Are Science and Faith Compatible?

The book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?  written by John Lennox, is a very nice work that gives a good perspective on science and faith. Lennox has three doctrate degrees, teaches mathematics at Oxford, teaches philosophy of science in the UK, and has debated infamous athiests Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. His book has many good insights showing that faith, theology, and science do not have to be antagonistic. Lennox includes the following:

    C. S. Lewis’ . . . view is worth noting: ‘Men became scientiific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they beleived in a lawgiver.’ It was this conviction that led Francis Bacon, regarded by many as the father of modern science, to teach that God has provided us with two books — the book of Nature and the Bible — and that to be really properly educated, one should give one’s mind to studying both.
    Many of the towering figures of science agreed. Men such as Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Fraday, Babbage, Mendel, Pasteur, Kelvin, and Clerk Maxwell were theists; most of them, in fact, were Christians. Their beleif in God, far from being a hindrance to their science, was often the main inspiration for it and they were not shy of saying so. The driving force behind Galileo’s questing mind, for example, was his deep inner conviction that the Creator who had ‘endowed us with senses, reason and intellect’ intended us not to ‘forgo their use and by some other means give us knowledge which we can attain by them.’ Johannes Kepler described his motivation thus: ‘The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God, and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics.’

Lennox goes on to show that other cultures, such as the Chinese, who did not embrace theism, rejected the idea that the universe was governed by laws which human beings could discover. It seems that theism, far from being a hidrance to scientific discovery, was a principle reason why science moved from the idea that the universe operated in a disorderly fashion to the idea that it was governed by laws. It seems the realization that God designed the universe with principles was a major leap forward in scientific discovery. This is no surprise, for if one were truly a committed Buddhist pantheist and believed that all we observe is an illusion, one would not be inspired to investigate how the world works. Atheist cultures have a different problem, that of sustaining themselves over time when the dominant cultural worldview is that life is ultimately purposeless.

Lennox recently wrote a short review of Stephen Hawking’s most recent book, which was published in a British news site. In the review, Lennox gave a rather negative review of Hawking’s book. Hawking claims that the universe did not need a cause, saying the universe can come from nothing because there is gravity that already exists. Such a claim is such a great absurdity that it leaves one wondering what to think of such an otherwise intelligent man. What was most interesting to me was that the letters from the general readership was heavily against Lennox, with one person even going so far as to say that if the man was a theist, he could not be a scientist.

Now whatever one thinks of religion in general, or Christianity in particular, this whole affair seems to me to be rather obvious. We have an entire series of great men in history, who as a group could arguably be called the foundations of modern scientific knowledge, claiming that their faith is compatible with their Christianity. We also have a rather prominent professor at a prestigious university, with more letters after his name than almost all of the rest of us, whose job it is to teach about science, and he claims the same thing: that there need not be a conflict between faith and science. Yet we have both the public and the leaders in the scientific community going out of their way to abandon the very worldview that allows for their position in the first place.

Methinks they prostesteth too much. It would appear that there is more going on here than science. Our scientific friends are very quick to denounce philosophy as so many meaningless word games, all the while not noticing the big philosophical elephant behind their couch.

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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5 Responses to Are Science and Faith Compatible?

  1. Joe says:

    Fuck your stupid Gods and religions and Christians. Get the fuck out of here stupid idiots. Perfectly engineered fish, which is why the Pope wears one on his stupid faggoty hat.

  2. humblesmith says:

    Well, I never thought of it exactly like that. I’m going to have to rethink my whole position now.

  3. Mike says:

    Well Joe above is really immature. That’s not the way to express your dislike of something. The proper way is with critique, not anger.

    Anyway…

    This whole post is totally one-sided. Let me explain. First, I’m not a huge fan of Lennox, but at least he is not, from what I understand, a creationist who denies evolution. So he gets a point for that. Second, it might be important to know that in Galileo’s day, you had to profess Christian faith. This was back when the church was the state. If you publicly denied Christ or god you’d be burned at the steak. Galileo spent the last few decades of his life under house arrest because he dared challenge the orthodoxy of the day that the Earth was NOT the center of the universe. And in 1600 Giordano Bruno was burned alive for saying that and for believing there might be other forms of life out in space. Galileo was aware of this and it silenced him. Thus it took many centuries and hurdles to get scientific facts accepted because Christianity held them back.

    It was not until Darwin that it became safe enough to profess agnosticism or atheism, but even then there were massive social persecutions. But once religion’s power grip loosened, science began to flourish faster.

