Is there a way to make peace between faith and science?
A week ago Monday, I had the privilege of offering a presentation on making peace between faith and science at the Xavier High School Fine Arts Center in Appleton, Wisconsin. With a nice sized crowd in attendance, I gave the audience both a summary of some of the main themes of my book, God’s Canvas: An Exploration of Faith and Science, along with some original material about papal statements regarding evolution and addressing the misnomer that New Atheism puts forward that science can disprove God.
It was a wonderful evening with much of the feedback I received speaking to how people appreciated my handling of Atheism. In this presentation, I stated that science is not a field of study that makes dogmatic statements about truth. Science constantly tests and re-tests established findings under the presumption that there is always something new to discover. Therefore, truth for science is always tentative, realizing that the very nature of science presumes an openness to altering, changing, or discarding scientific findings if new data points to a new way of understanding the natural world.
The very nature of science, as stated clearly by the National Academy of Science, is to remain neutral on the question of God. Therefore, if a scientist claims that science can disprove God, their statement is a personal belief that is separate from their scientific research. Of the many problems with making such claims, a ministerial issue I often deal with is how many young people have given up their faith, presuming that these types of statements are supported by science. On the flip side, it also frustrates me when I see Christians twisting science into something that isn’t truly scientific, creating a hybrid mentality that is meant to push personal and political biases. It is an unfortunate reality when two noble fields of knowledge are distorted in such a way that ends up harming one another.
In the most recent edition of Astronomy Magazine, Bob Berman put together a piece titled, “Intelligent Design: Scientific truth and spiritual beliefs need not be mutually exclusive.” Truth be told, I have been anticipating this piece since Bob reached out to me a while back, asking if he could make reference to me in light of the guest appearances I have made on different Slooh.com astronomy specials. Slooh is an international network of online observatories that is open to the general public through subscription. I have been a Slooh member, off and on, since I taught Introduction to Astronomy at Regis High School back in 2011-2012. I was more than happy to be a part of Bob’s piece.
Much could be said about Bob’s article, but what I appreciated most was his reechoing of the National Academy of Science’s position of neutrality on the question of God. Though Bob very comfortably expressed his openness to a Creator in light of his understanding of the world we live in, he also emphasized that, as a scientist, the closest science can come to a definitive answer about God is simply: We don’t know.
Watching my pets or pondering brain or liver architecture, an awesome underlying intelligence in nature seems obvious. But I respect those who believe it’s a dumb, random cosmos. What’s important is that these are beliefs. We science journalists should never present such personal philosophies as science fact.
So even now during the holidays, my hope is that the popular scientific subject of abiogensis on Earth or on exoplanets leads us to candidly offer a single, unassailable, factually accurate conclusion: We do not know. (Bob Berman, “Intelligent Design: Scientific truth and spiritual beliefs need not be mutually exclusive,” Astronomy Magazine. December 2017. p. 10)
When reading Bob’s piece, I couldn’t help be feel hopeful that the endless cycle of debates between faith and science might eventually give way to a relationship rooted in dialogue, trust, and a mutual desire to discover truth. Granted, sad events in history have made this type of trust challenging to establish. However, it is my prayer that our future can both seek to heal the wounds of the past and establish new pathways through a common pilgrimage of truth.
Below is a video that was made of my presentation in Appleton. Enjoy and may God bless your Monday!