Science and Religion are Complementary Ways of Understanding the World
"Question: Aren't evolution and religion opposing ideas?
"Answer: Newspaper and television stories sometimes make it seem as though evolution and religion are incompatible, but that is not true. Many scientists and theologians have written about how one can accept both faith and the validity of biological evolution. Many past and current scientists who have made major contributions to our understanding of the world have been devoutly religious. At the same time, many religious people accept the reality of evolution, and many religious denominations have issued emphatic statements reflecting this acceptance."
"Science and religion are different ways of understanding. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of both to contribute to a better future."
National Academy of Sciences & The Institute of Medicine, Science, Evolution, and Creationism (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008), 47, 49. (For more on this book and how to obtain a free pdf copy, see the next section, What Christians in Science Can Teach Us, and scroll to the bottom.)
"It is a misconception to oppose the concepts of creation and evolution. ‘Creation’ is a theological term acknowledging the dependence of all that exists upon the authorship of the Creator. ‘Evolution’ refers to our current understanding as to how God has brought biological diversity into being. Both accounts are required to do justice to what we as scientists observe."
Prof. R. J. (Sam) Berry, FIBiol FRSE, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College, London, in 'Creation and Evolution' not 'Creation or Evolution' (Faraday Paper No. 12, St. Edmund's College, Cambridge, UK, 2007). Berry is a former President of the Linnean Society, the British Ecological Society, the European Ecological Federation, the Mammal Society, and Christians in Science.
"The most persistent misapprehension about God and creation, however, is that knowledge of causal mechanism automatically excludes any possibility that God is acting in a particular situation."
Prof. R. J. (Sam) Berry, God and Evolution (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2001), 51.
"Amongst my numerous fascinations, two have most imposed themselves and proven more time resistant than others: science and religion. I am also too ambitious. I always wanted to do the most important things, and what can be more important than science and religion? Science gives us Knowledge, and religion gives us Meaning. Both are prerequisites of the decent existence. The paradox is that these two great values seem often to be in conflict. I am frequently asked how I could reconcile them with each other. When such a question is posed by a scientist or a philosopher, I invariably wonder how educated people could be so blind not to see that science does nothing else but explores God’s creation."
Michael Heller, a Polish cosmologist and Catholic priest, currently Professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, at the Templeton Prize News Conference, March 12, 2008. Dr. Heller is the recipient of the 2008 Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, an award that brings with it 1.6 million dollars, which Heller plans to use to establish a center for the study of science and theology in Krakow.
"If 'evolution' is...elevated to the status of a world-view of the way things are, then there is a direct conflict with biblical faith. But if 'evolution' remains at the level of scientific biological hypothesis, it would seem that there is little reason for conflict between the implications of Christian belief in the Creator and the scientific explorations of the way in which--at the level of biology--God has gone about his creating processes."
David John Atkinson, The Message of Genesis 1-11: The Dawn of Creation (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 31. Rt. Rev. Atkinson holds a doctorate in chemistry from Kings College, London. He has taught theology (at Oxford) as well as pastoral theology and ethics. He is currently Bishop of Thetford, England.
"Even though the concept of warfare between science and religion still has much popular credence, we should disabuse ourselves of the notion that we have to choose between the two, or that if you want to be a Christian you will have to be in conflict with science. A majority of scientists consider themselves deeply or moderately religious--and those numbers have increased in recent decades. There is no necessary disjunction between science and devout faith."
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (New York: Penguin Group, 2008), 92. Keller (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Biosketch
Soundings from the Past
Augustine (391), philosopher, theologian, and bishop of the North African city of Hippo Regius
For [God], nature is what he does.
Sir Francis Bacon (1605), English philosopher, statesman, and essayist, whose works established and popularized the scientific method
Let no man or woman, out of conceit or laziness, think or believe that anyone can search too far or be too well informed in the Book of God’s Words or the Book of God’s Works: religion or science. Instead, let everyone endlessly improve their understanding of both.
