Is Science and Religion Compatible?July 7, 2008
As I’m sure you are aware, this is a commonly asked question these days. This has been a topic of debate for centuries and wont be taking a vacation any time soon.
First of all, this is a very non-specific question disguised as a specific question. One first needs to define “science” and “religion”. Science itself is not a ‘thing’ but a way of analyzing data, most commonly by way of the scientific method. Religion is nothing other than a set of principles firmly believed. But everyone has these, even atheists. Everyone has a view of the world, hence, a “worldview”. I believe what people generally are asking however is “what relationship is there between the observable and the non-observable?”
Yet, this is a very rediculous question to begin with. Why? The observable and the non-observable fit like a glove. First of all, if science is done for existential reasons such as to “better society” then what it means to “better society” is a subjective reason. Can we use science to show us why we ought to do science? Can we observe the reason we ought to do science within matter and energy made of atoms or test this reason in a labratory? No we can’t. Even though science is fun and interesting, is there any concrete reason why people are doing it?
One’s worldview needs to account for this. Otherwise, one is only arbitrarily doing sience for arbitrary reasons. The Christian seeks to do science because it’s fun and exciting but all the more because all discovery is a means of knowing God and glorifying Him more. The Naturalistic Atheist may do science because it’s fun and exciting but all the more in order to supress knowledge of his Creator and have supposedly intellectually satisfying reasons to deny God’s existence with biased naturalistic interpretations.
Or he may do science to “better society”. Yet again, this is a reason which itself is meta-physical, as it is a reason which can’t be physically observed. 1. This reason assumes what “better” is, while “better” is subjective from person to person. 2. To say society “ought” to be better is a meta-physical claim, as opposed to society not being better. Nothing in the physical realm shows us what OUGHT to be the case about anything, only what IS the case from what we can infer.
The Christian consistently knows what a better society is because we are created in the image of God, possess intrinsic value, thus desire to see this value in ourselves continue as long as it can, despite the inevitable fact that we will all die soon anyways. Naturalism can’t provide a sufficient bases to give reasons why we should desire these things. That is, considering that ultimate reality is that we are all matter in motion according to Naturalism.
Anyways, let’s move on…
The question of this thread is touted as a greater problem then it really is. It’s like saying just because 2 brothers get in an argument they’re now trying to murder each other. But here’s why the observable and testable (science) and the non-observable and non-testable (meta-physical) fit together like a glove. Science depends upon 3 things in order to be carried out: 1.the observable, 2. observers, and 3. observation.
The observable would be our entire Universe which is believed to have had a beginning by most scientists today. The Universe cannot account for itself so its origin is passed on to an unknown source. This does not threaten the idea of the meta-physical, but actually coincides with it. The Naturalist says the “Big Bang” caused the Universe. The Christian believes in the Big Bang as well. Jesus Christ spoke and “Bang”, the Unniverse came into existence.
Second, observers aren’t scientifically accounted for by the bare physical Universe. Evolution doesn’t deal with this subject. Evolution deals with life evolving after it is accepted that life exists and could come about somehow. But there are no Naturalistic answers that science has given us which can explain how complex and intelligent life could arrise.
Abiogenetics is the study which seeks to hypothosize how life could come about, yet nothing substantial has been given. Further, the whole idea of “life” is a meta-physical notion. The biological criterion for “life” is a very complex list and may in fact vary from scientist to scientist and from creature to creature. The Christian understands that God is life and because we are created in His likeness, we can recognize life-like creatures.
Lastly, observation is required to even do science. In other words, we must use the laws of logic in order to be able to observe the Universe and have knowledge of it. What do we mean by the laws of logic? Simply, it starts with the existence of meanings. How do you know about existence? You need the meaning of existence to exist. How do you know about the number 2 or an apple? You need the meaning of 2 to exist and the classification of apple to exist. However, meanings are immaterial. They are abstract. They do not exist in the physical world. They are meta-physical, thus supernatural.
Meanings only function in the mind. Since humans are created in God’s image, we share the ability to use the laws of logic as He eternally does. All abstract and absolute meanings that we use derive from God’s knowledge of Himself (as He knows everything and upholds everything) and correlates to our brains.
The terms “supernatural” and “meta-physical” mean the same thing. They refer to a realm beyond or not comprised of the physical realm. I could make this even more complicated by mentioning that no one really knows what the “physical”, “material” or what “matter” for that matter even is. We don’t know what the most basic components of the Universe are. Nor if the Universe has a stopping point to its smallness, or if perhaps it has “infinite smallness”.
Again, the question “Is science and religion compatible” is a very non-specific question disguised as a specific question. If what people mean to ask is “does the observable have anything in common with the non-observable”, then we have already looked at how the non-observable must be accepted if we are going accept the existence of the observable and seek to justify it, ourselves, and what we know of it.