I want to speak to you from the heart for a minute about the age-old “religion vs. science” debate. It seems pretty bold to tackle such a big topic with a single blog post, but… well, here we go.
The great debate
As a believer, I feel like I’m constantly on trial when I interact with the more science-based crowd. I hear questions like “the Bible says the earth is only a few thousand years old, but science knows its millions of years old” or “There is no scientific record of a global flood, especially not in recent history” or “if Adam and Eve were the first man & woman, why do we have fossil records going back millions of years?” A lot of people seem to assume that as a believer I probably don’t ever ask myself these questions, but I do. The difference for me, however, is that I’ve also had some very real, powerful experiences with religion from which I have gained an immense amount of knowledge, so I’ve come to appreciate what spirituality can add to the search for truth.
To me, that’s what it’s really all about — the pursuit of truth. I love truth. I love what knowing truth does for us. The more we know, the more we can live according to that knowledge, which brings us happiness, peace and impact. Science and religion are both deeply concerned with truth, so I love them too.
True religion and true science will never be at odds
I believe strongly that, as Henry Eyring stated, “there can never be any genuine contradictions between true science and true religion.” Both efforts are centered around the pursuit of truth — religion is just a top down “here’s what God has revealed, let’s see how that explains what we’re seeing” approach versus science which is a bottom up “here are the facts as we know them, what conclusions can we draw from them?” approach. The problem, of course, is that we live in a world of bad religion and bad science.
The effects of bad religion are obvious. Countless wars have been waged in the name of God. Individuals, communities and nations have done (and continue to do) terrible things to each other under the belief that they are serving God. Lives have been lost because believers wouldn’t accept blood transfusions or take medicine because they believed that in so doing they would offend God. With religion, people act on faith, and bad things happen when our faith is misplaced.
The effects of bad science are a little less obvious, but still very real. Before columbus sailed, common knowledge held that the earth was flat. In early America, it was common practice to attach leaches to sick people to remove their poisonous blood. In today’s age, science is constantly discovering new drugs like Phen/Fen that are touted as miracle substances but turn out to have horrible side effects. When we act according to bad science, we’re in no better position than those who act according to bad religion.
Religion isn’t provable, but neither is science
Proponents of a “science only” approach often use the argument that science is repeatable and provable where faith isn’t. That seems logical at first glance, but in my experience, science is no more provable than religion. It’s not uncommon at all for a “conclusive” study to turn out to be flawed (in fact, 1 in 20 are, statistically speaking). It’s also not uncommon for a study to find its way into a peer review journal not based on merit but because of politics and “good ole boy’s club” dynamics. In science, just like in religion, you have to decide who and what you’re going to believe. Science is the new religion and that “scientists” are the new oracles, and there’s an entire generation of believers who are casting aside their traditional religions to embrace a new one.
I believe that God is only God because he’s the smartest, most powerful being in the universe, and that he acts in complete and perfect understanding of the physical world. I reject the idea that you have to choose whether to believe in faith or to believe in science — I have found both to be deeply valuable to me. I believe that as a society we’ll be better off with science, better off with religion, and BEST off when we use both of them together.