John Donne (1627), English poet, Anglican priest, and Dean of St Paul's Cathedral
There is nothing that God hath established in a constant course of nature, and which is therefore done every day, but would seem a miracle and exercise our admiration, if it were done but once; nay, the ordinary things in nature, would be greater miracles than the extraordinary, which we admire most, if they were done but once...and onely the daily doing takes off the admiration.
Robert Boyle (1665), a natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor
But as the two great books, of Nature and of Scripture, have the same author; so the study of the latter does not at all hinder an inquisitive man's delight in the study of the former.
Charles Darwin (1842), from Sketch on Natural Selection
Seeing how plants vary in garden, what blind foolish man has done in a few years, will deny [what] an all-seeing Being in thousands of years could effect (if the Creator chose to do so), either by his own direct foresight or by intermediate means [that is, by natural selection], which will represent the Creator of this universe.
Darwin's On the Origin of Species, first edition (1859) was published
Revd. Charles Kingsley (1860), vicar of Eversley, UK, and Regius Professor of Modern History, Cambridge University
I have gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of Deity, to believe that he created primal forms capable of self development …. as to believe that he required a fresh act of intervention to supply the lacunas (or ‘gaps’) which he himself had made.
Frederick Temple (1860), Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England
The student of science….if he be a religious man, he believes that both books, the book of Nature and the book of Revelation, come alike from God, and that he has no more right to refuse to accept what he finds in the one than what he finds in the other. The two books are indeed on totally different subjects; the one may be called a treatise on physics and mathematics, the other a treatise on theology and morals. But they are both by the same Author.
In 1884, decades after Darwin's publication of the first edition of On the Origin of Species, Temple wrote: "The doctrine of Evolution is in no sense whatever antagonistic to the teachings of Religion."
Charles Darwin (1872), from Origin of Species, 6th edition
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
In a letter to John Fordyce (1879), Darwin affirmed: "It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist."
In his autobiography (1887), Darwin wrote:
I deserve to be called a theist. This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the Origin of Species.
When I was collecting facts for the Origin, my belief in what is called a personal God was as firm as that of Dr. Pusey [a respected Anglican churchman and Oxford biblical scholar].
In my journal I wrote that whilst standing in the midst of the grandeur of a Brazilian forest ‘it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration and devotion which fill and elevate the mind.’ I well remember my conviction that there is more in man than the breath of his body.
A. H. Strong (1885), President of Rochester Theological Seminary, New York State
We grant the principle of evolution, but we regard it as only the method of divine intelligence.
Benjamin B. Warfield (1888), Presbyterian theologian and the principal of Princeton Seminary
I do not think that there is any general statement in the Bible or in any account of creation, either as given in Genesis 1 and 2 or elsewhere alluded to, that need be opposed to evolution.
Aubrey Moore (1906), a Fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford, and Curator of the Oxford Botanical Gardens
There are not, and cannot be, any Divine interpositions in nature, for God cannot interfere with Himself. His creative activity is present everywhere. There is no division of labour between God and nature....For the Christian theologian the facts of nature are the acts of God.
G. K. Chesterson (1908), an influential English writer who identified himself as an "orthodox Christian"
If evolution simply means that a positive thing called an ape turned very slowly into a positive thing called a man, then it is stingless for the most orthodox; for a personal God might just as well do things slowly as quickly.
Robert Millikan (1923), an American Nobel laureate in physics, and president of Caltech from 1921 to 1945
We, the undersigned, deeply regret that in recent controversies there has been a tendency to present science and religion as irreconcilable and antagonistic domains of thought, for, in fact, they meet distinct human needs, and in the rounding out of human life they supplement rather than displace or oppose each other.
The purpose of science is to develop, without prejudice or preconception of any kind, a knowledge of the facts, the laws and the processes of nature. The even more important task of religion, on the other hand, is to develop the consciences, the ideals and the aspirations of mankind. Each of these two activities represents a deep and vital function of the soul of man, and both are necessary for the life, the progress and the happiness of the human race.