    The ancient Greeks and Romans faced the same problems when Christianity came to power. Atomism was banned as blasphemy, even though it was correct 2,400 years ago. And the dark ages fell over Europe. The church stagnated scientific progress. In China actually there more advances in technology before the modern era, we just hear history from a Western perspective. The compass, gunpowder, papermaking, printing, were all invented in China centuries before Europeans had them. There were many others. And the Islamic Golden era made advances in astronomy and math and science before the modern scientific revolution in Europe. So it is not true at all that Christianity can be thanked for science. The foundations of it go way back before Christianity. The main reason why science has thrived in Europe for the last ~400 years is because of European colonialism that made Europe rich off of the slaves labor and exploited resources it received from oppressing other people and conquering their lands. Plus its proximity to the Middle East and through the Silk Road to Asia, ideas from the East could spread into Europe.

    Most Christians today are anti-science. More than half don’t accept evolution. Same is true of Muslims. That’s not true of the Chinese. Or the Japanese. Or most of Europe today which is largely secular and post-religious. The more Christian a country is today, the more uneducated they tend to be on science.

    Atheist cultures have a different problem, that of sustaining themselves over time when the dominant cultural worldview is that life is ultimately purposeless.

    This is absurd beyond belief. Atheists make up 60 percent of scientists and 90 percent of elite scientists in the US. And there are no shortage of scientists and engineers in China, Korea and Japan where they are wooping our ass in these fields. And here in the US it’s the anti-science creationist that holds us back in part. 50 percent of Americans think the world is less than 10,000 years old. That’s an embarrassment.

    We have an entire series of great men in history, who as a group could arguably be called the foundations of modern scientific knowledge, claiming that their faith is compatible with their Christianity.

    Yeah, because for a great majority of them, denying Christianity wouldn’t be compatible with staying alive. There is a conflict between faith and science, the two are incompatible. One is about evidence, the other is about faith. Now the only way to deal with it is to compartmentalize your different views or to deny all the science that is conflicts with your faith.

    Yet we have both the public and the leaders in the scientific community going out of their way to abandon the very worldview that allows for their position in the first place.

    No one needs your Christian worldview to make sense of the world we live in. Christianity is actually contradicted by the evidence, that’s why it must be maintained by faith.

    • humblesmith says:

      Mike, I tend to like you. You tend to keep your ad hominems to a minimum, merely sneaking them in occasionally. But there are so many things wrong with this comment that I’m a bit perplexed as to where to start. (Wouldn’t be compatible with staying alive? Nonsense on the face of it.) I’ll stick with Galileo.

      Popular revisionist history, or at least revisionist atheist circles, has the church against Galileo. Historians know better, and the truth has been known and presented for quite some time. That it keeps getting repeated is phenomenal. His original technical work on the question, which supported heliocentrism, also included such scientific marvels as the tides being caused by sloshing (http://galileo.rice.edu/sci/observations/tides.html). As with any new theory, there were challenges. Galileo’s biggest blunder was not his science, but his caustic personality, which ultimately ended up in his telling the church how to interpret the Bible. When they asked him to stick to his work and leave the Bible to the church, he responded with the book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, where he made the Pope into a clown (Simplicio). Meanwhile, it took 150 years for the science to be proven, a time during which there were more challenges to the research……..from the scientists. The biggest push against Galileo’s science was not the church, but the university professors who had been trained in Aristotelean cosmology, a system that had held for many centuries. It seems scientists do not let go of pet theories easily…..even in modern times. Now, the church admittedly was not innocent in all this, but the story is more involved that the mischaracterization of common revisionist history floating around atheist circles.

      http://souldevice.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/christian-urban-legends-galileo-and-faith-vs-science/

      http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0005.html

      • Mike says:

        But wouldn’t the Church be in the greatest position to play the role of the revisionist considering what it did to Galileo and Giordano Bruno? I mean, if I had that blood on my hands, I’d want to rewrite history too in order to cleanse the stains away. Yes Galileo may have had a personality that didn’t make it any better for him, but the fact that you could be burned alive or imprisoned for holding unorthodox views of science and that books promoting unorthodox views of science could be banned at a whim, doesn’t make the case that Christianity gave us science look very good. There’s no doubt about it that the Church then held a large part of the responsibility that suppressed ideas. But to the main point, I simply do not see how Christianity can be given credit for modern science when it’s foundations go way back before its dominance.

        And to the first part that you could be killed for espousing disbelief in Christianity, there were laws on the books in Europe that included the death penalty for blasphemy.

        But look, I agree that one could be a scientist and a Christian. Sure. One of my favorite evolutionary biologists is actually a Christian believe it or not. Dr. Ken Miller. If you don’t know him, look him up, he gives great lectures on evolution.

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