There is a common thought in modern western culture these days that is so pervasive as to be accepted as fact in many circles: religion is superstition, myth, or something contrived to aid simple-minded people in trying to understand the world around them. And what is the modern counterpart most commonly pointed to as the knight in shining armor that ushered in the golden age of enlightenment and which showed intelligent people that there is a better way to understand the world? Science. For example, Dr. Jerry Coyne, atheist professor, author, and evolutionary biologist, said:
Science and faith are fundamentally incompatible, and for precisely the same reason that irrationality and rationality are incompatible. They are different forms of inquiry, with only one, science, equipped to find real truth. And while they may have a dialogue, it’s not a constructive one. Science helps religion only by disproving its claims, while religion has nothing to add to science.Dr. Jerry Coyne
The trouble with assertions like this in modern culture is that they become accepted–without being challenged or even examined particularly carefully–into the vernacular as established fact. If you do challenge it in intellectual conversation, you are generally scoffed at because of your irrationality. The irony is lost on those people, though, that a failure to examine such assertions is itself irrational. I would be interested to know how much Dr. Coyne really studied the form of inquiry associated with religion. Did he do so with an open mind, willing to reshape his mindset if the facts supported a point of view different from his preconceived notion? I can guess the answer.
Here I should reiterate something I’ve stated previously. I am emphatically not saying that I have a problem with science or scientists. I am not here to prove that only religion is the source of truth or that science is the devil’s playbook. What I am here to do is to challenge the assertion that you cannot believe that both science and religion point to important truths in our lives.
First off, there have been throughout history, and there continues to be today, very intelligent scientists who have also been Christ-followers, from Blaise Pascal (brilliant 17th-century mathematician and philosopher) to Dr. Francis Collins (brilliant modern-day physician and geneticist who led the Human Genome Project and was head of the National Institute of Health). However, to be fair, and lest we fall into the same logical trap of Dr. Coyne and others who accept unchallenged assertions as fact, it’s also important to note that exceptions to an assertion do not prove it to be incorrect. In other words, no matter how many intelligent scientists I can point to who are also followers of Christ, that does not disprove Dr. Coyne’s assertion that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible.
Instead, we need to turn to science and religion themselves. I believe that there are at least 4 different scientific disciplines that are not only compatible with Christianity, but even go so far as to support and substantiate claims of the faith. Let’s take a look at those in the following sections.
As I mentioned in a previous post in this series, “Beyond Belief – How Can You Possibly Believe the Bible Is True?“, archeologist Sir William Ramsay actually set out to disprove the Bible, but ended up converting to Christianity after finding extensive archeological evidence supporting claims in the Bible. Also, in his 1959 book Rivers in the Desert, a History of the Negev, noted Jewish archeologist Nelson Glueck said:
It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, a History of the Negev
Since I have already covered this elsewhere, in the interest of time, let’s move on to the next one.
Cosmology is the science of the study of the origins of the universe. Referring to what has become a widely accepted belief by most scientists, that the universe had a single beginning at a point in time, Dr. Alexander Vilenkin, Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University, stated:
With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. They have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.Dr. Alexander Vilenkin
Why is this a problem? Well, it’s only a problem if you’re an atheist. If it’s true that the universe had a beginning–and science seems to be nearly unanimous in acceptance of this assertion–then there must have been something that started it. This logical argument has come to be known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which states:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause behind it.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Journalist and author Lee Strobel gave a talk describing this very well. What kind of force, he asks, can bring a universe into existence out of nothing?
- It must itself be uncaused, because you can’t have an infinite regress of causes
- It must be immaterial–or spirit–because it existed before the material world existed
- It must be eternal because it created time
- It must be smart and powerful because of the precision and power of the creation event
- It must be personal and have a personal will, because it needed to make the decision to create
This is a pretty good start at describing God. Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Dr. Arno Penzias put it this way:
If I had no other data than the early chapters of Genesis, some of the Psalms, and other passages of Scripture, I would have arrived at essentially the same picture of the origin of the universe, as is indicated by the scientific data.Dr. Arno Penzias
Moving on, then, to the next scientific discipline.
As Lee Strobel states:
The laws and constants of physics conspire in an absolutely unexpected and extraordinary way to create a world where life is possible.Lee Strobel
There are about 50 different physical cosmological constants that govern our universe and our world–gravity, for example. Each one of those constants had to be fine-tuned to a very specific value in order for life to exist. If gravity were just a little bit weaker, everything trying to inhabit this planet would have just floated away; if it were a little bit stronger, it would have squashed everything that tried to come into existence. So with 50 different variables at work, there are trillions of different combinations of all of those values–but only one set of them would allow for this planet to exist, and for life to thrive on it. The precision required for this world and this universe to exist the way it does is beyond the realm of possibility that it could all have happened by chance.
As stated by Dr. Vera Kistiakowsky, former professor of physics at MIT and former president of the Association of Women in Science:
Let’s turn to the final scientific discipline to take a look at its cogency with a belief in God.
Biology / Genetics
Earlier I mentioned Dr. Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project. He wrote a book called The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. And that’s exactly what DNA is–it is an intentional code, a language, that uniquely defines each of the 7+ billion people who inhabit this planet. To think that the way the 4 characters representing the chemical alphabet that make up our genes are combined in a unique way for every single person could have happened randomly is too far-fetched. Each of the 100 trillion cells in our bodies contains exactly the same sequence of those characters.
Dr. Stephen C. Meyer put it more concisely and accurately in his book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. A former geophysicist and college professor and current Director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, he put it this way in the book:
With odds standing at 1 chance in 10164 of finding a functional protein among the possible 150-amino-acid compounds, the probability is 84 orders of magnitude (or powers of ten) smaller than the probability of finding the marked particle in the whole universe. Another way to say that is the probability of finding a functional protein by chance alone is a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion times smaller than the odds of finding a single specified particle among all the particles in the universe.Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design
Now that’s a lot of trillions!
In conclusion, far from being incompatible with faith, we have seen several different scientific disciplines that seem to point to our Creator. Any honest, intellectually curious person willing to examine the evidence with an open mind and the scientific method should reach the same conclusion. Dr. James Tour, a leading molecular scientist from Rice University, said:
I stand in awe of God because of what he has done through his creation. Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science it will bring you closer to God.Dr. James Tour
I’ll close with one more little story. Dr. Antony Flew was a professor at several universities, including Oxford, and a lifelong atheist. However, in 2004, he shocked the world when he reversed the beliefs he had held for more than 50 years. In 2007, he published a book called There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. In this book, he said:
I now believe there is a God…I now think it [the evidence] does point to a creative Intelligence almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together.Dr. Antony Flew, There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, borrowed from Goodreads.com
After reading this article, I hope you will understand why I and so many people like me believe there is a cogency between faith and science. It seems to be the only logical conclusion.
Let me close with two more quotes from Dr. Francis Collins: