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 seeing 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.
Both 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.
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:
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.
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?
Upon 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:
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.
Errancy – 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 text of the New Testament.
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 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.
Dubious 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…
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 is refusing to preach anything about sin or evil.
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).