I Love-Hate the Science-Faith Debate

What can I say... I love both!
What can I say… I love both!

I’m not a scientist, even though I’ve studied science, and my undergrad degree is a Bachelor of Science. I’m a Bible interpreter, a theologian and a Christian. I love science, but I hate seeing it abused, bought and perverted. Likewise, I love my faith, but I hate seeing Scripture abused and poorly educated Christians shrinking from the facts of their faith. Put these two sides in a debate, and I will undoubtedly love-hate it. God created both science and faith, and put both on this earth to benefit us all, not to debate which one is wrong.

Love-hate, because both science and faith need elevating, and I am glad we have so many passionate people engaging these topics. Love-hate, because Americans are very divided on this debate; although neither side completely knows what they are talking about.

1111 religion-vs-science-1Both sides insist they are always right. Science fans insist their craft is unimpeachable, and Christians too often default to blind faith when their faith is questioned. From what I have found, science fans could use a little more humility, and Christians could stand to have a little more education and backbone.

Would like fries with your data?
Would like fries with your data?

Scientists beat their chests denying that anything other than cold-hard data matters. Actually, science’s cold-hard data is just a pawn in a game of power plays, and it has long been for sale to the highest bidder. Look at some glaring examples:


We’ll start with an excerpt from the NY Times about the corruption of the peer-reviewed publishing process that sets the basis for many financial grants; the infamous 1996 Sokal Affair (1):

Would a leading academic journal publish a nonsensical article that served its political and intellectual preconceptions? Would its editors not even realize the extent of their own ignorance? Yes and yes, Alan Sokal, a physicist at New York University, concluded when the postmodern journal called Social Text published his arcane, jargon laden riff titled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,”

Alan Sokal proved that human ego was greater than science fact, making front page news on the NY Times and many other papers. Science and academia have been twisting themselves in knots for years over that one.

Dr. Barry Marshall
Dr. Barry Marshall

Let’s also look at the excruciating battle Australia’s Dr. Barry Marshall, Nobel laureate, endured to get his discovery that the H Pylori bacteria was the cause of many ulcers. He describes the fight he had with The Lancet, a British medical journal, that refused to publish his findings (2):

They all wrote back saying how difficult times were and they didn’t have any research money. But they were making a billion dollars a year for the antacid drug Zantac and another billion for Tagamet. You could make a patient feel better by removing the acid. Treated, most patients didn’t die from their ulcer and didn’t need surgery, so it was worth $100 a month per patient, a hell of a lot of money in those days. In America in the 1980s, 2 to 4 percent of the population had Tagamet tablets in their pocket. There was no incentive to find a cure.

This goes on so regularly it is sickening. Please see my post, “Life Dripping Away: Making Billions from Suffering Addicts”. Big Pharma is notorious for manipulating science to profiteer.

Sure, science is corrupt. Any well-studied Christian could tell you that. For context, we should share two pieces of Scripture that illustrate why science is corrupt.

Romans 3:23 (ESV)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

1111 asleep-in-churchUpon examination, um… Christians are corrupt too. We recycle corruption as though it were aluminum cans. We have two big errors that are made by an overwhelming number of Christians. Christians are notoriously weak on knowing their faith, and knowing how strongly its case is made. Let’s look at these two:

Pelagius - 5th Century
Pelagius – 5th Century

Pelagianism – Named for the 5th Century monk who hatched the idea, this heresy teaches that Adam didn’t impute original sin into humanity, people are basically good and morally perfect, and Christ is an example of sinlessness but his death didn’t atone for sin. A well taught Evangelical should be able to tell you the elements of Pelagianism are wrong, even if they can’t name Pelagius or his heresy.  They should, but wouldn’t be able to tell you. Surveys say Pelagianism is an overwhelmingly popular belief (3):

In a George Barna poll, more than seventy percent of “professing evangelical Christians” in America expressed the belief that man is basically good. And more than eighty percent articulated the view that God helps those who help themselves… We hear it every day in the secular culture. And not only do we hear it every day in the secular culture, we hear it every day on Christian television and on Christian radio.

