Doesn't Science Contradict Faith?
Hard Questions, Honest Answers Doesn’t Science Contradict Faith? Pastor Pat Damiani May 6, 2018 Because we live in a culture that is rapidly becoming more secular, we have often been subjected to a myth that I am going to deal with this morning. That myth has been advocated by those considered to be among the most brilliant minds in the world today. And here is just a sample of some of the things they have said that have contributed to the widespread belief in this myth: In a 2010 interview with Diane Sawyer, physicist Stephen Hawking, who just died several weeks ago, had this reply to a question about whether it was possible to reconcile religion and science: There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works. Well known evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins wrote this in the 1976 book, The Selfish Gene: Faith cannot move mountains (though generations of children are solemnly told the contrary and believe it). But it is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness He also said this in a lecture in 1992 in Edinburgh: Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is the belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence. Neuroscientist, philosopher, and author Sam Harris penned these words in his book, The End of Faith: We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common we call them “religious”; otherwise, they are likely to be called “mad,” “psychotic,” or “delusional.” By now, you’ve probably figured out that the myth I’m referring to is summed up by the question that we’ll address this morning in the last of five messages from this series that I’ve titled Hard Questions, Honest Answers: Doesn’t Science Contradict Faith? I know that we have a number of scientists and mathematicians, in this room this morning as well as others like me, who really love science and who tend to think very logically and in a linear fashion. And I know that there are others of you here today for which this question is a huge stumbling block for family members and other loved ones that has kept them from putting their faith in Jesus, or even believing that there is a God in some cases. So I’m pretty sure that all of deal with this question in some way in our lives. I’m going to take a little different approach to this question this morning. I’m going to take just a few minutes to address a couple fundamental ideas that pertain to this question and then I’m going to play a couple videos that are interspersed with some Scripture passages and let you answer that question for yourself. So let’s begin with… 3 TRUTHS ABOUT SCIENCE AND FAITH 1. Everyone has faith based presuppositions The myth that science and faith are incompatible is based in large part on the idea that religion is based on blind belief that isn’t supported by facts and that science is based on facts and evidence. But neither of those assumptions is entirely true. Everybody’s beliefs are rooted in assumptions about reality that can’t be proven, even through science. The problem is that many of us are blind to those assumptions that guide our thinking and we’re blind to the fact that we are blind. This week I read a story about a nurse who is a disciple of Jesus who worked at a hospital where the doctors were adamant that the hospital be a completely secular place. There was no room for “faith” to play any role in the care of the patients. One night the staff was discussing a patient who was on life support. In debating whether to take the patient off that life support, one doctor said to the other, “Well at least we know that if we do that, he won’t be suffering any more”. And everyone other than this nurse nodded in agreement. But the nurse thought to herself, “How do they know that?” In effect the doctors were speaking from a faith position for which they had no scientific proof, but which was based instead on their own presuppositions about life after death. The fact is that every one of us have beliefs that are filtered through a worldview that has been adopted over time based on a myriad of variables – things like where we were born, our family, our education, and the media. So everyone, even the atheist, lives by faith and makes decisions based on their worldview. 2. Science and the Bible answer different questions: In many ways, this is really the key to understanding many of the apparent conflicts between science and faith that is rooted in the Bible. Let’s suppose that several of us were out in the desert after a monsoon rainstorm and I were to ask, “What do you smell?” And one of you answered, “I smell the aroma of wet creosote.” And then I asked, “What do you hear?” And somebody else answered, I hear the sound of rushing water.” And finally I asked, “What do you see?” And somebody else replied, “A rainbow”. Which answer is correct? [All of them]. And is there any conflict between those answers? [No, because they are each answering a different question.] That is often what is happening when science and the Bible seem to be in conflict, They are each attempting to answer different questions, so they are going to come up with different answers, but those answers are not automatically in conflict. • Science answers the question - how? Science is primarily concerned with explaining how things work. For instance, when it comes to creation, the questions that science tries to answer are things like “How did the earth form?” or “How did the plants and animals come into existence?” Or they might ask a question like this: “If I mix these two chemicals together, how will they react?” But what is really interesting is that science can’t answer some of the most important “how” questions in life – things like “How did conscious thinking arise in humans?” or “How did humans develop the ability to even understand things like science and math?” or “How did man