Bridging the Gap   Leave a comment

This is not an author interview. It’s an interview with my cousin Rick, who is a world-class research doctor and born-again Christian who has asked me not to publish his full name here because he still values his career and there’s plenty of persecution aimed at Christians within the biological sciences. Lela

 

Can the existence of God be proved?

Not with the same certainty we can say “the earth orbits the sun at a mean distance of 93 million miles, making a complete journey in 365.25 days,” or “genetic information is coded in long protein strands of DNA that, in cells of a particular individual, replicate during mitosis, and in reproduction unite with DNA from another individual to produce the hereditary similarity of offspring to their parents.” Modern science has been enormously successful in producing such facts, which have a strong ring of certainty. Such success cannot simply be ignored.

Proofs of the existence of God have always been of a different sort.. There are scientists who refuse any evidence for God that cannot be obtained via the scientific method and reject any concept of deity. You will never convince them and they would trip over God if He appeared before them in the flesh and still deny His existence. Science is like a narrow-focus lamp — it illuminates brightly, but only where it is focused. The rest of reality is outside of its scope.

The classical proofs of God by Anselm and by Aquinas via natural theology do not provide the same satisfaction as proofs derived by the scientific method. They seem contrived to the modern science-based mind. Still, the scientist Pascal found them sufficient to eventually convince him that God existed and would in fact be necessary to explain the world. He used those classical proofs to prepare his mind for an acceptance of God. He viewed it as a leap of faith across the abyss of reason. For those who experience God in this way, God’s existence has been proven to them beyond any doubt.

Must there necessarily be a conflict between science and religion?

Just my opinion … no, so long as it is understood that science and faith each deal with a different aspect of reality. The Bible is not a science book. You don’t study it to find the intensities and the wavelengths of the Balmer spectral lines of hydrogen … just to name something that cannot be derived without the scientific method.

On the other hand, science doesn’t (or shouldn’t) concern itself with the ultimate spiritual properties of the world, which are equally real.

Science studies the incredible natural order, the complex interconnections between the laws of physics and the chemical reactions in the biological processes of life, for example. Science can answer only a fixed type of question — the what, when and how. It does not, really cannot, answer why from within the scientific method. Despite what some scientists want to believe, the scientific method just cannot provide fact-based answers to the following exemplar questions:

  • Why is there something instead of nothing?
  • Why do all electrons have the same charge and mass?
  • Why is the design that we see everywhere so truly miraculous?
  • Why are so many processes so deeply interconnected?

 

Those scientists who are truly content to live as materialistic reductionalists — which is what we must do as scientists in the laboratory — will never admit to a mystery of the design they see. They will continue to put off those mysteries, waiting for a reductionalist explanation for the present unknown because they believe, as an act of faith, that science will some day know everything. This act of faith denies that there can be anything unknown to science, even in principle.

Of course things of the spirit are not things of science and a larger reality exists than science can address. To many of my colleagues, that statement is anathema .. a heresy worth ruining a life’s work, if not justification for burning at the stake.

To be completely honest, the Catholic Church asserted the same charges against scientists in past centuries — that they committed heresy for saying there were areas of reality where the Church was inadequate to the task of explaining.

There needn’t be conflict between science and faith if each appreciates its own boundaries and takes seriously the claims of the other. The proven success of science simply cannot be ignored by the churches. But neither can the church’s claim to explain the world at the very deepest level be dismissed. If God did not exist, science would have to invent the concept to explain what it is discovering at its core. In fact, it has done just that. In the 12th century, Abelard wrote:

“Truth cannot be contrary to truth. The findings of reason must agree with the truths of scripture, else the God who gave us both has deceived us with one or the other.”

That still rings true nearly a millennium later.

If there is no God, nothing makes sense — not even science. The atheists base their case on a deception they wish to play upon themselves that flows from their initial premise that there is no God. And if there is a God, he must be true both to science and religion — and then you get into which religion and which field of science. The scientist or the pastor who cannot force God to fit in all areas is therefore irredeemably wrong.

 

Can a person be a scientist and also be a Christian?

Yes. The world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance alone. As you know, that is how I became convinced of the existence of God, which eventually led me to faith in God. The existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is simply too well put together. Each part of a living thing depends on all its other parts to function. How does each part know? How is each part specified at conception? The more I learn of biochemistry the more unbelievable it becomes unless there is some type of organizing principle-a Designer.

This situation of the complication and the order to function of an organism, where the sum is greater than its parts grows more astonishing as the scientific results become more detailed. I know many scientists driven to faith by their scientific work alone. In the final analysis it is a faith made stronger through the argument by design. The reductionist philosophy that is so necessary to pursue the scientific method simply cannot explain the whole of reality. You come to a point where you have to believe in order to understand what you see rather than understand in order to believe. That’s been described as a leap of faith. I felt like it was waking up from a nap. And then, from the side of faith, you look back at the arena of reason and find that everything makes so much more sense than it did before. Now you have a solid connection between the two sides of life that reason and faith inhabit. A scientist, like all people, becomes a Christian by faith and also remains a scientist in practice.

What is necessary, however, is for Christians and scientists to come to respect each other’s area of work and understanding. Far too often scientists approach Christians with the attitude in the bridge meme above and that is absolute nonsense and does nothing to strengthen any argument. Science really does a marvelous job of explaining the world’s physical aspects. We can’t ignore that and should respect it. It’s likewise necessary for scientists to understand that science is limited by the method of reason and therefore incapable of explaining everything about reality and that scientists ought to be rightfully circumspect about making pronouncements of certainty when they haven’t got evidence to support their claims. The material reductionalist view of the world really leaves us with a large part of reality unexplained and inexplicable.

Romans 1:19-21 explained that very well.

Because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened.

As a scientist delves deeper into whatever field he works in, that sense of wonder and the inability to fully comprehend reality becomes more profound.

Without that faith there is no purpose, and without purpose all the arguments for its need drive us once again to build Pascal’s bridge between faith and reason.

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