1111 image-489_med-2Errancy – The “lost in translation” attack against the Bible. Christians regularly shy away from their Master Text, being convinced that it has to contain errors because it’s been around for two millennia. Society and science have advanced, and that quaint 2000-year old book is “just full of holes”. In truth, having been examined more than any other book in history, it has survived in amazingly good shape. The “holes” or variants sound intimidating – 200,000 in 10,000 places(4):

Scholars Westcott and Hort estimated that only about 1/8th of all variants had any weight, as most of them involve mechanical matters such as spelling or style. Of the whole, then, only about 1/16th rise above trivialities, or can in any sense be called substantial variations. Mathematically that would compute to a text that is 98.33 percent pure whether the critic adopts the Textus Receptus, Majority Nestle-Aland Text, or some eclectic test of the New Testament.

Copied by hand until Guttenburg 1440
Copied by hand until Guttenburg 1440

What a powerful testimony to the accuracy of a 2000-year-old book! No other book in history comes close to the quality and precision of the Good Book, copied by hand for 1400 years after the death of Christ by hand, before the printing press was invented. Still, many Christians today acquiesce to a belief that the Bible is errant and lost in translation.

One thing I believe science and faith can agree on, is that America as a society has under-explored and underachieved in the areas of cooperation. Wouldn’t it be more useful, instead of requiring one side to “triumph” of the other. God gave us both, science and faith. Sociologist Elaine Ecklund is quoted in New Republic (5):

But a new survey of more than 10,000 Americans (including scientists and evangelical Protestants) suggests that there may be more common ground between science and religion than is commonly believed. The “Religious Understandings Of Science” survey showed that only 27 percent of Americans feel that science and religion are in conflict. In addition, it showed that nearly half of scientists and evangelicals believe that “science and religion can work together and support one another,” Dr. Elaine Howard Ecklund, the Rice University sociologist who conducted the survey, said in a written statement.

1111 elaine ecklund faith-science-debate_394_266Dubious of the idea that you could have harmony between science and faith, you have science writers like Jerry Coyne of New Republic highlighting the disdain of many scientists for all things of faith. Coyne writes (5):

Surveying American scientists as a whole, regardless of status, a different Pew poll showed that only 33% admitted belief in God, with 41% of scientists being atheists or agnostics… Petitionary prayer or religious healing might have worked, just as paranormal phenomena like ESP or telekinesis might have been found in laboratory studies. But we haven’t seen these “miracles.” Science has therefore provisionally jettisoned divine intervention. Until we find evidence to the contrary, there’s every reason for science to ignore gods.

Coyne also highlights the differences in survey results between scientists and the general public:

Indeed, the latest Gallup poll shows that 46% of Americans think humans were created ex nihilo by God within the last 10,000 years. When it comes to our own species, nearly half of us are young-earth creationists… Doesn’t this show that, where the rubber meets the road—that is, where science and faith conflict—science loses out? That conclusion is supported by an 1996 Time Magazine poll showing that if a discovery of science were to conflict with one’s religious beliefs, 64% of Americans—nearly two-thirds—would reject the science…

Joel Osteen
Joel Osteen

There is power in winning the debate. Unchecked, power can make the practitioner of science or of faith corrupt. Unchecked, we have a pastor insisting God told their congregation should buy him a $65-million jet. Unchecked, we have a multi-millionaire pastor who refusing to preach anything about sin or evil.

Tom Steyer - Hedge fund billionaire
Tom Steyer – Hedge fund billionaire

Unchecked we have hedge-fund billionaires buying dubiously unproven climate science that has been sketchy for 40-years.

Unchecked you have trillion dollar oil companies buying scientists to diminish the truth about catastrophic damage from oil spills. I don’t trust our humanity in this whole debate. I believe the Bible when is says we’re all corrupt.

The biblical take-away from examining my love-hate of the science-faith debate, is that like it or not, we’re all in this world together. I reblogged an excellent article by blogger James Bishop entitled “Former atheists speak. 44 Quotes It is amazing how many famous scientists are Christian. Science and faith are working together. Biblically, when humanity has left God out of the equation, He has allowed us to go on and be alone. He lets us be good, or be wicked.

