The Big bang, evolution, quarks, the theory of everything – to most people a lot of science sounds totally intimidating. However, non-Christians frequently ask questions about science when they are considering whether Christianity holds up to scrutiny. Are Christianity and the findings of modern science compatible? Has science made belief in God redundant? Let's take a quick look at some of these questions. The first thing I want to say is:
Scientific knowledge has changed remarkably over the last 100 years as we have learnt startling new things about atoms, our own genes, our planet and the Universe we live in. But this extra knowledge has also dramatically changed our lives. Science has brought huge improvements to our standard of living, through advances in the medical, technological and agricultural spheres to name just three. But we also need to be clear that science isn't the only way to look at the world…
Through these great advances, science has given humans the most incredible power over our planet. It has enabled us to develop fuels and pesticides with which we have polluted the Earth. We now control weapons that could wipe out whole nations. But…
Whilst making incredible advances in the world of genetics, much is now possible, but how are we to decide what is right? If we can do it, should we? Cloning is a perfect example – we now have the technology to clone humans, in fact there are claims that it has already been done. Many scientists believe this is going too far, but they have no objective basis for this judgement. Good and bad, right and wrong – science can't help with these questions. We can't decide how to live on the basis of scientific knowledge.
While science is very good at answering questions about how things work it is not very good at answering questions about why things are the way they are. But just because science can't deal with a question this doesn't mean the question doesn't matter. Think about “love” could we do a scientific study into love? Would you contemplate carrying out experiments to determine whether someone loves you before you married them?
Because Science is so universally trusted and respected, people have used this trust to peddle their own beliefs under the guise of Science. Science has to some extent become a philosophy, even a new religion. As we have learnt more about the formation of the Universe, the Earth and beginning of life, it has been assumed that in comparison with these “facts”, the stories and beliefs of the world religions can be done away with. This misses the point that many of the creation stories from different religions may not have been written to tell us about science but about God or gods. However, the net effect is that as the so-called “Creation myths” are replaced so are the gods they teach of.
The “faith” of religions is contrasted with the hard “facts” of science. It is claimed that those of us who still believe in God are just old-fashioned, unscientific and naive.
If only we would stick to the facts we would see that there is no God, no meaning to life, no purpose other than to pass on our selfish genes! We are only here through random chance and the choices we make in life are largely immaterial as our genes predetermine our actions. This world-view is known as scientific materialism. But this is not hard fact, this is a philosophy built up as science. Science has NOT conclusively disproved God, no experiment has set out to find the meaning of life, no evidence proves that genes determine our every action. Of course, none of us lives out this worldview 100% as it takes away our freewill and responsibility for our actions, making a mockery of justice and the punishment of criminals. It also damages real science, as one writer puts it: “When proponents of scientific thinking move to become prophets of life and meaning, science is weakened for it cannot sustain such a role.”
Instead of remaining objective as scientists should, many popular science writers have let their own worldviews determine the conclusions they reach. Richard Dawkins the famous geneticist is a perfect example, when he writes, “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that).” you might assume that as an eminent scientist he has drawn this conclusion from a careful and unbiased study of all the available evidence. But when he says: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist,” it should raise certain questions. Is it that when he looks at the evidence he is forced to accept evolution as fact, or does evolution satisfy some of the issues he faces due to his prior commitment to there being no God? Surely there is the possibility that he believes in evolution regardless of whether the evidence favours it or not. We mustn't believe the lie that science has the monopoly on hard facts and Christianity is just about wishful thinking. Evolution is a particularly sticky area. When people ask “hasn't science disproved Christianity” what they often mean is “doesn't evolution prove that we are just a random collection of molecules that have somehow over millions of years become life”. Let me say just two things: On the one hand evolution is nowhere nearly as substantiated as many scientists would like us to think. There are many holes in the theory and many of the standard pieces of evidence of evolution (or icons) that have been used to convince the public of the fact of evolution and which appear in textbooks to this day are known to be inaccurate or misleading. Having said that, many Christians find some satisfaction in seeing God's creative hand at work through a continuous process like evolution. Obviously, if we are Christians we would have to take away phrases like “blind chance” from our definitions of evolution and we have to understand something fundamentally different about the creation of humans. The Bible is clear that we are the pinnacle of Creation. But, Christians can accept evolutionary theory without rejecting God's revelation in the Bible.
So let me conclude by saying that while science is fantastic, it isn't everything. We need to be wary of beliefs masquerading as scientific fact. But if God made this world as Christians believe, doing science or just reading about science, should help us become more amazed at the fantastic creator God who has created a Universe so huge, a planet so perfect for us to live on and bodies that are more intricate than we can imagine. If science is the study of the world God created, and the Bible is God's word to us then there should be no conflict between the two. Science carried out properly will never ultimately disagree with Scripture understood correctly. When there is an apparent conflict it will be a problem with our understanding of scripture or our understanding of the world revealed through science.