It is a sublime conception of God which is furnished by science, and one wholly consonant with the highest ideals of religion, when it represents Him as revealing Himself through countless ages in the development of the earth as an abode for man and in the agelong inbreathing of life into its constituent matter, culminating in man with his spiritual nature and all his Godlike powers.
This manifesto "says to the world that there is no warfare between science and religion. It is signed by Secretaries Hoover [Secretary of Commerce under President Harding] and Davis, and by 40 other distinguished Americans of various denominations, who include: Bishops Lawrence, Manning and McConnell, President Angell of Yale and President Burton of Chicago, Dr. William J. Mayo [founder of the Mayo Clinic], Frank O. Lowden, Admiral Sims, Julius Kruttschmitt, Frank A. Vanderlip, Victor Lawson, Henry Van Dyke, Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn."
Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973), evolutionary geneticist and a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church
Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts. ...the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness.
It is wrong to hold creation and evolution as mutually exclusive alternatives. I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God's, or Nature's method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way.
From "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" in American Biology Teacher, volume 35.
Stephen Jay Gould (1987), American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science (himself agnostic)
Unless at least half my colleagues are dunces, there can be--on the most raw and empirical grounds--no conflict between science and religion. I know hundreds of scientists who share a conviction about the fact of evolution, and teach it in the same way. Among these people I note an entire spectrum of religious attitudes--from devout daily prayer and worship to resolute atheism.
Billy Graham (1997), American evangelist
I don't think that there's any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we've tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren't meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man. ... whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man's relationship to God.
In David Frost and Fred Bauer, Billy Graham: Personal Thoughts of a Public Man (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1997), 72-74.
Voices from the Present
Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, directs the National Institute of Health. He is the former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. He led the successful effort to complete the Human Genome Project, a complex multidisciplinary scientific enterprise directed at mapping and sequencing all of the human DNA, and determining aspects of its function. For more on Dr. Collins: Biosketch at the NIH. Biosketch at Wikipedia. Article from the Washingtonian. Interview with Discover Magazine, Feb 2007. (See also his Foreword to Darrel R. Falk's Coming to Peace With Science in our book section of "Creation through Evolutionary Means"). His lecture at Stanford University, February 2008, can be found here. Another interview, this with Denis Alexander of the Faraday Institute, Cambridge University, in March 2008, is posted here. Link here for an interview by Karl Giberson, Christianity Today, July 10, 2009
He works at the cutting edge of the study of DNA, the code of life. Yet he is also a man of unshakable faith in God and scripture. Here's his "Final Word" from the book The Language of God.
In my view, there is no conflict in being a rigorous scientist and a person who believes in a God who takes a personal interest in each one of us. Science's domain is to explore nature. God's domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science. It must be examined with heart, the mind, and the soul.
It is time to call a truce in the escalating war between science and spirit. The war was never really necessary. Like so many earthly wars, this one has been initiated and intensified by extremists on both sides, sounding alarms that predict imminent ruin unless the other side is vanquished. Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible. So let us together seek to reclaim the solid ground of an intellectually and spiritually satisfying synthesis of all great truths.
The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (New York: Free Press, 2006), 6, 233-234. Read the book's "Introduction" here. Amazon.
Francis is interviewed on The Colbert Report, December 7, 2006: part 1 (3 min), part 2 (3 min)
Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith (San Francisco: Harper One, 2010). Amazon
Dr. Collins, during his keynote address at the 2007 National Prayer Breakfast, explained the ways in which science can provide a means of worship of God the Creator. "But for many of us," he said, "words are so much more powerful when coupled with music — and [these] lyrics, sung to Hyfrydol, [are] the perfect summation of what I want to convey." He then took up his guitar and led the group in song. Below are the lyrics.
Praise the Source of Faith and Learning
Praise the source of faith and learning who has sparked and stoked the mind
with a passion for discerning how the world has been designed.
