One of our kids had a teacher who thought that all Christians are ignorant and just lack common sense because ‘they don’t believe in science’. My daughter evidently put up her hand in his class and said, ‘My dad’s a scientist — and he’s a Christian’.
A couple weeks later I met that teacher at a parent-teacher interview. He explained that the class was expected to look scientifically at the biology course, regardless of their, as he emphasised, ‘religious convictions’.
As he said that, he looked at me as though he was expecting a reaction. But I smiled and said, ‘That’s fair enough. We don’t have an issue with that. My husband is a scientist. He has done demonstrations in science classes in previous years. Perhaps he can help in your class.’
We wondered at the teacher’s view that Christians can’t agree with science, but then recalled several radio interviews, seminars, some books, articles and letters to editors where Christians had given themselves and others a bad name. To be honest, as a Christian who likes to learn ‘stuff’ and who enjoys debating, investigating and challenging the thoughts and beliefs of others, I do sometimes cringe at what I hear people say in the name of Christianity, when I believe they’d be hard-pressed to find any biblical support for what they are saying.
Being married to a scientist who is also a Christian, I am becoming more and more aware of his colleagues and also world-renowned researchers who are also both scientists and Christians.
I find it interesting that when they are asked ‘creation versus science’ questions in particular, their answers are often guarded and vague — not because they want to avoid the debate, but because they are more aware of the complexity of the issue than most of us. I do know that the more my husband studies and researches, the more he is fascinated and awe-struck by the wonders of God’s creation. Often, that is the answer he gives to those ‘creation versus science’ questions.
Science is about understanding the world in which we live. It is about finding out reasons and evidence for things happening, and answering questions, using reproducible, repeatable experiments that are measured against appropriate ‘controls’ or ‘constants’.
Science needs to be totally consistent: So we find that ‘good’ science always backs up other ‘good’ science. As such, Chris and I have never found any ‘good’ science that has disproved what is written in the Bible. Good science looks at data objectively — regardless of our world view.
Scientists know that science doesn’t ‘prove’ anything conclusively — though it can disprove conclusively. So, there are questions worth keeping at the back of our mind whenever we hear of any new ‘scientific proof’.
- There is usually more than one way to interpret results and statistical data. Is this the only way in which these results could be interpreted? How reliable is the interpretation? How recent is the paper in which it was written? Has it been peer-reviewed — that is, assessed by other experts in the same field who have a ‘neutral’ interest?
- Who is putting forward the evidence? Has the evidence been produced by somebody with a ‘vested interest’, such as a company that sells a particular product? For example: diet products and herbal remedies are often promoted by companies who will benefit from sales of their particular recommended therapies – in the same way that Coca-Cola is not likely to promote Pepsi.
- If the article is from the internet, which type of website does it come from? Very generally, .com represents a commercial enterprise, .org is a not-for-profit organisation, .edu is an educational institution and .gov is a government website.
All those questions could be summed up by ‘How biased is the scientific viewpoint?’
Sometimes there needs to be a debate. In every culture there are commonly held beliefs that affect the way we look at life and interpret the things that happen around us. This is what we call a ‘paradigm’.
During the Black Plague in the fourteenth century, people believed that cats were associates of Satan. So a law was passed that people were obliged to destroy cats. Eventually, somebody noticed that those people who defied the law and kept cats domestically were surviving the plague. Some rudimentary research was undertaken and it was discovered that cats protected people from the plague because the cats killed the rats which were spreading the disease. The law was repealed, and that was the end of the plague. (Julie’s simplified version!) It was also the end of that ‘paradigm’ — what we call a ‘paradigm shift’.
Without Galileo or Columbus challenging the paradigm in which they lived, we may very well still be thinking that the world is flat. Without Pasteur challenging others with his Germ Theory of Disease, we may never have learned about bacteria or viruses. At the moment, Western science is caught up in an evolutionary paradigm. Belief often lies behind a hypothesis. We need to be aware of that and, like Galileo, Columbus and the cat breeders during the Black Plague, we need to follow our convictions with an open mind, willing to learn and investigate, until truth wins through.
Christians recognise our Creator’s work in the beginning of the universe. But it’s probably wiser to leave the details to God, than to argue using our own limited logic or understanding.
If it’s not written in the Bible, let’s not pretend it is. Let’s become so familiar with what God’s word does say, that we don’t get caught up arguing about issues that may not matter in the long run, which cause wars between evolutionists and creationists – who might end up with more in common than they think.
Let’s not get caught up arguing about stuff that takes our focus off what God does want us to know. And let’s remember that it is up to us as Christians to love our neighbour as ourselves — regardless of each other’s beliefs.
Originally published in The Lutheran, 2011, March edition as
‘Where’s The Proof? in the ‘Heart and Home’ column, by Julie Hahn
By Jeckyl (Julie Hahn) on February 28, 2016