If You Believe…

Today, it appears that the schism between science and religion is greater than it’s ever been.  But why should this be so? Historically, a great many of the Founding Fathers were religious, yet believed that science and the pursuit of facts were not only in accord with a belief in a higher power, but were necessary elements of that belief.

Let’s start with the basics.  There either is a higher power – call that power God for lack of a better term – or there is not.  If God exists and created the universe, then that universe was created with a set of rules, because without consistent principles, all of the ordered matter we observe and measure, including us, would not exist. Since we and the universe do exist, there is an organizational pattern behind that creation. One of the goals of science is to discover that pattern, and at times, to replicate it.

As a matter of fact, that scientific search for the nature of God was the underlying theme of Robert Sawyer’s 2000 novel, Calculating God, in which scientifically advanced aliens visit Earth and attempt to enlist Earth scientists in their efforts to search out and verify the existence of God.  For true believers in a deity, wouldn’t this make sense?

Yet, in today’s United States, when scientific discovery goes against theology, the reaction from most religious bodies seems to reject the science rather than the theology.  Why?  Wouldn’t affirming a better understanding of God’s universe bring true believers closer to understanding and affirming their deity?  And wouldn’t denying what has been proven be in effect a denial of that deity?

If there is no God, isn’t believing in tenets put forth on behalf of that deity misguided at best, dishonest and hypocritical at worst, especially when those tenets go against physical evidence?  If there is “only” a “clockwork God,” as postulated by some, a higher power that created the universe and left it to its and our own devices, effectively the same issues still apply. In all three cases – God exists and remains involved in human affairs; God is only a clockwork God; and there is no God – insisting on a religious doctrine about the world and the universe which conflicts with what science has discovered and proved is unethical, and if God does indeed exist, denying science and what it has discovered is in fact denying God.

Any scientist worth the title will admit that there are things science cannot explain, or cannot fully explain, but there are many things which science has determined that are in conflict with some religious doctrines or the beliefs of some true believers.  Evolution does exist; the world and the universe are far older than 4400 B.C.;  human-caused global warming does exist; all the human population of the world except those on the ark was not destroyed by a global flood [although scientific inquiries do suggest that the Black Sea – not all that far from Mount Ararat – was created by a massive flood when the Mediterranean Sea broke through what is now the Hellespont].

Now… those of you who are believers and who deny any science that conflicts with those beliefs… just pray to your God… and explain to Him why you deny the way in which He has built the universe. Just tell Him that you reject those who are trying to understand the universe better – the scientists.  Go ahead… it shouldn’t be that hard.  You’ve been telling the rest of us that for years… Go on…tell God you deny the principles of His universe.


8 thoughts on “If You Believe…”

  1. G.Thomas says:

    Part of the problem is that science cannot confirm what the practitioners of a religion “believe”, for instance the existence of a soul, or that there is an afterlife or ultimately that there is a god(or gods and goddesses for that matter.) And why should it? But it isn’t just that science can not define or confirm these things but that, much like a true atheist, science does not even seek to confirm these things exist or even that they don’t. I think that is the underlying problem some religionists have with science and that is it’s ambivalence toward religious matters. Few fervent religionists are ambivalent about anything and we all know that logic and human behaviour have little in common.

  2. Daze says:

    Well, people have had a really good go at trying to determine whether prayer has any impact on the outcome of the workings of the universe. { Ambrose Bierce – “PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.” }

    Guess what the outcome was?

  3. Bob says:

    Its interesting, though – science relies heavily on inductive reasoning, the conclusions of which can never be completely “proven”. In its most essential form, science boils down to being able to make/obtain repeatable observations/results and then share or communicate them with others. The “communication” or “sharing” is something also beyond the ability of science to completely establish, if one investigates logically and thoroughly. Science, therefor, is also founded on certain unverifiable beliefs…

    After careful examination of what we mean by “knowing” or “certainty” – for example, what we find in Wittgenstein – its hard to avoid the conclusion that when we say we “know” it means anything more than a probablity based on inductive reasoning accompanied by a “feeling” of certainty. “Feelings” are never completely reliable.

    So, I would claim, all science has to show is some interesting practical applications that seem to benefit us in the short run. I wouldn’t make a religion of it!

    1. Joe says:

      Karl Popper clarified the nature of the scientific method: a “law” must be falsifiable, yet every attempt to falsify it must fail. This is not induction, and it is more stringent than “repeatable observations” since even a broken clock is repeatably right twice a day.

      While it is true that Science does assume certain axioms (logic, arithmetic, probability), the proof is in the pudding: it produces concrete results, such that each of us lives better than the kings and emperors of yesteryear. Simply look at the history of world population numbers. Therefore it is disingenuous to argue religion and science are equivalent simply because they both make assumptions: every single human activity also makes assumptions.

      I find it remarkable that you believe Science is a fad, whereas the Dalai Lama once said that if Buddhism and Science were to conflict, then Buddhism would have to change. I.e. religion does not need to discard rationality. To quote a Christian friend: “God gave you a brain, use it.”

  4. Steve says:

    As an earnest but flexible believer I have never had a conflict between God and science. My God uses natural principles as a creator and caretaker of earth and man. As our understanding of science evolves, my understanding of God also evolves.

    1. CAenergy says:

      I agree. Science, in my experience, only confirms and enhances my personal God knowledge. In fact, most of the time I have the spiritual experience first, then have to go to science to figure out the technical aspect later.

  5. CRM says:

    I feel that religion (including all our morality and ethics under one label) differs from science in a simple and fundamental way that’s often overlooked. Science is about description and prediction. Religion is about making choices, and evaluating how those choices affect ourselves and those around us. Science is completely amoral–the universe just is.

    Many people use science to support an atheistic, mechanistic worldview, and then derive their personal moral codes with that as a starting point. This is threatening to some religious people (personally, I don’t understand this). Alternatively, some people feel threatened by morality derived from tradtional religious teachings.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that science and religion are not in conflict–it’s two different moral codes, one of which is more informed by science. However, being a religious person does not preclude being a scientist. I’m both, as are many of my relatives. So my choices and goals (personal, political, social, whatever) are based on my religious beliefs, and are often different from those who don’t share those beliefs.

    When established science does conflict with religious teachings, it often can be resolved by not insisting on literal interpretation of ancient scripture such as the Bible, but by looking at its context and by looking for symbolic or metaphorical statements.

    And both sides frequently need to say “I don’t know”.

  6. Brian says:

    Organized religion interfered with my communion with God. Now the God of my Heart and Science reside in perfect harmony with one another. It is no cause for concern that neither has of yet provided me with the answers to all of my questions concerning the universe and my place in it. Searching for those answers and asking new questions simply makes life that much more interesting. I have the God of my Heart and Science to help me in this. It is the quest that matters most since I know I will not find all the answers I’m looking for in this lifetime. After all, I’m only human.

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