On science and faith

I am a fan of science and of scientists. I enjoy learning about science, and I enjoy the things that are accomplished in the world because of science. I admire scientists—especially those scientists who are humble enough to admit that science cannot answer every question or tell us everything we need to know about ourselves and the world around us.

Science can measure the measurable, but science cannot describe the things that are not measurable. No one can bring God into the laboratory for dissection or capture the human spirit in a test tube. Science cannot disprove the existence of a spiritual world, no matter how many people claim that science has done exactly that.

Science can measure the world as it is today. With those measurements, science can project forward or backward to describe the world as it will be in the future or describe the world as it was in the past. The caveat to these predictions and these theories about the past is contained in the words “all things remaining equal.” Science treats what it studies as a closed system; if a power outside the system interacts with the system, scientific projections of the past or the future are likely to be wrong.

I can take a radar gun to the highway and measure the speed of the cars and trucks traveling down the road. Knowing how fast a car is going at this moment does not tell me where that car was an hour ago or where that car will be an hour from now. A scientific projection based on the car’s current location, direction, and speed is more likely to be wrong than to be right, because the car is being operated by a driver.

The light from a galaxy a million light years away reaches the earth tonight. Does that prove that the universe is more than a million years old, or could the God who created that galaxy also create the rays of light that stream from there to here? Radioactive decay of certain atoms gives clear readings about the time that has passed since a living creature died. Can we be sure that radiation in the environment has been consistent through the past, or is it possible that environmental radiation was less in the past, causing living creatures to ingest less radioactive material than has been assumed? It takes a hundred thousand years for a coral reef to reach its current size, based on the measurable growth of coral. Could a different environment in the past have caused reefs to grow faster in earlier times?

My family once had a guided tour of a cave in Missouri. The tour guide told us more than once how long it takes stalactites and stalagmites and columns to form in a cave. The tour route had metal rails to keep tourists on the path. Those rails had stalactites. Another person in the group asked when the rails had been installed. I forget the answer, but by the statistics used by the tour guide, the stalactites on the rails should have been much smaller. “Those statistics are just an average,” the tour guide explained. “There are actually quite a few variables.” There are always quite a few variables.

History is both a social science and a liberal art. Archeology is a branch of history that is particularly scientific. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, archeologists said that they had found much evidence verifying historic accounts in the Bible. Now, many people claim that archeology has disproved much of the history reported in the Bible. It seems as if even the science of archeology depends upon the bias of the researcher for its results. Dating events by looking at the remains of cities and other structures is a challenge, although accepted results are becoming increasingly precise. At the same time, the history of Egypt and southwestern Asia is still dominated by records Greek historians developed about the Egyptian pharaohs and dynasties. These records were found in Egyptian temples by the Greeks, but they are no longer available. Some archeological evidence indicates that the Greek records are flawed. For example, the Greeks treated two late dynasties as successive, but those two dynasties are now known to have co-existed in Upper and Lower Egypt. This information casts doubt upon many of the dates that have been considered reliable in the study of ancient history in that part of the world.

Many religious groups have tried to compromise the Bible and science by adopting a version of the Big Bang theory in which God says “Let there be light” to begin the universe billions of years ago. At the same time, Stephen Hawking has proposed a process that omits the Big Bang from history, saying that universes can come into being instantly as a singularity. Hawking is not a Christian, and he would not approve of the way I use his theory, but I find it conceivable that the universe came into being six to ten thousand years ago as a singularity. God created Adam and Eve as adults (complete with useless navels), not as infants born of non-human creatures. God placed them in a garden with mature plants, not just seeds and soil. No doubt the trees had rings, even though they had not existed six days earlier. God did not create a mature world to trick future scientists; he created a mature world to be home to humanity from the beginning.

Of course I could be wrong. The universe might be twenty billion years old and the Earth 4.5 billion years old. Adam and Eve and the garden might be a parable to teach about goodness and evil. Arguments about science and history distract people from talking about the things that really matter. Sin and evil exist. Sinners cannot rescue themselves from evil. Sinners require a Savior. Jesus Christ entered this world to be the needed Savior. He died and rose again to defeat evil and to claim his people. When we focus on these basic truths, it does not matter what we believe about the age of the universe. J.

 

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8 thoughts on “On science and faith

  1. Whether the Theory of Evolution is correct or Creationism is correct I don’ claim to know. I just say whichever is correct if either is correct the Bible is true. Somehow the correct theory conforms with the words in the Bible.

    What the Bible describes is the degeneration of life, the effect of the curse. Oddly, after Cain killed Able, Cain worried about being killed. Apparently, they were enough people out there he did not exactly feel like he was the first son of the first man.

    Then there is this odd passage no one seems to know how to explain.

    Genesis 6:1-4 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

    6 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3 And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

    Some think the sons of God were fallen angels, but no one seems to know. I wonder if only Adam and Eve were instilled with souls, souls in the image of God. Were the sons of God forbidden to mate with the soulless? Were the children of their union nonetheless children with souls? It speculative, and I have no idea how close to the truth. The point is that the early part of Genesis focuses on a spiritual message, not side details that leave us so puzzled.

    The story is clear enough. God created us. We sinned. God promised a savior. Jesus died for our sins, and He showed us how to love God and each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the classroom, I point out that there are more than two theories about origins. Americans have a tendency to boil issues down to two possibilities and force a choice between them. Many possibilities allow God’s Word to be true and scientific evidence also to point to the truth. Regarding Genesis 6:1-4, I favor the interpretation that the sons of God are believers and the daughters of man are unbelievers. This fits the context in which Moses wrote for the Israelites–they also would be tempted to intermarry with unbelievers (and many of them failed to resist that temptation). As for Cain’s fear of being killed, Adam and Eve lived hundreds of years and probably had a large number of sons and daughters. By the time Cain murdered Abel, he may have had quite a few brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces. As you note, these are side issues and, while they are interesting to discuss, we should be careful not to let them distract us from Christ and his mission to rescue the world from evil and death. J.

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  2. Arguments about science ….detract from things that matter. People need a Savior and Jesus stepped in to perform that function. Praise God! That’s what matters. You have written a great blog. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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