Let the sense of wonder flowing from the wonders we survey
keep our faith forever growing and renew our need to pray:
God of wisdom, we acknowledge that our science and our art
and the breadth of human knowledge only partial truth impart.
Far beyond our calculation lies a depth we cannot sound
where your purpose for creation and the pulse of life are found.
May our faith redeem the blunder of believing that our thought
has displaced the grounds for wonder which the ancient prophets taught.
May our learning curb the error which unthinking faith can breed
lest we justify some terror with an antiquated creed.
As two currents in a river fight each other’s undertow
till converging they deliver one coherent steady flow,
Blend, O God, our faith and learning till they carve a single course
while they join as one returning praise and thanks to you their source.
from Thomas H. Troeger, Borrowed Light: hymn texts, prayers, and poems. copyright © 1994 Oxford University Press
Kenneth R. Miller
Miller (PhD, University of Colorado), a practicing Roman Catholic, is a cell biologist, a professor of biology at Brown University, and a coauthor of widely used high school and college biology textbooks. He has written articles that have appeared in numerous scientific journals and magazines, including Nature, Scientific American, Cell, and Discover.
They do not see any conflict in the idea that God can carry out the work He chooses to in a way that is consistent with the fully materialistic view of biology that emerges from contemporary biology. Neither do I (217).
Science and religion are partners, not rivals, in extending human understanding a step beyond the bounds of mere materialism (219).
Ironically, when I have publically advanced the idea that God is compatible with evolution, I find that my agnostic and atheistic colleagues are generally comfortable with such ideas, but many believers are dumbfounded (220).
A God who presides over an evolutionary process is not an impotent, passive observer. Rather, He is one whose genius fashioned a fruitful world in which the process of continuing creation is woven into the fabric of matter itself. He retains the freedom to act, to reveal Himself to His creatures, to inspire, and to teach. He is the master of chance and time, whose actions, both powerful and subtle, respect the independence of His creation and give human beings the genuine freedom to accept or to reject His love (243).
Evolution does not deny the biblical account [of creation], but rather completes it (258).
There is neither logical nor theological basis for excluding God's use of natural processes to originate species, ourselves included. There is therefore no reason for believers to draw a line in the sand between God and Darwin (267).
I would argue that any scientist who believes in God possesses the faith that we were given our unique imaginative powers not only to find God, but also to discover as much of His universe as we could. In other words, to a religious person, science can be a pathway towards God, not away from Him, an additional and sometimes even an amazing source of grace (280-281).
Darwin lifted the curtain that allowed us to see the world as it really is. And to any person of faith, this should mean that Charles Darwin ultimately brought us closer to an understanding of God (286).
Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God & Evolution (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1999, 2007).
More info on the author and the book can be found on our book section of "Creation through Evolutionary Means."
The Reverend Dr. John C. Polkinghorne is a mathematical physicist, theologian, and Anglican priest whose treatment of theology as a natural science invigorated the search for interface between science and religion and made him a leading figure in this emerging field. He resigned a prestigious position as Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge in 1979 to pursue theological studies, becoming a priest in 1982.
Since then, his extensive writings and lectures have consistently applied scientific habits to Christianity, resulting in a modern and compelling, new exploration of the faith. His approach to the fundamentals of a Christian orthodox view of creation, using the habits of a rigorous scientific mind, have brought him international recognition as a unique voice for understanding the Bible as well as evolving doctrine. In 1997, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for distinguished service to science, religion, learning and medical ethics. In 2002 he won the coveted Templeton Prize, the richest award made to an individual by a philanthropic organization, for his contributions to research at the interface between science and religion. Polkinghorne has written over 30 books, and has been translated into 18 languages. His biosketch in Wikipedia can he found here.