develop the ability to appreciate beautiful art, music and literature?” • The Bible answers the questions – who? and why? The Bible answers two completely different questions. First, it answers the “who” question. So when the Bible tells us about creation, the first thing we learn is that God is the one who created. And then the second question that the Bible answers is “why?” So in the Bible we learn that God created the earth as a place for man to live and to have a relationship with God and with other people. The Bible doesn’t really answer the “how” question when it comes to creation. It doesn’t give us details about the exact way that God brought the creation into being other than recording that “God said”. So sometimes, what look like conflicts between science and the Bible really aren’t conflicts at all because they are answering different questions. However, that is not always the case. There are some conclusions that scientists draw that clearly do conflict with the Bible. And interestingly, in most of those cases, the more that science discovers, those conflicts often go away because science eventually comes around to the Biblical point of view. 3. God makes science possible This is kind of ironic, isn’t it? Science is dependent on a world where the laws of nature exhibit order, patterns and regularity and are uniform throughout the universe. Only Biblical Christianity offers a worldview in which all those things are present. Although several great civilizations of the ancient world developed some technological advancement, those cultures largely lacked the philosophical framework required to give birth to modern science. In many cases, those cultures believed in pantheism, in which nature is deified and god is present in everything. That worldview inhibited scientific inquiry because it makes no sense to subject deified objects to objective analysis. Other cultures had multiple gods and in those cultures science wasn’t necessary because physical actions could be explained by the working of the gods. Both Judaism and Islam emphasize the study and interpretation of the law, so those religions don’t really support scientific reasoning. Atheists claim that the laws of nature just exist without reason. But if, as they believe, nature is inherently self- serving and motivated merely by survival, how can they possibly also claim that these natural laws are stable? Only a Biblical worldview provides an unchanging foundation in which science, which is based on the assumption that the universe is completely rational and logical, can function. With these three truths in mind, I’m going to use our remaining time for you to answer our question – Doesn’t Science Contradict Faith? – for yourself. I’ll be showing two short videos with some Scriptures interspersed and let you decide how to answer that question based on what you see. The first video takes a look at God’s creation from the macro level and looks at our earth in comparison to the vastness of the universe. And the second will go the other direction and look deep inside our bodies at the micro level. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 ESV) And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:14–18 ESV) The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 ESV) “Mind blowing Earth” video He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. (Psalm 147:4 ESV) “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth? (Job 38:31–33 ESV) O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8 ESV) Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26–27 ESV) then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7 ESV) “Drew Berry TED Talk” video For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13–16 ESV) Science writer Fred Heeren devoted seven years of his life to a full-time search for evidence of God’s existence. That quest included picking the brains of Nobel prize winning astronomers, NASA scientists and today’s leading theoretical physicists. Here is how he summed up what we’ve just seen: Science can't "observe" God. But we can observe a universe that yields evidence of one of two things: It's either God's handiwork, or it got here by accident, without a creator. The evidence has to point one way or the other. And scientific discoveries of this century clearly show that our universe is no accident, that there is an intelligent designer behind it all. In Romans 1, Paul reminds us that is not our lack of evidence of God that is the problem for most of us. It is that we suppress that evidence and choose to follow our own way instead. If that describes your life, then I invite you to consider the fact that God has not given up on trying to get your attention. So here is what I want every one of you to do tomorrow morning when you get up. Will you thank God for the fact that the sun came up, not just because the earth is rotating on its axis, but even more importantly because God is love and that the God who created this universe had given you another day to enjoy that creation and a personal relationship with the One who created it. Discussion Questions for the Bible Roundtable 1. How would you respond to someone who used this Stephen Hawking quote? “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason.” 2. Some people say that the Bible is not a science book, but that it is “scientifically accurate”. Do you agree or disagree? Give some examples to support your answer. 3. Why is the fact that science and the Bible are attempting to answer different questions so important? With that idea in mind, when it comes to creation, what are some things that we should be dogmatic about? What are some things where we should probably not be so dogmatic? 4. Which of the five questions that we’ve covered in this series is the most difficult for you? What are some things you still struggle with related to that question?