Reconciling God and science

Today, we’re talking to astrophysicist Jennifer Wiseman about the link between science and spirituality.

As Wiseman writes in a paper for the BioLogos foundation:

“Americans, both adults and schoolchildren, are not ranking favorably compared to the rest of the world’s developed nations in science knowledge these days. We enjoy our technological achievements and resulting gadgets, but true comprehension of scientific principles and recent discoveries is not a strong part of our culture and national conversation these days. This is reflected directly in what kinds of things are (and are not) discussed in church. In my own generally very good church experience growing up in mainstream America, I can only remember science and nature being discussed in a general way (e.g., we should look at the beauty of flowers and mountains and animals and thank God), except for once in a specific way in a children’s sermon (where we were told we should not believe we came from monkeys!). That was a while ago, but how are science issues handled today? Do pastors speak about the evidence from cosmic background light for a spectacular beginning to the universe? Are the genetic codes being mapped out for animals and humans resulting in praise for God’s amazing “blueprint”? Are the advancements in nanotechnology and biotechnology and medicine subjects for discussion of good and poor uses of technology in church? The answer to these is, of course, “no”, for the most part, yet even issues seemingly more relevant to the daily lives of parishioners are often driven by current technology and scientific advancement, and an informed congregation can better understand how to praise, pray, discern, dialogue, and serve.”

Wiseman will also be speaking today at 12:20 p.m. at the MacLaurin CSF in a talk entitled, ‘Other Worlds! Exoplanets, Life, and Human Significance.’

Do you think that there is a way to reconcile religious belief and scientific fact? Is it important for religious leaders to incorporate science into their sermons?

– Maddy Mahon, assistant producer

  • Brian Kinzer

    I can understand how people of faith may be informed and affected by scientific knowledge. But as science is the study of the natural universe it cannot be informed by belief in supernatural phenomena. You may be able to reconcile science with faith but it does not go the other way. Science has nothing to say about the supernatural and it always makes me nervous when anyone implies that it can or should.

  • Jamie

    As usual, Peter Bell HOGS the conversation (first hour). And his so-called “radical” ideas about education are not all that radical (e.g., people have talked forever about community and other state colleges being free). And Kerri Miller seems to be very enamored of him, not only allowing him to hog the conversation, but talking to and about him as though he’s some kind of a god, or at least a much more special person than he is. Yuck.

  • Jamie

    I agree with Brian Kinzer — he said it better than I could.

  • Guy Tolman

    Science has no place in religion just as religion has no place in science whether the classroom or the laboratory. Science has proven all religions wrong in their theories of the origin and functioning of the universe. When one allows their religion to influence scientific research it renders that research invalid. When one allows science to influence religious studies one quickly finds irreconcilable differences. Without extreme rationalization, the two are mutually exclusive.

  • Jim White

    @Guy Tolman. Both science and religion (more broadly called “faith”) are in pursuit of the truth. Because there can be only one Truth, they cannot be in conflict. There are, however, areas of inquiry to which one or the other is ill-suited or fundamentally excluded from meaningful application. Science, for example, cannot respond to the question “Does God exist” or “What is the meaning of life.” Faith is equally unable to answer “Is the speed of light an absolute limit in the physical universe.”

  • Jackie

    There’s a really great science fiction novel called “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell that explores the connection between religion and science. In the novel, a group of scientists (including one who is also a priest) discover life on a nearby planet and travel there. The characters explore a whole range of feelings and introspection about God and life and science as they separate from the rest of humankind and interact with new life forms.

  • larry

    If you are a person of faith, then it has been stated very eloquently by Francis Bacon:

    “To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both.”

    Bacon: Advancement of Learning.

  • Guy Tolman

    @Jim White: I disagree. In the context of science the word “truth” is used as roughly the equivalent of “fact” while in the context of faith “truth” is used as roughly the equivalent of “belief”. The difference being that when a scientific truth is faced with contradictory evidence that truth is discarded and replaced with one which better fits all the evidence while a faith based truth remains stubbornly the same despite contradictory evidence. In a religious context the existence of a god is an unquestionable truth, (without a god a religion is pointless), in a scientific context the existence of a god is a theory for which there is no evidence and is therefore extremely unlikely as an explanation for anything. As to the meaning of life.I. believe ones life has the meaning one gives it. Only you can define the meaning of your life and uyou are

  • Guy Tolman

    @Jim White: I disagree. In the context of science the word “truth” is used as roughly the equivalent of “fact” while in the context of faith “truth” is used as roughly the equivalent of “belief”. The difference being that when a scientific truth is faced with contradictory evidence that truth is discarded and replaced with one which better fits all the evidence while a faith based truth remains stubbornly the same despite contradictory evidence. In a religious context the existence of a god is an unquestionable truth, (without a god a religion is pointless), in a scientific context the existence of a god is a theory for which there is no evidence and is therefore extremely unlikely as an explanation for anything. As to the meaning of life, I believe ones life has the meaning one gives it. Only you can define the meaning of your life and you are free to use any philosophy, religious or not, to do so.

  • Jay Freeman

    Why is there something instead of nothing? Great unanswerable question is where science and religion intersect.

    What came before the Big Bang? Why was there are Big Bang? Did all this order of matter and life evolve out of chaos? I thought order descends into chaos rather than the other way around.

    Agnosticism admits that these questions are awesome and humbly bows before them.

  • Phil Hemsley

    @Guy. It is interesting that you express opinion as if it were fact “only you can determine the meaning of your life” … sounds like you have made a god of yourself…

    BTW – I don’t think you will find many people of faith who will never question whether there is a god. Most though, having questioned and examined all the evidence of their experience (of which I agree that not all is amenable to science) seem to conclude that there is no reason to change their mind.

  • George Atchley

    As a Christian, I believe we keep confusing faith and science. They are not the same things. It’s like comparing ostriches with banana peelings. Faith is about growing in understanding the invisible new life made possible by Jesus’ resurrection. Science is about the forces affecting visible life. No matter how powerful your instrument, science can never reveal the truth of new life; and no matter how wise your argument, faith can never refute the truth of science. Their differences compare better to lead and zinc, not gas and liquid.