On the nexus of science and theology, he writes:
We need the insights of both science and religion in our quest for understanding. Science is essentially asking, and answering, the question "How?" By what manner of means do things come about? Religion, essentially, is asking and answering the question "Why?" Is there a meaning and purpose at work behind what is happening? We need to address both these questions if we're to understand what is going on. The kettle is boiling because the gas is burning. The kettle is boiling because I wish to make a cup of tea (and will you have one?). We don't have to choose between these two answers. We need both. However, although the two questions "How?" and "Why?" are different, their answers must bear some believable relationship to each other. The statements, "I have put the kettle in the refrigerator," and "I intend to make a cup of tea" just don't fit together. Because of this need to make mutual sense, science and religion have things to say to each other.
Quarks, Chaos & Christianity: Questions to Science and Religion, revised and updated (New York: Crossroads Publishing, 2005), 26.
After twenty-five years working as a theoretical physicist, I decided that the time had come to do something else, so I turned my collar around and became an Anglican priest. For the past twenty years I have been a scientist-theologian, seeking to combine the perspectives of science and Christianity into a stereoscopic world view.
I have always wanted to make it clear that I did not leave physics because of any disillusionment with that subject. I retain a lively interest in science and a deep respect for all that it can tell us. Yet its enthralling account is not sufficent by itself to quench our thirst for understanding, for science describes only one dimension of the many-layered reality within which we live, restricting itself to the impersonal and general, and bracketing out the personal and unique. Many things altered in my life when I changed from being a physicist and became a priest, but one significant thing remained the same: the central importance of the search for truth. All of my life I have been trying to explore reality. That exploration includes science, but it also necessary takes me beyond it.
...Because reality is multidimensional, its exploration calls for a corresponding multiplicity of levels of enquiry.
Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (Yale: Yale University Press, 2005), ix-x.
Francisco J. Ayala
Francisco Ayala is a Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Before becoming an evolutionary biologist, he trained for the Catholic priesthood. President George W. Bush awarded him the 2001 National Medal of Science. Dr. Ayala has revolutionized evolution theory, making singular contributions not only to his discipline but also to education, philosophy, ethics, religion, and national science policy. A member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1980, Dr. Ayala has been called the "Renaissance Man of Evolutionary Biology" by The New York Times. UCI Homepage Biosketch
The message that this book [Darwin's Gift] conveys can be simply stated: Science and religious beliefs need not be in contradiction. If they are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters. Science concerns the processes that account for the natural world: how the planets move, the composition of matter and the atmosphere, the origin and function of organisms. Religion concerns the meaning and purpose of the world and of human life, the proper relation of people to their Creator and to each other, the moral values that inspire and govern people's lives.
The proper relationship between science and religion can be, for people of faith, mutually motivating and inspiring. Science may inspire religious beliefs and religious behavior, as we respond with awe to the immensity of the universe, the wondrous diversity of organisms, and the marvels of the human brain and the human mind. Religion promotes reverence for the creation, for humankind as well as the environment. Religion may be a motivating force and source of inspiration for scientific research and may move scientists to investigate the marvelous world of the creation and to solve the puzzles with which it confronts us...
It is possible to believe that God created the world while also accepting that the planets, mountains, plants, and animals came about, after the initial creation, by natural processes. In theological parlance, God may act through secondary causes. Similarly, at the personal level of the individual, I can believe that I am God's creature without denying that I developed from a single cell in my mother's womb by natural processes. For the believer the providence of God impacts personal life and world events through natural causes. The point, once again, is that scientific conclusions and religious beliefs concern different sorts of issues, belong to different realms of knowledge; they do not stand in contradiction.
Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion (Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 2007), ix-x, 175.
Denis Alexander is the Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St. Edmunds College, Cambridge (more on this on the next page), to which he was elected a Fellow in 1998. Dr Alexander is also a Senior Affiliated Scientist at The Babraham Institute, Cambridge, where he supervises a research group in cancer and immunology, and where for many years he was Chairman of the Molecular Immunology Programme. Dr Alexander writes, lectures and broadcasts widely in the field of science and religion. Since 1992 he has been Editor of the journal Science & Christian Belief, and currently serves on the National Committee of Christians in Science (see the next page) and as a member of the International Society for Science and Religion. His biosketch in Wikipedia can be found here.
