This is part of a series of posts on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. Check out other posts in the series here.
While I’ve explored some of the major perspectives of this debate within Christianity, one element I’ve left untouched is the different approaches people take on the interaction between science and faith.
This interaction can be seen in (at least) four ways:
1) Faith and Science are both accurate and support each other in a mutually beneficial relationship–this view, interestingly enough, is advocated by all sides of the dialogue I’ve explored before: intelligent design, old and young earth creationism, and theistic evolution
2) Faith and Science discuss completely different realms, and as such are both accurate, but independent and non-overlapping–this is often referred to as the “Independence” theory or “Non-Overlapping Magisteria” (check out this post for an interesting exploration of this possibility)
3) Faith and Science are at odds, and we should favor Faith–this view is often advocated by those who feel uncomfortable with scientific discoveries they may feel challenge Christianity and Scripture
4) Faith and Science are at odds, and we should favor Science– this view is often favored by those who believe their religion must “keep up” with current science
Now, it seems to me that 1) should be the favored position by those interested in the interaction between science and faith.
First, 4) seems unacceptable because it endorses giving up truths of Scripture or belief as scientific discoveries emerge. This also means that faith must change as science does. This is not an attack on science; rather, it acknowledges that science can and does often change to correct theories, etc. Take the following hypothetical situation: science advocated some position z which seemed to be in confrontation with doctrine y, but then later science found that z was untenable–instead, it was x which was more likely, and x served as scientific affirmation of y. This convoluted scenario seems problematic for those who endorse 4), for they would give up y at first, but then would they take y as true again once x was advocated?
3) seems equally unacceptable because the opposite scenario would work to show potential absurdities in such a view. On this view, take the following example: science takes position z which serves to support the doctrinal position y, but then new discoveries are made which show that x is really the case, which goes against y. The scientist, however, can run multiple tests that demonstrate beyond a doubt that x is indeed the case. It doesn’t seem to me to be intellectually honest to say that x is not the case. Doctrine y would need to be evaluated Biblically and evaluated to see if it really fit the picture, not only that, but x and z would have to be evaluated Biblically.
2) seems to fare little better. Clearly there are places that science and faith will overlap, as has been demonstrated in this series of posts on the Life Dialogue. It seems as though the advocate of 2) would have to argue that any apparent overlap between science and faith is really just that: apparent. It seems to overlap but in reality it does not. However, the advocate of 2) could simply advance the argument that perhaps these positions do overlap in a sense, but the overlap doesn’t matter, as they are investigating different parts of reality. Faith explores the metaphysical aspects of a situation, x, while science explores the empirical aspects.
So why do I prefer 1)? I take for granted that faith explains reality. The claim, for example, that “God exists” seems to me not only obvious, but demonstrably true. Science also explains reality. Thus, as I accept that both science and faith explain reality, I believe that they must operate in a mutually beneficial way: where one has nothing specific to say, the other takes over, where they both have things to say, the interplay will occur. But I see no reason to deny aspects of faith for science or vice versa. Thus, it seems to me that the Christian doesn’t need to deny science, but neither should he/she deny aspects of her faith.
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