|EXPLORING CHRISTIANITY - SCIENCE||
LIFE AFTER DEATHChristianity's Hope & Challenge.
The complementary nature of science and Christianity
There are few subjects that have resulted in more open conflict, hidden agendas, prejudice, misinformation, popular misconceptions, half-truths and wasted energy than that of the relationship between Christianity and science. Back in 1895, A. D. White, the first president of Cornell University, wrote a massive and influential work entitled A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. A hundred years later (1993) we have Karl Giberson's book Worlds Apart: The Unholy War Between Religion & Science. The battle still rages! For instance, on one particular issue, the age of the universe, we have a rather ridiculous situation in the United States. A 1982 Gallup poll reported that 44 per cent of Americans believe God created the universe within the last 10,000 years. Meanwhile, more than 99 per cent of America's practising scientists view this idea as more far-fetched than the hypothesis that the earth is flat!
Some make no bones of their views. Consider the remarks of Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science, in Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversies, concerning the form of creationism propounded by the more fundamentalist wing of the Church:
I believe Creationism is wrong, utterly and absolutely wrong. I would go no further. There are degrees of being wrong. The Creationists are at the bottom of the scale.
In another article he adds:
What we must do...is to show scientific creationism for the wicked, sterile fraud it is.
But strong opinions, and also biases and half-truths are found on all sides of the debate! The situation is complex, as has been the whole history of the debate.
For instance, in the courtroom battles that have been fought in the US on the Creation/Evolution issue, it is frequently difficult to tell which side is which. On the one side of the courtroom, theologians contend that evolution is science and scientists assert that evolution is religion. On the other side of the courtroom, different scientists and different theologians argue the opposite!
However, that is only a small part of the story. There are thousands of scientists who hold Christian beliefs and who see no conflict whatever between their faith and their work. Back in the 1950s a Fellow of the Royal Society commented on the number of Fellows described in the Royal Society Obituary Notices (primarily concerned with their scientific research) 'as having had a deep Christian faith'. That would certainly be no less true today. There is also a large proportion of Christians in other walks of life, worldwide, who are quite happy with science and even unaware of any conflict at all! It is interesting to note not only the significant number of scientists today who profess faith in Christ, but also a growing number of philosophers. Kelly Clark, in Philosophers Who Believe (1993), says that at least 1,000 practising professional philosophers now reckon themselves as Christians. In The Turn of the Tide, Keith Ward, former Professor of Moral and Social Theology at King's College, London University, and now at Oxford, notes the situation in England.
Commenting on the change over the twenty-five years that he had been lecturing, he said:
The vast majority of professors in philosophy in England now are committed Christians.
That's a very significant factor. What it means is that the intellectual arguments are going in Christianity's favour, at the very least there's a greater sympathy for the existence of God and the existence of the soul.
The purpose of this booklet is to seek to give some guidance, perspective and balance to those interested in the subject. There is a growing mass of material available today on the relationship between Christianity and science. The substantial volume Who's Who in Theology and Science (Winthrop Publishing Co. 1992) lists 1,500 academics throughout the world working on these kinds of issues, as well as 72 journals, organisations and institutions specialising in the area. From my limited reading I have sought to pick out the significant issues and give a brief, but comprehensive, picture of the debate. I don't wish to tell readers what to believe, though I have indicated my own preferences. I hope you will find a sufficient range of material on which you can come to your own conclusions. I have been a student of the Bible for 45 years. I am not a scientist, though I have had an interest in the subject since secondary school days. I write from the perspective of one who thinks it is silly to waste energy on a battle between disciplines that should be of the greatest support to one another.
I will look first at the Christian foundations of modern science and some areas where science and Christianity have always been allies. Next I will look at the two areas over which most of the battles have been fought, the age of the universe and the theory of evolution. Then I will focus on the first chapter of the Bible to explore various views about what it really does teach. As the interpretation of this chapter has had such an impact on the debate, I will spend some time there. Finally, I will look at the need of science and Christianity for each other. And I will explore a few byways along the way.
The complementary nature of science and Christianity