrous proposition, especially from a scientific perspective. To illustrate, any event that has one chance in just 1050 is dismissed by mathematicians as never happening. However, Sir Frederick Hoyle calculated the spontaneous appearance of amino acids necessary for one cell to exist as 1040,000. And this is just one of countless scientific impossibilities that spontaneous, varied, sustained life on this planet would require. At best, this set of scientific beliefs requires at least as much faith as any spiritual belief system.
In this perpetual debate, science is both strengthened and limited by its need for rational analysis, while religion is both strengthened and limited by its intangibility. Science is valuable when trying to establish how something occurs. Religion addresses why it occurs. When scientists begin to see their job as negating the vital “why” of our existence and theologians begin to see their job as denouncing sound scientific evidence because it conflicts with their interpretation of Scripture, that’s when people start to embarrass themselves. And that’s when observers grow weary of the whole business and stop looking for answers. Science and religion are striving to answer different questions. Science can help us understand what is observable and quantifiable. Religion aids us with the unobservable and immeasurable.
In seeking truth, it is important to recognize that it is impossible to know everything that can be known—either about the physical universe or the spiritual realm. A measure of humility is necessary to avoid going off balance. Not all science is good science, nor all religion sound, just because it emphatically claims to be. A person searching for truth must be discerning, accepting the strengths and limitations of what the entire body of available evidence bears out.
It is not necessary to accept either creationism or atheistic science. Informed faith is not blind belief. Good science involves the acknowledgement of the brilliant design evident in the harmony and complexity of the physical universe. It also recognizes the accountability that this implies. Sound religion welcomes the contribution of science in deepening our appreciation and understanding of the marvelous gifts we’ve been given and the unmistakable love that is behind them. As Albert Einstein wisely observed, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”