Science, Faith and the Glory of Ignorance

Why is it assumed (please forgive the passive voice) that if one believe’s in a Creator then one must not globe-73397_960_720believe in science? Who has decided that these two sources of information are mutually exclusive?

I am a Christian. I have believed and been taught all my life that I am a child of God, that Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh and my Savior and Redeemer. I have studied the Bible as well as other sacred writings. They have strengthened my faith and deepened my conviction. I have also been taught that scientific method is the best way mankind has come up with to date for understanding our world. Some might call this a dilemma.

To those without it, faith is a copout. A way to explain anything we can’t explain. But stop for a moment. Faith is described by Paul as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)  Substance and evidence are real. Not always tangible, but real nonetheless. While non-believers will scoff, there are many things in our existence that are real but difficult or even impossible to adequately describe to one who has never experienced it. For example, try to describe the taste of salt to one who has never experienced it.  salt-51973__340Using the word “salt” is ineffective because it requires familiarity. Referring to sea water or other comparisons still require that experience of having first tasted it. So, does that mean it’s not real? Only in the minds of those who have never tasted. But in no way does that negate the reality of salt nor its value. That’s how it is describing faith. To those of us who have experienced it and come to value it, it is as real as the chair I’m sitting in. But trying to help someone understand it who has no common base to start from is virtually impossible until they have an experience of their own.

On the other hand, to many Christians, science is the work of the faithless or even of the devil himself, blinding people to the works of God.  Is that not as limiting as the other?

Sure, science doesn’t always get it right, yet we still hold on to it. How long did we “bleed” disease out of people, killing more with the cure than the disease itself? We are historically an ignorant species that seems to grasp at whatever information we think we have and cling to it like it’s a life raft in the north Atlantic. But that does not devalue the real knowledge we are acquiring. Brilliant men and women who spend their lives in dissecting substances, experimenting with chemical reactions and basically playing with fire have learned incredible things about our world. Sure, a great deal of “knowledge” has been thrown out as our understanding grows. Much more will continue to be thrown out as new information comes to light. But that does not discount the very real store of knowledge that we have. How many of us would discount germ theory or throw away our cell phones because it was knowledge acquired through scientific research? Personally, I enjoy being able to fly when I need, keep informed on world and local events, and talk to my sister halfway across the country any time I want. These discoveries weren’t found in the Bible or Book of Mormon. They were found through scientific research and brilliant engineering.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely credit our Father in Heaven for enlightening the minds of those who brought this knowledge to light. That’s the thing – these two disciplines were never supposed to be mutually exclusive. Faith leads one to action and reminds us to be humble enough to give honor to the One who gives us minds to think and air to breathe. Science is one vital way we use those minds. To discount knowledge gained by scientific study because we believe in God or to discount faith because it can’t be proven is ridiculous. “Truth is truth no matter where it is found.” To ignore enlightenment or research and only hold to a single source is blindly ignorant.

The question then comes, what about when the two conflict. For some, if it seems to contradict scientific theory then it must be false. For others, if it seems to contradict the Bible, then it must be false. How arrogant are we when we think so! I first attended college at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. There, I studied biology under a professor who was not of my faith. I don’t know if he believed in God at all or not. But when we talked about evolution, the discussion was fast, furious (literally) and very one-sided. The students, most around 18-20 years old, were certain that there was no such thing as evolution. The teacher, employed by a church not the state, was treading on very delicate ground.

In this case, I hold to the scriptures which tell us that God spoke and Creation obeyed. So, does that mean that I discount all the science? No. What that professor said has stuck with me ever since. homo-erectus-2242425__340“I believe that when all things are made known, there will be a lot of very surprised people on both sides of this argument.”

I couldn’t agree more. And no one yet has been able to sufficiently tell me how the dinosaurs fit into all this. They don’t disprove religion. They only show how much we don’t yet understand. The hazard in using a single example of conflict is that it narrows the focus too much on this topic, evolution. Please don’t miss the point. There is room to acknowledge on all sides that we are sorely ignorant.

What I recognize, and what I would love others to recognize, is that we mortal humans do not understand a fraction of what we are certain about. Not about science and not about God. We have research, we have scientific method, and we are often wrong. We are often right, too. We have scriptures, we have prophets and we have historical records. We are often wrong. And we are often right as well. I may believe in God, but that doesn’t mean I understand all things about Him or His ways. As an eternal being I am in embryo.

This I do know: that God lives. That He created us in His image. That He gave us minds to think and reason and search. That He wants us to learn of our world as much as we can. “The glory of God is intelligence.” – that’s a sign on the campus of BYU.

I also know that mankind is a proud, self-centered race that glories in his own achievements. That is, in my belief, one of our most blinding weaknesses. We can’t seem to form the words, “I could be wrong.” Or “Maybe you’re right, too.”

My plea to both the scientific community and the religious community is to take a breath! Relax about who’s right and who’s wrong. Quit calling names and ridiculing each other, and allow that perhaps there is room for all of us to grow a little.

 

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