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Science and Religion

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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2 thoughts on “Science and Religion”

  1. Hi Bosco! Your post caught my eye when it came up in my FB feed. I know we’re in agreement about this topic and am glad to see you are still writing about it. You might be interested in my new book that is forthcoming from World Scientific Publishing later this year: “Spiritual Insights from the New Science: Complex Systems and Life.” I’ll put a link to the publisher’s page for the book in the “website” box below. It can be preordered now – I just got the page proofs and am starting to do the final pass! I hope you and yours are well. Peace — Raima

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