Romans 1:18-23 (NLT)
18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.
20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.
22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.
23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

Works Cited
 (5) Coyne, Jerry A. "Another Vapid Effort to Claim that Science and Religion Can Get Along." NewRepublic.com. 19 2014, 03. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117071/elaine-ecklund-says-science-religion-are-compatible-why-theyre-not (accessed 07 15 2015)

 (4) Hindson, Ed et al. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

 (1) Rothstein, Edward. "Ideas & Trends;When Wry Hits Your Pi From a Real Sneaky Guy." nytimes.com. 5 26, 1996. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/05/26/weekinreview/ideas-trends-when-wry-hits-your-pi-from-a-real-sneaky-guy.html (accessed 07 15, 2015).

 (3) Sproul, R. C. "The Pelagian Captivity of the Church." Modern Reformation - Vol. 10 No. 3 Page number(s): 22-23, 26-29. 05-06 2001. http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=383 (accessed 07 15, 2015).

 (2) Weintraub, Pamela. "The Dr. Who Drank Infectious Broth, Gave Himself an Ulcer, and Solved a Medical Mystery." discovermagazine.com. 04 08, 2010. http://discovermagazine.com/2010/mar/07-dr-drank-broth-gave-ulcer-solved-medical-mystery (accessed 07 2015, 2015).
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22 comments

  1. Well researched, thoughtful, and balanced articled which echoes many of my sentiments. I also maintain that the Bible and science should not be in conflict. Science serves to validate the Bible and not the other way round. The Bible doesn’t change to accommodate science; however, we see from time to time theories change and the eventual outcome is a validation of what scripture said in the first place. In Daniel 1:4 we’re told of Daniel’s [and the other captured royal children] great wisdom and intellect in things of the spirit and also of science. There was no conflict then between science and religion. It’s only in today’s atmosphere some want to co-opt science as their religion.

    I like referring to this quote from a favored writing ministry:
    “Somehow, somewhere, in the corridors of time, the spiritual and the scientific (logic) became separated from each other. The scientists took on a technical arrogance of thinking that through the power of their own intellect, they knew or could explain all things. Little did they know how blinded they were to the unseen world. The problem of blindness due to losing contact with the unseen world of the spirit is not just limited to scientists, it is also common to religionists who major on the “letter of the law” without having the benefit of the spiritual realm to interpret the letter.”

      • Is this a serious question? While I’m sure you could find the answers if you cared to look for them, I will oblige you.

        1. In the beginning (time) God created the heavens (space) and the earth (matter). This was written more than 2000 yrs before science confirmed time, space, matter have not always existed but in fact have a beginning. So I ask, who said it first?

        2. The thought that the world was flat even though in the book of Job, Job clearly described a round earth hanging on nothing. Job lived on earth at least 3500 years ago. Isaiah also speaks of a circular or spherical earth.

        He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. (Job 26:7)

        3. The fact that Light can be divided/parted was also stated in the book of Job. This was validated by science in 1665

        4. An expanding universe has only been validated by science after Edwin Hubble in 1929 was able to demonstrate distant galaxies receding from earth, and at much faster speed based on how far away they were. However, this fact has been in the Bible in several places: Ps 104:2; Job 9:8

        These are only a few.

        And here’s a prediction for you, straight from scripture-
        Not only does the Bible tell the beginning of the universe, it tells of a finite universe – one that has a beginning and also an ending. Science has now verified, the universe is indeed finite and aging.
        God who created this universe out of nothing, will also roll it up as an old garment and cast it off. See Psalm 102:25-28

      • David,
        if we were all interested in discussing truth rather than nursing an argument, then I would truly look forward to the response. For now, please forgive my skepticism, sincerely.

      • Pretty much every creation story has a “beginning.” That’s sort of the nature of creation stories, is it not? The Yoruba people believe the universe was brought into being by a maximally powerful being named Olodumare. That story is older than the Judaic myth, so does it take precedence? What about the creation story of the Zoroastrians? Again, Ahura-Mazda brought this universe into being, and that story pre-dates the Judaic myth by 1,500 years.

