Science and Religion

The Church says that the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the Church. Ferdinand Magellan, source unknown

I became skeptical of Christianity about a year before I resigned from my church. During that year, among other things, I began "secretly" reading modern scientific works.

To my amazement I found them filled with facts. Not emotional cries to believe, but experiments to consider. Not stories of old, but studies of today. And slowly, I began to put my stock in the scientific process, which I’ve come to see as the exact opposite of religion.

Consider for a moment the evolution of religion in comparison to science:


Religion usually begins with a single idea that is proclaimed as the one and only “truth” which many come to have faith in. As more and more people come to believe this “truth,” different opinions arise as to the true interpretation of that “truth.” Since there is really no experiment to prove anyone’s interpretation, those different opinions flourish and eventually become different factions and denominations of the religion.

In the end, what began as a single great movement is now splintered into a million pieces.

On the other hand, Science begins with a variety of different and opposing theories about some facet of the universe. It's then that scientists go to work to find verifiable or observable facts about a hypothesis, albeit sometimes with a bias. However, as experiments continue, biases are forced aside in the face of observable and repeatable facts.

In the end, what began as a variety of varying and contradictory ideas has come to something of a consensus with most scientists, if not all people, coming into agreement – a far cry from what happens to religions!

When you try to run the human race on "faith" with no evidence, it just ends in splintered factions, like Christianity and Islam today. Everyone is doing his or her own thing thinking it’s the most correct version. But science can bring humanity closer to agreement because it is based on evidence--something everyone can see if they just look at the facts. That observation alone is a very powerful evidence in my mind that science, not religion, provides a more secure future for humanity, and that religion is simply a man-made idea.

So, I think Magellan was right (if he really said that). Even if there are questions that scientists still cannot figure out, there's still no point answering one mystery with another (i.e. your particular god).

The truth is that if there is truth in the world, it shouldn’t take evangelism, puppet shows, preachers, emotional worship songs, or even a sword to get people to see it. I’ve never seen a scientist leave tracts in public restrooms hoping someone will be inspired and believe. No, science just takes evidence. And evidence, like a shadow, is so much more powerful than the faith that Christianity gave to me.

27 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Dude, any more responses like the one I just deleted and you'll be permanently banned. This is a respectful blog. Deal with our arguments, okay? Belittle us and cuss at us and you'll be banned. This is your first and your last warning. These kinds of comments will not be tolerated.

Christian said...

For the sake of curiosity, I perused dude's newly founded blog. I didn't see much there in terms of postings, and the little that I did see wasn't very well thought out. Yes, religions are based on faith, while the statement that atheism is based on faith is off the mark. Unfortunately, when you look at what man has discovered in his quest for knowledge, you don't find god (any individual's god) having any impact on the world. Claims of evidence of god's interference in the world have not been substantiated either. So, what is pretty much left is a god(or gods) who have no impact that we can see, so for all intents and purposes have no effect whatsoever, and are therefore impotent. Their power as a god is so reduced by the lack of evidence of evidence that they no longer deserve the title of god even with a little "g". Unfortunately, since religions rely on faith rather than evidence, and give their users a sense of community, along with a bit of us against them mentality, they seem to thrive. Religions are more of a social structure than an objective source of truth.

gwiman-1 said...

Ahh, that pesky moon and its shadows. The Dalai Lama, growing up, questioned the Buddhist doctrine that the moon was a source of light because he had seen shadows of mountains on the moon through a telescope. Thus began his life-long love of science and tolerance for those who just don't dig dogma. He still believes in reincarnation, but he calls it faith and says if you don't believe it, well maybe next time. ;-)

Christians? Seldom that tolerant.

John W. Loftus said...

Dude is banned. No more posts from you on any subject will be tolerated. I warned you and you continued. Only respectful and intelligent comments are welcomed and you can do neither.

Dennis said...

The truth is that if there is truth in the world, it shouldn’t take evangelism, puppet shows, preachers, emotional worship songs, or even a sword to get people to see it.

And if scientists had a strong case for pond-scum-to-man evolution, they wouldn't have to resort to using the court room to silence criticism of it.

Here is an interesting link from an article posted on Answers In Genesis just the other day. The article is about a professor at a public university who spent several weeks discussing the strengths and weaknesses of evolution and used a before and after poll to gage its impact on students beliefs. The before and after poll speaks for itself.

An exam to examine evolution

Albert said...

Dennis,
Unfortunately that story doesn't say what sorts of resource materials were used in that course and so we are just left with a survey that says some people doubt evolution. Nothing new there.

Zac Taylor said...

Dennis said: And if scientists had a strong case for pond-scum-to-man evolution, they wouldn't have to resort to using the court room to silence criticism of it.

