Scientists cannot hold faith, and those spiritual cannot believe science. This has been a conflict for centuries. But this dichotomy is bologna. A false narrative.
Science has an entirely different nature than religion, and as such, cannot be stuffed into an either/or dialogue. Their nature and goals, and therefore their functions, are entirely different. One can be both academically intelligent and spiritually wise.
The nature of science is that is changes. What we know now, even about something as ‘simple’ as trees, is different than 10 years ago. We’ve discovered that trees talk to each other chemically and share nutrients to ensure a healthy forest. Cooperation, not competition.
Science is continually changing.
The nature of religion, of God, is that he is unchanging. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The quality of God’s voice, actions and desires now is constant with every point in previous history.
God doesn’t change.
The goal of science is to understand the natural, observable world. We live here, we get to explore it, we get to become masters of it. And this is discovered through the scientific process. Scientists – whether they be 7-year-olds discovering what objects sink or float, or 67-year-olds discovering heavenly bodies, all use the same process. Science is not science unless it is repeatable and observable. The scientist must control each and every variable, only changing one at a time. It is how we learn the laws of the world: by innocent, yet controlled, discovery.
The scientist is larger than the experiment.
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The goal of religion, however, is to walk in goodness and love. With God. With others. With self. There are no variables to control because we are finite and God is not. We are not bigger, more powerful or more knowing than God; as such, God will never repeatedly and predictably perform to our experiments. It is a continual exploration we are drawn into.
God is larger than the scientist.
The function of science is to make sense of the natural and unnatural within the world. The visible. The observable.
The function of religion is to make sense of the nature of relationship within the world. The invisible. The unpredictable that cannot be predicted by bivariate statistics.
Science changes. God doesn’t. Science is empirical. Religion is mystical. Science is to know, while religion is to be known. Science is discovering. Religion is being discovered, opening yourself to love. They are entirely different creatures. One cannot be forced between a decision between the two.
So hallelujah: you’re not an atheist if you think scientifically.
And hallelujah: you’re not a dullard if you believe in God.
It is, I think, our full nature to be simultaneously both highly intellectual and highly spiritual.
We tread precociously when we begin to think that science is opposed to faith. That is just the human scientist believing themselves to be in control of the nature they are categorizing. And the religious devout living in fear.
Any practice that increases understanding of how deep and intricate and beautiful this planet is, and by proxy, how deep and intricate and beautiful God is, should be pursued.
Galileo was kicked out of the church. He had found through early scientific process that the earth is round. He challenged the beliefs of the church, and their leaders didn’t have a flexible enough faith to accommodate new facts about the world.
Whether the earth be round or flat didn’t change the love and goodness of an unchangeable God. But that was overlooked.
With the Enlightenment, or the beliefs that brought forth the Enlightenment, came revolution. Humanity moved on from a faith-based, blind acceptance of the world and their position in it. They just knew there were lights in the sky and that people sometimes got sick. They didn’t understand the why. We know the why now, and we are better for it.
With a better grasp of the world, humanity could take charge of it, begin to mold it, begin to dream big within it. Railways were made, electricity harnessed, and people flocked to the city for the convenience of a predictable wage. These are not bad things.
Whether people found it comforting to live in the country or a city didn’t change the love and goodness of an unchangeable God. But that was overlooked.
As soon as your faith is threatened by science, what you have isn’t faith; you have tradition. Human tradition is in direct competition with science, because, like science, human tradition can be controlled. This is what the church had when they expelled Galileo. Tradition. Not faith.
What we are missing out on by fearing science is the invitation. Every new discovery has the potential to increase wonder about God or increase doubt. We fear doubt, forgetting that wrestling with it increases faith. When looking for truth we will always find it if we seek with all our heart.
If Christians are to truly have faith, they would embrace every new discovery as a connection point to their God. Every new idea as a possible truth straight from God’s wisdom. Every doubt a chance to come face-to-face with a God who is infinitely bigger than his creation – a universe that is actually day-by-day expanding.
We should expect, especially if we believe a God as large as the Christian God claims to be, that we will search for lifetimes and not find the end of knowledge. We should expect, then, for science to always be changing with continual discovery. And God stands faithfully the same in the middle of it all, revealing his goodness through every telescope and test tube and synchrotron.
Science and faith are not mutually exclusive.
Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” External stability was traded for internal stability. That was the capstone fallacy of the scientific revolution. Somewhere in this process of ‘revolution’, Self became center and we lost the need for God. We could control, manipulate and create variables to increase our comfort and profit.
It can become agenda. And that can be the Achilles heel of the human scientist. Forgetting that our stability indeed comes from outside Self. From God, not man. From religion, not science. An unbalanced focus on the entity of Self is always what makes faith appear obsolete and God seem dead.
To reflect truth and kick the false narrative, Descartes’ phrase should be truly, “I am because God IS, and therefore I think.”
We are created to think. We are required to steward this world. We are created intelligently and in wisdom. We are more reflective of Jesus when we operate out of both intelligence and wisdom.
We are to be humble, knowing our stability comes not from internal Self, but external God. We are to be scientists, continually discovering our world. We are to be humble scientists, a position of faith.
In all pursuits, remember the reason you can think about thinking, as well as the miniscule probability of you being alive. Be a humble scientist.