Is it Science OR religion – or can it be Science AND religion?

A recent conversation I had went something like this:

A person I know had a new cast on the arm and, when I enquired what had happened, the person I knew explained about falling on that wrist and breaking it. I joked about the poor construction of the human wrist. Someone standing nearby (neither of us knew this person) interrupted: “That’s because we should be swinging in trees, not walking vertically on the ground.” [Let’s leave for another time chimpanzees walking]. We chatted and joked and included this (unknown-to-us) person in the conversation. That person then said: “I’m pleased no one took offence at my trees comment; I didn’t know – one of you could have been a Christian.” I wasn’t wearing my priestly clerical collar – so I said to my arm-in-a-cast acquaintance, “You’d better tell this person what I am and what I do.”

From there I had a good conversation with this person. Tertiary educated, the person could not visualise a Christian accepting Science, evolution, or the Big Bang. Creationists, biblical literalists, fundamentalists – these have captured the public imagination, the popular perception of Christianity.

When I explained that my first degree was in Science: “Oh! But after that you changed your mind, became a Christian, and went with religion instead?” No – I tried to explain…

As the conversation continued, I think that I was perceived as being open minded, accepting of people who affirm a scientific understanding, [also, as the chat went on, it was clear that I was open minded in also accepting of differences in sexuality, in world religious perspectives, even accepting of atheists,…] But, the idea that I hold to Science because of my faith in God – that idea, I think, was a bridge too far. The notion that I see the universe as being understandable because of God – that concept seemed too far from the religion-against-science perspective. The notion that experimenting works because of God, that the universe is consistent because of God – this appeared to be unimaginable to my new companion.

Science is founded on the reality that the future will react the same as the past. That’s what experiments do: Action A results in Consequence B; so, we predict – whenever we do A, B will happen. This assumes that the universe has this predictability. But, saying that B always follows A because it always has in the past is inductive reasoning that depends on faith: faith that the universe is consistent and predictable. Faith in God can undergird such a belief about the universe, about its consistency and predictability.

A concluding point: The physics theory that the Universe has a beginning comes from the work of Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest. It was the atheist, Fred Hoyle, who mockingly called Fr Lemaître’s (to-Hoyle-preposterous) idea of something arising out of nothing Lemaître’s “Big Bang” theory. Hoyle died this millennium, still convinced that the Big Bang was a religious fairy tale.
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