Science and Religion…Going too Far?

Paul Little’s chapter on “Does Science and Scripture Agree” is a conundrum for me.

I like to throw in the fancy words to make people think I have some sense. When it comes to science, I lack a lot of scientific sense.  I avoided science as much as I could in college.  I have a layman’s curiosity about the Bible but I am not seminary trained at all.  Hence, I am weak in theology.

Words like conundrum serve as my smoke screen.

But as Mr. Little discusses the topic for the week, I find it interesting that he does not denounce science, nor does he uphold theology. He says the conflict between the two is the blame of both the scientist and the theologian.

Let’s lay out his explanation.

Scientists like objectivity.   That’s why they are so driven by data.  That’s why the experiment is so important for them.  Data or results show a trend.  Experiments with controlled variables are supposed to mean something.  So where do scientists cause controversy?  When they speak outside of their findings.  Little points to the very popular Astronomer Carl Sagan.  I remember him when he was on television.  He popularized astronomy and science, making it more interesting and accessible to the masses [by the way, I took astronomy in college and absolutely hated it; made a C, I think].

Sagan is used as an example of scientism or making philosophical statements about science that are not fact based. When he said “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be…does it not make sense to worship the sun and the stars?”  Here he is going way beyond the facts of science.  Maybe he meant well but you can easily see where people of the Bible would take offense at this statement because he gets into the theology of nature worship.

Before we go too far, the people of the Bible go too far also.   We like to take our beliefs and make them scientific.  This of course rankles men and women of science.  Some think that Bishop James Ussher’s date of 4004 BC is the date of creation.  “James Ussher (or Usher; 4 January 1581 – 21 March 1656) was the Irish Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland between 1625 and 1656. He was a prolific scholar and church leader, who today is most famous for his chronology that sought to establish the time and date of the creation as ‘the entrance of the night preceding the 23rd day of October… the year before Christ 4004;  that is, around 6 pm on 22 October 4004 BC.’”  Through meticulous calculation he “determined” that this date is it; the year when God started it all.  Scientists are quick to point out that Bishop Ussher’s date is of course not correct, with many pieces of pre-4004 BC fossilized evidence to bolster their case.   That did not keep the date from making it into some English Bibles but those Bibles were not based on any original texts [just Ussher’s popularity in the 17th Century].  This did not keep the date from becoming an example of science vs theology.

Little says “If we limit ourselves to what the Bible actually says and to what the scientific facts actually are, we shrink the area of controversy enormously.

However there are so many well-meaning souls out there; people who have such a firm belief in the importance of science that they take science into the area of philosophy or theology. And there are so many well-meaning Christians out there; people who want to make pseudo-scientific statements to make religious ideas sound data driver.

And then there are blokes like me… dilettantes who encounter conundrums and we expound on ideas when we should not.

From my readers…

I ask for your forgiveness…

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