Disagreeing on Science

I spent thirty-six years in a college environment. It was a small college.  It was so small when I arrived in 1977 that we could take all of the faculty and put them in a reasonably medium-sized room.  We had our own offices (which was nice) but we were not departmentalized in my early days. When I left the college in 2013, we were departmentalized.  That means that the humanities people had offices in their own building in their own area.  Scientists were in another building, in their own departmental area.

My next door neighbor in 1977 was a physics professor*. A few feet down from him in the hallway was a biology professor*.

They tolerated the humanities guy at first but as the years went by, I got to know them both pretty well. I got to be their friend.

They were collegial, by that I mean they got along as professional teachers teaching their subject matter but I found out that they did not see eye-to-eye on some basic things.

The physics teacher had what I would call a more secular worldview regarding his view of science. Before we go any further, he was a Christian in his spiritual life but in his science life, he felt duty bound to give a scientific point of view as he presented his material.  What do I mean when I say a scientific point of view?   He did not inject religion into his course work .  He felt that to take Christian concepts into the science classroom was not appropriate.  In short, science and Christianity don’t mix.  Don’t get me wrong.  He did not advocate against Christianity but he felt that science as a subject matter was adequate for explaining physics and there was no need for God in his classroom.

On the other hand, the biology professor was a creationist.

I remember the physics teacher getting very irritated a few times over the years because he just did not think like the biology professor. I pressed him on the issue of creationism and he said he just could not deny the science and wondered about his biology colleague.

Keep in mind that this guy was a Christian and went to a local church. He was my friend and a very good man.

Paul Little says that scientists and Christians disagree all the time, from the church’s persecution of Galileo to the Scopes trial of 1925. Sometimes scientists don’t agree either.

What were the physics professor and the biology professor disagreeing about, the most contentious issue in science: origins.

People with a Christian worldview struggle to reconcile their faith with the Bible and the “fact” that man and all living things evolved from a single speck of life. The biology professor could not accept that; that person wanted God to be the creator of the first glimmer of life on earth.  It goes further than that though.  People with a Christian worldview don’t buy into the notion of natural selection.  If one did, that would make the Garden of Eden just an allegory and the basic lesson of sin in this world would not be relevant.  Life would all be founded on survival of the fittest.

Scientific thinking is an interesting way to see the world if you don’t make an effort to mix some theology into the thought process. Science rests on “presuppositions” that have been proven to be “factual” by repeated observation or replication.  All my life I have spent time around scientists who feel they have a grasp of the facts of life and they are “pushing back the veil of ignorance” by their scientific exploration.

But they don’t have that grasp totally.

They have a grasp of facts as they exist now. Theory is based on facts that exist now.

Sometimes the facts don’t pan out. The scientist notes an aberration.  That aberration may occur over and over and soon it becomes a new fact.

Well known aberrations that became facts are: the Black Death was not spread by coughing, the world is not flat and the earth is not the center of the universe.

This week we will discuss some of the conflict that occurs in the battle between science and Scripture.

We have seen that conflict even occurs between scientists.

Why discuss this?

Science has been used for many years to undermine the Bible and many doubters use science to make their case against Christians.

Many people who have these conflicting views do not get along as well as my physics friend and the biology professor.   For our sake as Christians it may be good to have some thinking about this topic to help us in times when people challenge our worldview.

*Names will be omitted to protect my innocent friends.

**I hope to receive grace from my science friends as I offer simple explanations for their complex academic disciplines.


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