1. On Multiple Layers of Explanation
To suggest how science and religions complement one another, he provides this biological illustration:
...Fruitful use of the term 'complementarity' in the context of scientific and religious explanations emanates... from biology, [particularly] the heirarchical nature of scientific explanations in biology. Every plant and animal, humans included, could in principle be described using the language and techniques of physics, a description that would be unbelievably complex since it would be a description at the atomic level of the swirl of elementary particles and their energy relationships which comprise the ultimate building blocks of all living matter....Yet from the biologist's point of view the description would be quite inadequate by itself to explain how the organism functioned. To become useful a number of other levels in the heirarchy of description would need to come into play.
At the next level 'up' from physics would come biochemical descriptions, explanations concerning molecules that would include the functions of DNA and the way in which its genetic code is translated into protein sequences, and then the ways in which those proteins are involved in converting the energy derived from food into sustaining the life of the organism. A level 'up' from biochemistry comes cell biology. At this level the organism is seen no longer in terms of the interactions between molecules but in terms of cells and the organelles within cells, each one containing billions of molecules. This level of explanation is required in order to investigate questions such as the development of the organism. Since all the information that encodes our bodies is present in the DNA of every cell, how does the cell know how to develop into a kidney cell rather than a brain cell? And how do tissues (collections of cells) become the shape that they do become? One level 'up' from cell biology comes physiology, the study of the dynamic interactions between the various organs of the body...
Alexander goes on to discuss further complementary levels of explanation that add to our understanding of human beings--psychology, social anthropology, religion and philosophy. He then observes:
The term 'complementarity' seems a very appropriate way of relating these various levels of description. No biochemist (in their right mind) thinks that their biochemical explanations comprise the only relevant body of knowledge in the study of an organism, least of all that their explanations are in any sense rival to those supplied by the physicist, cell biologist, psychologist, or whoever. It is tacitly recognized that many layers of explanatory understanding are not only preferable but essential if a reasonable and complete description of a phenomenon so complex as a biological organism is to be achieved.
Rebuilding the Matrix – Science and Faith in the 21st Century (Oxford: Lion, 2001), 277-279. Lion Publishing. Amazon
2. On Models of Interaction between Theology and Science
Interactions between science and religion are varied and complex, both historically and today. Models can be useful for making sense of the data. Four major types of models have been proposed to describe science-religion interactions:
- The Conflict model
- The Independence model (aka Non-overlapping Magisteria or NOMA)
- The Fusion models
- The Complementary model
The following paper compares these models, and highlighting their respective strengths and weaknesses. It is concluded that the model of ‘complementarity’ is most fruitful in the task of relating scientific and religious knowledge.
Rival models in science often become the focus of vigorous debate. The term ‘model’ has a rather broad range of meanings within science, but generally refers to one key idea that incorporates a particular set of data in a satisfactory manner. For example, during the early 1950s there were several rival models describing the structure of DNA, the molecule that encodes genes, but in the end the issue was settled by Watson and Crick: the double-helical model in fact provides the best way of describing the structure of DNA.
Could there be one single model that in like manner encapsulates the relationship between science and religion? This seems very unlikely. For a start, both science and religion are highly complex enterprises. Furthermore, both are in a constant state of flux. Unlike the unchanging structure of DNA, described by a single well-established model, now discovered, no one all-encompassing model describing the relationship between science and religion awaits discovery. It has therefore been argued, with good reason, that the safest approach when investigating science and religion is simply to describe the complexity of the relationship
Yet life is short and models retain their conceptual usefulness in mapping out ways of relating different bodies of knowledge, useful at least as introductory tools to what is a vast literature. Furthermore, highly vocal advocates continue to sustain the view that a single model relationship is sufficient to encompass the science-religion relationship.This paper therefore has two main goals: the first is to present four of the major models whereby science-faith interactions can be visualised and the second to critique the notion that any one of these models is in itself adequate for the task, albeit highlighting one model in particular that has proved to be most fruitful.
