Science and faith.

If you’ve been reading regularly (yes, I know that means not many of you) then you’ll be aware that I subscribe to the blog “Unreasonable Faith” and that it often feeds my doubts. Along with Dawkins’ God Delusion, it has been one of the main things that’s led me to struggle with all manner of things I once thought I believed in. Prayer, miracles, a creator God; all are on shaky ground. But some of you will be pleased to know that they’re not the only kind of things I read. I subscribe to many blogs on a variety of subjects, and most of my “faith and church” reading is written by ministers and the like, so I am trying to get a balanced view (although I admit that it’s Daniel at Unreasonable Faith who gets my attention more often than not).

Evidence against intelligent designI’m sure I’ve never been an out-and-out creationist, but what is now called “intelligent design” has probably been close to my position. (Put simply, “nature is complex, therefore it must have had a designer, therefore God exists”.) Nowadays I’m completely happy to say that Darwin’s explanations seem to be by far the most likely explanation for both origins and diversity of life – without needing a designer. But what Dawkins and those like him go on to conclude is this: because evolution is as good as certain, there can therefore be no god. And I’ve come pretty close to going along with that recently. 

The one thing that’s stopped me so far is knowing that there are many far more intelligent than I who are perfectly happy to accept evolution without rejecting God. So I’ve been looking out for explanations I can understand for how they do this. Ironically, one of the first I came across lately was indirectly a result of a link from Unreasonable Faith. Daniel posted a link to a video interview between Richard Dawkins and Derren Brown (in which Derren brilliantly debunks all manner of mediums and spiritualism), and following on from that I watched Dawkins interview with a Father George Coyne. I couldn’t follow all his reasoning, but here is a man of deep scientific conviction who seems to say what it is I feel like I’m looking for. It’s worth a watch, and you can find it on YouTube here.  (Just to warn you, though, if you watch all seven parts it’ll take about an hour. The Derren Brown interview is also worth a watch here, and it’s about as long.)

One blog I read is by Bishop Alan Wilson of Buckingham, and he recently wrote a helpful post entitled “Reading the bible 101” which caught my attention, and has pointed me in slightly different direction.

And now my own minister is in on the act, too. Not a blog (maybe we can persuade him to start one?), but his message in this month’s church Briefing was bang on the nail. I hope he won’t mind me reproducing it below…

Let’s leave silly behind. 

Galileo built himself a telescope in 1610 and made some startling discoveries. He confirmed the revolutionary theories of Copernicus, the most important of which was that the Earth circled the sun. He also discovered the scandalous fact that the moon was made of similar material to Earth. Revolution? Scandal? Why? 

The church had always taught that the earth was the centre of the universe and that the ‘heavenly bodies’ were made of different elements to the Earth. Both beliefs were based partly on mis-interpretations of the Bible. It took 359 years to establish beyond a doubt that Galileo’s discovery about the moon was true. In 1969 astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin collected 22kg of lunar samples, analysis of which confirmed Galileo’s belief. 

After the church had got over itself, no-one really doubted it was true (except perhaps Wallace and Gromit!). Current efforts to prove a 6 day creation, a young earth or even so-called ‘Intelligent Design’ does what the church did to Galileo: makes itself look silly. The Bible is God’s Word, but we need to respect it for what it is, an ancient document written by real people who had their own way of viewing the world. To expect the Bible to contain 21st century standards of scientific discovery is to make the Bible incomprehensible until now. And what will happen when a future Galileo or Darwin makes further revolutionary scientific discoveries? Our text books of today will need to be re-written, unlike God’s Word which is always relevant. 

There is no conflict between science and Christianity. The Bible answers the question, “why?” but not the, “how?” The ‘why’ is that God is infinitely loving and creative and expressed most clearly in Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who holds all of creation together. The ‘how’ will continue to be answered, but never finally because it is limited by those who try to answer it. 

So, find a new confidence to talk to your neighbours, friends and work colleagues about God, science and the natural world.  Let’s leave silly behind. 

Your pastor 

Dave Morris

So there you have it. Just a wee update to let you know that I haven’t quite fallen hook, line, and sinker for the “science has disproved god” argument. I’m still thinking about it. 

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