Science and Religion: Their Sources

The biggest and most important difference between science and the Bible is the source of their information.  The Bible claims that God has seen all of earth history, has taken the responsibility to communicate to us through the Bible, and supports the trustworthiness of that communication.  If the evidence we have seen and come to understand has led us to have confidence in this claim, then we have a strong reason to take the Christian worldview as a whole.  The more confidence (faith) we come to have in the God— not just the book, but the Creator behind the book— who is communicating to us, the more that faith carries us beyond what can be tested and gives us confidence in the parts of the worldview we cannot test.  Individual confidence in God as a trustworthy, all-knowing, personal Being is the basis for trust in the Bible as a reliable source of information.  We must continue the study of the Scriptures realizing that we do not always understand the sacred documents correctly but knowing that God has taken the initiative to communicate with us.

In contrast, formulation of scientific theories is a very human process.  No gods developed any particular scientific theory.  Nor has they taken it upon themselves to communicate it to us.  Scientists would not ever want to claim that the significant aspects of a theory or paradigm must be either all right or all wrong.  They would recognize that a theory might be partly right and partly wrong.

In all of human experience (and science is supposed to be based on experience), the source of encoded information appears to be an intelligent agent.  Therefore, it is reasonable to infer that an intelligent agent was necessary at the origin of life.

For many people, the law of historical progress functioned as a substitute for divine Providence.  “When science seemed to take God out of the universe, men had to deify some natural force, like ‘evolution,’” explains Randall. (John Herman Randall, Philosophy after Darwin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), 8.)

Science, in contrast, is an ongoing, open-ended human search for understanding of the physical universe.  It utilizes observation, experiment, and analysis to test the validity of human ideas and to help us think of new hypotheses.  Science does not claim but, in fact, vigorously rejects the notion that any of its conclusions has divine authority.  The Bible claims authority; science inspires confidence by its success but does not claim “authority”— its claims are always subject to revision when required by new data.

Science is an extremely slow process.  It has many human limitations, especially in study of origins, but it still is a very effective way of discovering data.  We often do not have enough data to be certain of the correct scientific explanation or theory, but even then, the data help eliminate some of the incorrect theories.

A secular worldview introduces its own biases into the search for understanding and is no more neutral than religion.  Either worldview can form a basis for the search for truth, but they will lead in very different directions.  The Christian worldview is based on the truth of the central events of biblical history: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration (the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan). Commitment to this set of truths forms the foundation for an integration of all knowledge, not just religious knowledge.

The Bible is the standard for religious doctrines and for areas for which the Bible makes claims in natural history.  Yet science and the Bible continue to shed light on each other.  Science suggests ideas that may help us recognize that we have been reading some preconceived ideas into the Bible.  In other cases, the Bible can help us recognize incorrect scientific theories so we can turn our efforts toward developing more accurate interpretations of the data. This can result in an ongoing feedback process in the interface between science and religion that challenges us to dig deeper in both areas

At this point, we must remind ourselves not to let our religious views twist our interpretation of scientific data.  A Christian does not need to fear good data.  We may indeed struggle with seeming conflicts because of limits in our available data and our interpretations, but ultimately genuine truth will not contradict itself.

The processes occurring in the scientific and religious domains are different and cannot be interchanged.  Scientific experiments are not a basis for testing divinely inspired scriptural statements.  Science does not test its conclusions by linguistic analysis and “comparing scripture with scripture.”  The interaction between them occurs in the thinking process.

 

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