Thursday, March 08, 2007

Does science drive out religious belief?

Barton Swaim at First Things points out the erroneous assumption made by many athiest scientists - specifically Steven Weinberg - that scientific knowledge and religious faith are inversely proportional (as one increases, the other decreases). I am a fan of Stephen Barr on the topic of science and religion, he being a Catholic physicist who thinks deeply about the implications of what we have discovered through the methods of science. His article Retelling the Story of Science is a good summary of his argument that there is no conflict between religion and science, but rather one between religion and scientific materialism. This is the philisophical view that nothing exists besides matter, and everything in the universe - including the human person - is completely explained by discoverable laws of nature. Many materialists would have you think that this philosophy is required by the discipline of science, but it is not.

So here's my question: Do you think there is a contradiction between what you believe about God and what you believe about science? If so, what? Please let us know what religious perspective you hold.


Katie said...

I am an evangelical Christian, and I don't see any conflict between science and faith. This topic is one that's been of special interest to me lately...and it seems that the study of science increases my faith.

In particular, the Big Bang, in which all matter, space, energy and time came into being 14 billion yrs ago particularly points to God. If the universe had a beginning, then there must have been a Beginner who is outside of it. I'm also amazed by the complexity of life, and how many paramaters had to be "just right" in order for life to exist, pointing to the Creator. Finally, the creation days in Genesis 1 follow the same order of appearance of life forms as does the fossil record, with human beings appearing last.

"The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands." Psalm 19:1

Dan said...

Thank you, Katie. I love that verse, too!

The fact that the best theories of cosmology point to a moment of creation is indeed a powerful confirmation that "in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." It highlights a point which I've made many times: science doesn't explain why we're here, only how we came to be here - meaning a description of the unfolding of nature.

I am also intrigued how particle physicists are bugged that the Standard Model has a set of parameters that just are. They have to be measured and can't be predicted by the theory itself. Many are convinced we can come up with a theory that explains why each of these parameters are what they are (e.g. the mass of the electron). String theory is a current attempt. But why do scientists get bugged by this? Why are they so sure that we can even comprehend the most fundamental theory? Many leaps in theory are driven by a pursuit of elegance and beauty. These are not scientific terms, but rather human terms. Deep down, we feel that the universe should be orderly and beautitul. But of course! "Ever since the creation of the world [God's] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." (Rom 1:20)