        And no, the Judaic creation myth is not verified by science. Where on earth did you get that idea from? Are you seriously suggesting Judaic cosmogony is accurate? As to “beginnings,” modern cosmology has neither confirmed nor denied such a thing. Perhaps you’re not aware, but the BB has never been confirmed. Inflation, also, has never been confirmed. The problem, however, is this: all physics break down at inflation (if inflation is ever confirmed, and there are many models that do not subscribe to it), so we simply do not know what was happening before. “We do not know, yet” is the only accurate statement that can be made concerning origins of this particular universe.

      • JZ,
        The very fact that every culture has a creation story is evidence there is an original and true creation story! [do you propose these creation stories emanated from “thin air”].
        Read the story of Nimrod to understand how the nations got scattered over the face of the earth and why: Gen 11. Book of Jasher gives an even more detailed account.

        Unfortunately, going into the spiritual background and reasons for such happenings will make zero sense to you, so I will stop here. Note though the spiritual implications are far more interesting, and important than what a purely physical read will ever reveal.

      • Hi Ancients, hope you’re doing well

        The very fact that every culture has a creation story is evidence there is an original and true creation story!

        Well, no, that does not imply that at all. What it does say is humans across the planet have asked existential questions, and in their ignorance have invented creation myths to explain that which they did not understand. The Hindu creation myth with Perusha bears no resemblance to the Zoroastrian creation myth with Ahura-Mazda, and that in-turn bears no resemblance to the Sumerian tale where An and Ki bring order from chaos. What all these stories represent is a common response to ignorance, dressing vagaries in the known social constructs of family orders.

      • JZ : “We do not know, yet” is the only accurate statement that can be made concerning origins of this particular universe.

        That’s a highly inaccurate statement. Even you know the origins of this universe. You seek to hide the truth in unrighteousness because you refuse to give glory to the One True God. Right now, you’re exalting your limited understanding and your ego above the throne of God.
        The fact that you do not know should be reason enough to incline your ear to those who do know.

        It’s funny you say that from the comfort of a home I’m sure was built by an intelligent mind, using a computer that was programmed with an intelligent mind. Yet, the ultimate source of all this, you come up with a blank. Now, who is fooling who.

        Blessings.

      • Hi again Ancients

        That’s a highly inaccurate statement. Even you know the origins of this universe.

        Sorry, but it’s the most accurate (and only) answer there is today, and no, I do not know the origins of this particular universe. No one does, and you will not find a single cosmologist who’ll say otherwise. Perhaps you should read up on cosmology.

        Now, if you want to posit a Creator, then I’m certainly happy to indulge you. That Creator is, unquestionably, The Owner of All Infernal Names: a maximally powerful being who does not share His creation with any other comparable spirit, does not seek to be known to or worshipped by that which He has created (or has allowed to be created), and whose greatest proof of existence is that there is no conspicuous proof of His existence—just teleological birthmarks that can be isolated and examined as testimony—for He understands that the trinkets of His greatest amusement, arousal and nutritional satisfaction must be blind to the nature of the world they inhabit so they may act freely, and suffer genuinely.

  2. seems you have concluded science itself as corrupt. therefore, i amend my previous opinion of your answer. rather than a ‘qualified’ or caveated Yes, you would change your spiritual beliefs if they were disproved by scientific fact/evidence (given they agree with your ‘lens’ of the Biblical World view and God’s Sovereignty… circular in itself, but anyways)
    … my opinion is that you are actually answering an ‘unqualified’ (ie. without caveat) No, because you distrust and disdain science as Corrupt and Unreliable.
    can’t get around the Unfalsifiability in that… you actuall aRE a Believer by Faith in the Final analysis. I have nothing wrong with that, just be honest with yourself and others.
    -mike

    • Let’s respond piece by piece, since there are so many pieces:

      “seems you have concluded science itself as corrupt.”

