I am occasionally going to post the last six months' worth of articles written for the local newspaper's Faith and Values Board. The first one posted, of the seven now completed (will be a total of twelve by the end of the term), was the book review of THE CASE FOR CHRISTMAS by Lee Strobel.
This was in this morning's paper. It can also be accessed here.
SCIENCE DEALS WITH THE OBSERVABLE; FAITH DEALS WITH THE UNOBSERVABLE
Over the years, many philosophers and scientists have tried to convince people that science is the final authority in the world we live in. In June 2010, Dr. Stephen Hawking made headlines with this statement to Diane Sawyer: "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."
Hawking is an academically brilliant man. But brilliance does not always equate to wisdom, or an understanding of the place of the spiritual in our world. It is a serious mistake to put science and religion (for these purposes, Christianity) at odds, because they are actually complementary in their purpose.
Science is a wonderful tool within its realm, which is observation with any of the five senses. I marvel at the advances in medicine, technology, and many other areas. And as a science teacher, I love to see the reactions of junior high and high school students when an “A-ha!” moment occurs and by observing they grasp some great truth of our natural world and its laws.
However, even with all science can do, it also has serious limitations. A few include:
Science makes mistakes. (Think the thalidomide disaster of the 1960s, the Challenger and Columbia explosions.)
Science cannot determine if something is right or wrong. (Gender and trait selection of babies, euthanasia—all doable by science but questionable as to morality.)
Science sometimes deliberately deceives. (The most recent example: January 2011, when the news was trumpeted that studies on vaccination-autism links were forged.)
Science cannot change basic God-ordained boundaries on natural events. (Science can’t change the length of a year, the rotation of the earth, or the direction of a hurricane.)
And finally, and most importantly, Science is not equipped to explain the unobservable realms of our world. Each year I work through an enlightening exercise with my eighth graders. First, we make a list on the board of observable things. That is easy. After writing down about 25 items, we make a second, harder list. What are some of the things in our world that cannot be observed with the five senses? These are some of the answers that they come up with after pondering the question: Thoughts. Prayers. The human soul. Emotions. God. Angels and demons. Heaven and hell. Conscience. Where we came from (origins).
Although not all things fit exactly, the correlation becomes obvious. We have science to deal with observable things; we have the Bible to help us understand the non-observable aspects of our lives.
Science and religion are not in conflict. Science is a partner in the great task of understanding the world. But in the final windup, it is a poor and inadequate substitute for dealing with the unobservable important and deep issues of this life. Even though I teach science, and see the importance of a good education in that field, I do not trust in it for eternal matters. The stability of God’s word, which never changes, is the rock upon which I have safely put my trust – and which I will always direct my students to as well.