Science and Faith
At a recent international trade event in London, a BBC reporter asked Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, “Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution…do you believe in it?” Walker ‘punted’ the question, a thinly veiled attempt at ridicule. Perhaps he could have been more prepared.
The question arises from the belief that science has settled the ultimate questions of life, so there is no need for answers from faith. And in the extreme, science is the means to explain away the existence of a Creator. Some in the faith community are too eager to accommodate, and in doing so render its doctrines incoherent, and dismiss its texts as metaphor.
Science should not be so confident that its present ‘conclusions’ on a subject will not change, if for no other reason than the scientific method requires hypotheses to be challenged by new data.
In the early half of the 20th century, the common scientific position was that the universe had no beginning. Philosopher Bertrand Russell defended this conclusion as sufficient to end any further debate about God’s existence.
In the 1960’s a new hypothesis gained support in the scientific community, but met resistance from the atheists. New data suggested that the universe began at a point in time. That in itself does not prove the existence of God, but it does realign a scientific conclusion to allow that possibility. Kings College Professor (and former atheist) Alister McGrath wrote, “This fundamental shift in the scientific consensus has changed the tone of the debate about God. It reminds us how science changes its mind about very important things.”
In 1998, philosophers William Lane Craig and Anthony Flew re-debated the issue that Russell ‘settled’ decades prior. In light of the Big Bang Theory (not the TV show!), Craig applied this logic: Whatever begins has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore, the universe has a cause. Flew found it difficult to argue otherwise.
Not long after, Flew renounced atheism. He may not have embraced Christianity, but he at least admitted that science cannot answer ultimate questions. Regarding the origin of the universe, he wrote, “If you had an equation detailing the probability of something emerging from a vacuum, you would still have to ask why that equation applies.” It seems quite unreasonable to think that the universe caused itself, and for no reason.
It is more reasonable to consider an outside cause, such as the Christian doctrine of creation, which speaks to the act and the reasons for it. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). In Fatherly love, God created a world that makes Himself known to created people.
Gov. Walker later issued a clarifying statement, “Both science and my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God.” He wasn’t prevaricating, but was stating a hopeful thought that science and faith can sincerely coexist.