I used to think that same thing. But then I started to think, "hey, it does make sense not to teach religious ideas in a science class." It would be like signing up for a religion class and learning all about american government. Then again, I'll assume you believe, as I used to, that the statement "God did it" is a scientific statement.

But in terms of this post, you didn't really say much. The point was that when you look at what religion and science brings to the human table, all you see is that religion has brought division, and science has brought unity. It's just a pragmatic observation.

I see what you're saying about evolution, though. Although I believe it and think there is good evidence for it, there are many parts of it that remain a mystery.

But like I said, it's better to leave those parts a mystery to be solved scientifically than just answer life's mystery with another mystery (i.e. god). To prove the unproven by the unproven doesn't really get us anywhere, does it?

Friend said...

One problem I see is that you are making it sound like getting everyone to agree on a point is some goal. If God presents a truth of some sort, and not one person accepts that as truth, it doesn't change the validity of the truth. So, differing perspectives and even differing beliefs don't undo the truth about God. And, just because a vast majority of scientists finally agree on something doesn't make that something a true something. Just an agreed upon something.

By the way: What if the truths that scientists have come to using tests and all of that have actually been guided by the hand of God the whole time. He allowed them to use the scientific method and guided the process. That fact that science has been succesfull and quite helpful may only be proof that God is truly guiding His children during their sojourn on earth.

Inquisitor said...

Dennis,

Would you also support criticism of evolution based on what my dog told me or a dream I had last night?

There is sound, reasonable criticism and then there is fantasy.

Scientists welcome scientific criticism of evolution. In fact, if someone could provide evidence discounting evolution, it would probably be considered the most important discovery of this new century.

Simple disbelief is not sufficient to discount evolution. Don't show up for a Vegas poker tournament and then wonder why 2s, 4s, and 10s aren't wild. Science demands evidence. Right now, only evolution has it.

And we had to use a courtroom to keep religious belief from being taught in schools, something that is cleary in violation of the Constitution.

Inquisitor said...

Friend,

You are correct that a consensus does not imply truth. After all, all the greatest minds in the middle ages were wrong about the causes of disease.

However, if experts in a particular field agree, then it is far more likely that they are right when compared to the opinions of a layman or to a book written thousands of years ago. Not a guarantee, but a pretty safe bet. Wouldn't you trust medical advice from the AMA before your friend who's a plumber?

You present the "truth according to god" without actually providing evidence for the existence of this god. You are begging the question here.

Your assertion that your god is hiding behind the curtain guiding science is not evidence of anything. It results in two questions: 1) how would god-directed science look different from godless science? and 2) why would god help those who are actively obscurring his actions and his very existence?

Friend said...

I never asserted that God is "hiding". It may be that people are not looking. That is ok...you get what you pay for. But, on this point:

You said, "It results in two questions: 1) how would god-directed science look different from godless science? and 2) why would god help those who are actively obscurring his actions and his very existence?

Answers: 1) God directed science and godless science would look the same. God isn't forcing himself on anyone. So, the advertising *seems* minimal. In fact, everything testifies that there is a God. But, you don't have to *notice* the source (if you don't want to).
2)God isn't just helping His detractors, He is helping everyone. If He uses His detractors, that is His business. SOme people, by choice, will be of more help than others.

So, science isn't bad, or evil. But your view, or bias, will color everything.

Inquisitor said...

Friend,

When you state that god is helping science by "guiding the process" and yet is not making himself clearly known, he must be hiding.

If I come every night and fill your gas tank but never let you know who I am or allow you to see me, then am I not "hiding" even if my actions are beneficial?

Ok, so there is no way to tell the difference between science assisted by god and science on it's own. Then we can assume that science is working just fine on it's own since that is the simpler and more likely explanation.

If god wants the "glory," why doesn't he just appear and say, "I'm the one responsible for the advances of science?" What would he lose?

Chris said...

As a working scientist and a Christian I can tell you that science is often perverted to accomodate other interests. Very little pure research takes place anymore. Directed research, purposeful research takes place, funded often times by government, the military, big business, with the end result in mind. Thusly, I find that our faith in science is often misdirected.

Zac Taylor said...

"Very little pure research takes place anymore" is that right? So, it's all part of an anti-god, anti-truth conspiracy, yeah?

Look man, as much as scientists may have been and currently may be biased, science research today, is more peer-reviewed, more critiqued, and more accessible by the general public than ever before. All these things have made scientists more accountable, not less, than ever before.

On the other hand, religion simply offers dogma, pure and simple.

And if a scientist is biased, it usually comes out and s/he is exposed. On the other hand, the message of religion can't be critiqued as easily. There's no experiments to test what a preacher says on Sunday morning.

So, call it what you want, but I think science provides a lot of hope.

Chris said...

