ROUNDTABLE: Science and religion are not in conflict

Q: From your perspective as a faith leader, can faith and science co-exist in religious rhetoric?


First, let’s make one thing clear. The mainstream media loves conflict. Man vs. woman. Man vs. dog. Republicans vs. Democrats. Christians vs. atheists. When I was in journalism school at The University of Texas, we were taught that a dog biting a man isn’t a story. But when a man bites a dog, that’s a story. We were also taught the journalists’ creed – “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Religion vs. science is one of those sure-fire media stories guaranteed to sell a few newspapers or get the attention of the TV viewer. The debate usually involves a few extremists who strive to shout louder than everyone else does. Many mainstream media editors, news directors, and reporters are not religious and, in fact, are hostile to religion. So, they like to play up this seeming conflict. But is it really a conflict? My answer is “no.”

The myth is that science and faith are incompatible and contradictory and you must choose to believe one or the other. In 1954, Albert Einstein wrote an essay in which he stated “science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” Later, another scientist tried to improve on Einstein’s statement by writing “religion without science is superstition. Science without religion is materialism.”

In fact, many scientists are religious, and many religious leaders are scientists. There is nothing in science that disproves any Christian doctrine. Plus, many famous scientists from the past and present are Christians.

Copernicus (astronomy), Galileo (mathematics and physics), Kepler (planetary motion), Sir Isaac Newton (gravity), Faraday (electromagnetic induction), Boyle, Pasteur, Mendel, Lord Kelvin. All these scientists were religious and believers in God. One reason was they all worked with basic laws of nature – physics, astronomy, medicine. And they all knew that our world is uniform with underlying laws of nature that always work the same. In other words, ours in not a capricious and irregular universe. This stability leads to principles and laws of nature that are ordered and consistent. Thus, each of these founders of modern science understood there to be an intelligent Creator behind the universe. Each believed that Creator is God.

Scientists now – for the most part – accept the Big Bang theory of creation. But many have been stunned to discover it was not a chaotic event. It was ordered and followed an intelligent pattern. Thus, according to Dr. William Lane Craig, “it points in a very compelling way toward the existence of an Intelligent Designer.”

As a minister, I’ve spent a lot of time in hospital pre-op rooms with anxious patients and patient doctors. When I offer to pray with the patient and family members, seldom does a doctor or nurse decline to join us in prayer. What I’ve learned from my doctor friends is that it’s difficult to be a physician and not believe there is a God. Next time you’re in a doctor’s office, look at a chart of the cardiovascular system or the brain or the eye. You can’t help but be stunned by the intricacies and complexity of the body’s organs and systems.

It’s impossible to look at the intricacies of the eye and believe that all that complexity developed out of a single-cell protozoa that somehow crawled out of a primordial mud pit. It takes a lot more faith to be an atheist that it takes to be a believer in a God as Creator. Let me say that another way: atheists make fun of religious people saying their faith is based on blind superstition. I think it takes a lot more blind superstition to be an atheist.

It’s because of today’s scientific knowledge of astronomy, physics, and anatomy that so many scientists are religious. I believe those who continue to deny intelligent design and push the line that science and religion are incompatible puts those persons in the same category as those long-ago flat-earthers. Instead of being pro-science, they come across as anti-science because they are denying what science has proved. You have to work hard to be an atheist.

So don’t get caught up in the pseudo-argument of science and religion being incompatible. They are not. In fact, I’ve concluded that science and religion are two aspects of the same truth. We need science and we need religion. Our civilization owes a great deal to both. But, more than that, our world needs Jesus Christ. He is God and He is Truth. Everything else is details.