Friday, April 17, 2009

Science vs. Religion?

It seems that quite a few people have subscribed to the conflict thesis of religion and science. The conflict thesis indicates that the two cannot co-exist. If one gains ground then this must somehow take away from the other.

This view frustrates me. Sure, religion and science differ somewhat in their approaches and differ substantially in their evidences, but can’t there be good taken from both? Why not let them mold together? Reconcile the good on both sides and paint a beautifully detailed and dynamic picture of the world. I can attest that the congruity of science and religion can be very satisfying.

Any good scientist will readily admit that there are limits to our observational ability. Consequently, our understanding is incomplete. It seems presumptuous to say religion must not be true, or that it must prove itself. On the other side, it is incredibly naïve for Christians to blindly refuse scientific data to help explain such things as the origin of life.

Science cannot be cornered, restricted to the boundaries of religious allowance.

It is unscientific to expect things in nature based on religious predispositions. This results in contrived results and retards objectivity. On the other hand, erroneous theories are not unique to the religious. Plenty of inaccurate observations have been made absent of any biblical influence.

Fortunately, a God-loving scientist is still far from an anomaly. In fact many Christians embrace scientific truths (and vice-versa), experiencing the same sense of discovery and cognitive liberation from revelations based on empirical data as they do from revelations on spiritual things.

"Although popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavor, while at other times the two have co-existed without either tension or attempts at harmonization. If Galileo and the Scopes trial come to mind as examples of conflict, they were the exceptions rather than the rule."
-Gary Ferngren, Science & Religion, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002


Elliott said...

This is a great post. I can too attest that it is very satisfying to see the "congruity" between science and religion. I also echo your insistence on not cornering science by religion--I cringe when people bend truth and fudge data to fit their philosophical and religious paradigm (sadly, FARMS fell into this trap). But good religion, as our church leaders in the past have said, encompasses good science. As mormons, we have nothing to fear from science--although it may cause us to change some views. God and his gospel is constant, but certainly not the nitty gritty details on how things work. The scriptures, and even the endowment ceremony, were NEVER meant to be an extended treatise and technical manual on how things were done.

I could say a million things about this subject. Science does utilize different methods and asks different questions. But it can be a vibrant part of our faith. It can challenge previously held notions of how God put things together or past historical events (ie the Creation, the Flood, etc.), but it prevents us from being blindly dogmatic and arrogant in our faith. It seems to me a very arrogant and presumptuous thing to definitely say that God did not use evolution through natural selection and genetic drift over the course of millions of years. Why not? Otherwise, he left a lot of puzzling clues meant to trick and deceive us. And besides, evolution is a wonderous framework--out of simple structures arose astounding complexity and magnificence--which evokes in me a sense of reverence and awe.

One of my all time favorite blogs is by my former biology and philosophy professor, which he entitled The Mormon Organon. A faithful LDS member and passionate scientist, he often addresses this false thesis of conflict (and has some great posts about evolution, creation, and teleology).

This is something I've been meaning to write about on my blog, and I plan to soon. Thanks for the inspiration.

Aaron said...

Thanks for your thoughts. I look forward to reading your post on this subject.