Zac,
I make observations for a living. There is no anti-god, anti-truth conspiracy. There is no money in such things. As for peer review, in anticeptic university based research facilities perhaps, but most science is in service to either government or big business, with outcomes that are bought and paid for. There is no peer review. The more I learn in scientific endeavors, the more I realize that I cannot possibly know all there is to know. Doesn't stop me from the pursuit of knowledge. But when you study complex systems, you come to have an appreciation for their design and architecture and you quickly realize that something greater is at work here. As much as I study it in my lab, I know I can't recreate it. I can't take the constiuent components of life and create life. I think that people who don't know science, put alot of faith in it to solve life's mysteries. One thing is for sure, you will get to the end of your life, head full of knowledge, and be no closer to understanding the animating principles of humanity and why you are here. I would simply counsel you with this; never give up on your pursuit of the Divine because mankind will never have all the answers.

Blu_Matt said...

Interesting observations there, Zac.

To "friend", I would say that, before you attempt to subvert the validity of scientific methods by asserting that your god is providing a helping hand, please justify that claim with evidence that such is the case.

If you can't, I'll remain of the opinion that you're basing your arguments and conclusions on a false assumption, which adds nothing and invalidates your entire argument.

To "Dennis", the point of using the law was not to silence criticism of evolution - it was to prevent a particular flavour of superstition masquerading as science from being taught in state sponsored schools.

Criticise evolution all you like, but provide evidence when you do so, not just opinion or supposition. Don't call it "science" if it can't be subjected to scrutiny.

Friend said...

I still don't think God is hiding. For instance, if you come and fill my gas tank at night, and I don't see you becuase I'm not looking for you, then that doesn't mean you're hiding. It means I'm not looking. And, because I choose not to look doesn't mean you don't exist. Plus, it doesn't mean that the gas come from nothing. It still came from you and you still exist. Even if I am choosing to look for other proof of your existence. I may be either not looking, or looking in the wrong place and for the wrong reasons.

Secondly, many of you continually say, "provide proof" or your argument is invalid. That is the problem right there. Just because no proof is provided doesn't mean a thing doesn't exist. It means we haven't seen proof. That is all it means. Using the scientific method to prove there is a God may not work. Science is not the guide by which we measure a God. It doesn't mean that science is useless...science is good for proving terrestrial things. Revelation is good for proving celestial things. Thus, I'm freed up from needing evidence before I move forward. I can believe God exists, then watch for the proof as it comes. Families are proof God exists. But it isn't proof for everyone because you can't add it up. That is fine. I'll take the proof. You can decide to not. I'll take feelings as proof, you don't have to. But it doesn't mean it isn't proof.

Friend said...

On the same thread...why don't we see proof provided that God doesn't exist? I'm ok with science and God co-existing. I don't even think the exist opposite of one another. Examine the idea that there is proof that evolution is real. Great. That certainly isn't proof that there is no God. Proving one thing is true doesn't automatically disprove the seeminly ooposite idea. One, they may not be opposites. Two, they may not be as related as you think.

brodie said...

Friend,

It seems as though you're choosing your proof. Families and feelings are proof of a god how exactly? I could say those exact things are proof there is a 92ft purple lizard in my back yard. To me, both of those are proof only that we are human, not needing a god to hold our hand. We only need each other to survive.

Chris said...

Friend is exactly correct. The absence of something does not disprove its existence, it merely points to the lack of evidence for its existence. If an existence claim for God is refuted then you must show the evidence for refuting this claim. Merely pointing out the hypocracy of humankind in the exercise of religion is not a proof claim.

Science is often quoted as making irrefutable truth claims. The Theory of evolution continues to be just that, a theory. The evidence for evolution is compelling but falls short of being comprehensive enough for an absolute truth claim to be made. Individual truth claims can be made within the context of evolutional theory but the entire theory is a working model and subject to change as evidence is compiled. Take the current theories surrounding black holes. We don't actually see them, yet we are "convinced" they exist because what we are observing is the absence of something (light) that we deem should be there. Also, light appears to bend as it approaches the perimeter of these astrological anomolies. This moves into the working theory that black holes are immense stars that have a gravitational pull so great that even light cannot escape their grasp. We have yet not obtained irrefutable proof of their existence. Yet most lay people would claim, they do in fact exist outside of the mathmatical models pointing to their existence.

I agree with Friend in that religion and science can co-exist, as it does in my life. Science can, theoretically, through experiment and observable fact, take you to the corners of the universe, but will never be able to explain the animating spark of life.

Rich said...

When your talking eveolution vs religion there always seems to be a contadiction when in fact there are agreeing points in the debate. Eveolution is an observable fact. Eveolution is the change in a species over time. It doesn't include enough fact to prove that this is how life began. We one who believes in a creation comments they forget that eveolultion is not about the creation of life but about the change over time in life. I think if everyone would look at those few facts the debate would change a little. It always comes down to proving that God does or doesn't exsist. Eveloution could even be a tool God uses for creation of life, we don't even know enough about the mechanics of creation to say from a religious viewpoint what it does or doesn't entail.