      A>>> Had you read the article, I said all people are corrupt. I quoted Romans 3:23 and Jeremiah 17:9, which speak to humankind’s corruption. “Christians are corrupt too” is a direct quote from the article.

      “therefore, i amend my previous opinion of your answer. rather than a ‘qualified’ or caveated Yes, you would change your spiritual beliefs if they were disproved by scientific fact/evidence (given they agree with your ‘lens’ of the Biblical World view and God’s Sovereignty… circular in itself, but anyways)”

      A>>> This sounds like you are taking a long ramp up to a personal attack, as opposed to a thoughtful critique of the work.

      “… my opinion is that you are actually answering an ‘unqualified’ (ie. without caveat) No, because you distrust and disdain science as Corrupt and Unreliable.

      A>>> You really should read the article before you make assertions about it. That’s twice you’ve done that.

      “can’t get around the Unfalsifiability in that… you actuall aRE a Believer by Faith in the Final analysis.”

      There is only one way to be a believer, and yes I am a believer in Jesus Christ. Would you please reread your statement in context of Ephesians 2:8? (NLT) “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” If you are not a believer by faith, you are not a believer… you’re unsaved according to the Apostle Paul (here), and voluminous statements by Christ Himself.

      “I have nothing wrong with that, just be honest with yourself and others.”

      You just overtly implied I am dishonest. If you had read the article, you would have seen that I evenly criticized science as well as Christians: (1) Sokal Affair, (2) Big Pharma’s quashing Barry Marshall, (3) Modern Pelagianism, (4) Modern acquiescence of errancy. The article finishes with the point that we all do better if everyone works together, science and Christians. The article is balanced. Your personal attack is not.

      You seem to be under the impression that one cannot be open to both sides if they have arrived at acceptance of the other. That’s just a weird mindset to me. No, I believe there is objective truth.

      I really was hoping you would focus on the material. You speak to being a Christian and appreciating science, which is a perspective I could appreciate in this particular article. If, at some time, you decide to read the article, I’d still like your opinion. Please pay special attention where I demonstrate that both sides are impeachable, and all fall short, but if we work together, we can do more good than if we waste our time trying to triumph of the other side.

      Thanks

      • For what it’s worth, it was not a personal attack. It was my perspective and opinion on what you said, but it was not a personal attack. If you took it as such I can apologize for the offense. None was intended.

  3. Nice post, although I think you’re over-stating the very, very, very few cases of scientific fraud. Humans err, and scientists are human, but science, as a method, is the absolute best method we have yet devised to obviate human failings in the discovery of truth. What problems do happen are caught very quickly.

    As you mentioned Sokal, have you heard of Dr Maarten Boudry’s version done on Christian philosophy? He wrote an utterly nonsensical abstract titled, The Paradoxes of Darwinian Disorder: Towards an Ontological Reaffirmation of Order and Transcendence and submitted it to three Christian philosophy conferences. All three accepted it, and slotted him in a speaker. The full abstract is here, and it’s well worth a read, because it is hilarious.

    https://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/mischievous-genius-2/

    • Funny! Principles can become so heavy and the human ego, so light. We may disagree on the quantity of corruption on each side, but we agree it is there. Thanks for the read!

  4. We are definitely prone to short-sighted selfishness.

    As for looking at the discussion more thoroughly rather than taking sides … that’s going to be a tough one for the US (in general) to overcome. A society inspired by numerous one-vs-one team sports with a two “team” government at its helm – that’s a lot of binary perspective programming going on in peoples’ minds. And we humans are creatures of habit. I’m not sure how that team spirit habit can be broken to allow for a larger collective perspective to take hold.

    • Well Jason, you and I have significant differences of opinion, but we get along an are willing to listen to each other. You’re right, though. We sure like picking sides, even when it makes no sense.

      • Even here, I’ve heard it suggested that people shouldn’t talk politics because it just leads to arguments. I think that’s silliness. We should be able to talk about tough subjects and we should be able to disagree peacefully.

        So many people talk with their ears closed these days it seems. With open ears, we have the opportunity to understand each other’s differences and find common ground, which we all have.

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