Timothy Larsen is Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and in 2007 was a Visiting Fellow, Trinity College, Cambridge. Biosketch
“War Is Over, If You Want It”: Beyond the Conflict between Faith and Science Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 60 (2008) 147-155.
The purpose of this article is to help emerging scholars, especially in the sciences, to reframe the issue of the relationship between faith and learning in a productive way. While critiques of the warfare model exist in the specialized literature of the history of science, the presumption of conflict continues to dominate in the media and in popular conversations in both secular and religious contexts. As a result, young scholars have often imbibed this model themselves as an accurate portrait of the way things are, and they usually do not have a clear, up-to-date reflection on the relationship of faith and learning to put in its place. This critique is offered as such a resource.
Godfrey and Smith: Atheistic Meteorology or Divine Rain?
The following excerpt is taken from a book entitled Paradigms on Pilgrimage: Creationism, Paleontology and Biblical Interpretation (Toronto, ON: Clement Publishing, 2005) written by paleontologist Stephen J. Godfrey (PhD, McGill University) and pastor Christopher R. Smith (PhD, Boston College). The book describes the journey of these two brothers-in-law out of an anti-evolutionary, young-earth creationism into a model of creation-by-means-of-evolution. This chapter appended below demonstrates how in the matter of rain we who believe in God are comfortable with complementary explanations. If the biblical account and the meteorological account of precipitation comfortably co-exist in our minds, then perhaps we can adopt this multidimensional approach to other regions of science, including biological evolution.
Most of my objections to the notion that biological diversity could have resulted from continuous, long-operating natural processes vanished while I was working on dinosaurs in Drumheller, Alberta. Ironically, the final vestiges of the old paradigm were not shed as a direct result of studying dinosaurs, but rather because a simple, yet far-reaching analogy occurred to me. The Bible states dearly that it was God who sent rain, at least in ancient times, on the land of Palestine. In other words, the Bible attributes to the action of God something that we currently understand to be the result of natural processes. This being the case, why would it be wrong to consider the possibility that biological diversity, which the Bible also attributes to the action of God, could similarly have come about as a result of naturally operating processes?
When this idea first came to me, I reached for my New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible one evening while seated at home in my basement office. As I perused the many references that attributed precipitation to the action of God, I wondered what part a person of faith should consider God to play in sending rain. Furthermore, what part, if not all, of meteorology should we not bother studying, because therein lies the domain of God, a realm beyond scientific scrutiny? As I began to grasp the implications of this analogy and its logical conclusions, I realized that it would have as profound an impact upon my understanding of biological creation as had the discovery of fossilized trackways in Garnett, Kansas, upon my understanding of the age of the earth.
I had been deeply disappointed by young-earthers when I realized the implications of trace fossils. As I contemplated the Bible’s claim that God sends rain, and the development of the science of meteorology, once again I became angry and frustrated, both with creationists and with myself, for our lack of consistency when it came to biblical interpretation. I realized at that time that we were content to let natural processes account for precipitation, but when it came to the origin of biological diversity, we were adamant that no natural processes could or would ever be found to account for something the Bible attributed to the actions of God.
When I espoused the creationist paradigm, I did not object to the science of meteorology! But I should have, because there can be no doubt that, according to the Bible, it is God who “sends rain upon the face of the earth” (a claim made in Genesis 7:4, Leviticus 26:4, Deuteronomy 11:14, 1 Kings 17:14, Job 5:10, and Psalm 147:8, among many other places). Are these references to miraculous interventions by God to send rain, or are they descriptions of natural occurrences? The text in Deuteronomy 11:14, at least, seems to indicate that these are the expected, naturally caused rains that God is sending: “that He may give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil.”
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