Dennis said...

I'm just dropping by to share a link about a court case where a teacher was silenced from exposing his students to criticisms of evolution. Not all court cases involve creationism. This is one of them. Of course, if evolution was such a great explanation for our origins, there would be no need to use our courts to silence people who disagree.

Rodney LeVake Loses Appeal

If evolution is such a great theory that has unified scientists, why is it that 45% of scientists still believe God had a part in our origins? Clearly, even an advanced science education doesn't explain away the obvious that natural processes alone can't account for the marvelous universe will live in. Only a 10% fringe of the general public believes that God had no part in our origins. Science may have unified our beliefs in many areas but it clearly hasn’t unified any one group in the area of origins.

PUBLIC BELIEFS ABOUT
EVOLUTION AND CREATION

Dennis said...

Rich,

I agree that evolution is an observable fact. Technically speaking, you are correct saying that evolution has nothing to do with how life originally developed but to most people the term "evolution" encompasses everything related to the origins of life. Apparently you do too since you stated "Eveloution could even be a tool God uses for creation of life".

Rich said...

Its true dennis even though for some reason I evolved the word in to Eveloution instead of evolution. This has been a position I maintain as "Gospel of Rich". I realize it encompasses origins but since there isn't enough evidence to conclusively state that that is how life began evolution won't make that claim yet. One thing That I can't see is the mechanism that evolution uses to decide to make a change in a species. Genetics tells us that gene mutations are not beneficial to an organism. I can't say I have any expertise in any of theses fields but I do have a desire to learn them and understand. I think that anyone would be foolish to discount science. Since all we get is a few verses that say God did it but not even an incling of how. Creation is a process not an event as it is portrayed by most religions. It really even gives you that idea if you look at the creation story. Certain things happened in a specific order. Now I know most don't believe the creation story as told in the bible and it is obviously very incomplete. Almost like the beginning of a novel, an intro to the story of mans life. I also don't think that "natural selection" is much different then "God did it". It leaves the same unanswered ending to a conversation.

DagoodS said...

Just a quick note in response, Dennis.

The court case you referred to was not scientists using the court to silence criticisms. In that situation, it was the teacher that brought action. The school board decided to transfer him to a different science class, based upon his reluctance to follow their curriculum. He brought suit. The court did not find anything inappropriate with the actions of the school board.

How is that “scientists using the courtroom to silence criticism of it [the theory of evolution]?”

If evolution is such a great theory that has unified scientists, why is it that 45% of scientists still believe God had a part in our origins?

Are you sure we want to use percentages as our method of determining what is true? As far as I know, 95% of scientists hold to the theory of evolution in America. In other nations it is even less. You talk of “10%” being a fringe element, what is less than 5% then?

Believing in God has little to do with evolution. One, shockingly, can adhere to both.

Only a 10% fringe of the general public believes that God had no part in our origins.

*shrug* given the percentage of atheists and agnostics, this is of little surprise, if true. Anyone that believes in a God would hold to a God having a part in an origin.

You have concern about the unified theory of evolution? What about the unified theory of theism? What percentage of the populace holds to YOUR particular God as being part of the origins? If we take the world into account (Darn those Hindus, Taoists, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews) a far less than 10% believe that YOUR God had any part in the origins.

I don’t see how percentages help ya, nor should they be determinative of truth.

Dennis said...

DagoodS,

You are correct in pointing out my error regarding that court case.

My purpose in quoting the percentages was to show that science does not have a unified view of our origins.

Rusty Cuyler said...

Science may lack a totally unified view of our origins, but consider this-- since 1859, there has been a growing consensus in the scientific community that evolution/natural selection is the most likely explanation for our origins. Evidence gathered from a variety of fields-- biology, genetics, paleontology (to name a few)-- have all provided support for evolution. There are quite literally mountains of evidence to support evolution. Science may disagree on the origins of the first self-replicating objects, and may further disagree on the rate at which evolution occurs or precisely how it occurs, but they do not disagree about whether or not evolution among ancestral organisms has occurred to produce the organisms that currently exist today.

In short, the consensus regarding evolution has become increasingly unified in the more than 100 years since Darwin first advanced his ideas about evolution/natural selection.

By contrast, just how splintered has the "consensus" among Christians concerning creationist ideas (or Christian doctrine, in general) become over the same period of time? How many new denominations have arisen since 1859?

(I'm honestly asking here, because I don't know. But I'd wager that quite a few new denominations have emerged. I should also note that I'm not saying that all the new-- or even any-- denominations were necessarily formed in direct response to Darwin's ideas. I just wanted to point out the chronic lack of a consensus and the constantly shifting doctrinal tides that are a hallmark of Christianity throughout its history)