2“Reconciling Faith and Science”: why needed? About faith and science, Americans believe:54%: “They’re often in conflict”40%: “They’re mostly compatible.”5%: “I’m not gonna say.”Let’s build some understanding!“Reconciling Faith and Science” (Session 1): What are we talking about, and why is this discussion needed?54% of Americans say S&F are “often in conflict”40% said they are “mostly compatible”5% said “I don’t know” or “I won’t answer”
3Science and Faith: two toolsets for making sense of the universe. They have differentFundamental assumptionsProcessesLimitations & StrengthsIssues they can addressScience and Faith are two different toolsets for making sense of the universe, with differentFundamental assumptionsProcessesLimitations and strengthsIssues to address
4Goals of this series Clarify distinctions between F & S Replace conflict with understanding and reasoned, civil discoursePresent some of the scientific evidence embedded in creation (the natural world)NOT tochange your belief systemprovide you ammunition to change someone else’s belief systemGoals of this series are: Not to win a battle, or even a skirmish, but to end a war!Like most conflicts, this one is based on lack of understanding and love.Our common enemy (in the Christian context) must take pleasure in setting us, especially the disciples of Christ, at each other’s throats and getting us to regard each other as the real enemy.What if the spectacle presented by the Church caused onlookers to exclaim not “fight! fight!” but “How these Christians love one another!’To clarify the distinctions between Science and Faith, and that conflict is not between them, but the people who use them.To increase understanding of the real issues underlying different belief systems, hence empathy and reasoned, civil discourse about science and faith.NOT to change anyone’s belief system provide anyone ammunition for changing someone else’s belief system.
5Rules of EngagementAsk about what you want to learn, rather than telling what everyone else needs to learn.Start no win/lose arguments.Listen, without interrupting.No personal attacks (not politics!)If anger or defensiveness crop up, pray and refocus.Rules of engagement to achieve the above goal: Seek to understand how/why others believe as they do, and why it’s important to them. Ask what you want to learn, rather than telling others what they need to learn Offer questions liberally, assertions and opinions sparingly.Start no “win/lose” arguments.Listen first, without interrupting.Allow no personal attacks—this isn’t politics!If the conversation becomes angry of defensive, the enemy is among us; we stop, pray, and refocus.
6Fundamental Assumptions ScienceThe rules (laws of nature) don’t change and won’t be twiddled by supernatural intervention.Valid evidence: things observed and measured.FaithThere is a reality beyond the physical.There is a supernatural power that intervenes in nature and human lives.Valid evidence includes supernatural things (intuition, inspiration, holy scripture…)Fundamental assumptions and rules of Science and Faith Of science There are “laws of nature” (the rules don’t change, supernatural knob-twiddling won’t occur, so the way things work is the way they always have and always will.)The physical universe is what we seek to understand, and physical (observable, measurable) phenomena are the only valid sort of evidence for the purpose (“seeing is believing.”)Of faith There is a reality beyond the physical (the “supernatural”) that interacts with the natural (and us,) to which we owe allegiance.Supernatural intervention can transcend the “laws of nature” (bend the rules): miracles happen.There are other sorts of evidence valid about the universe, beyond what is measurable (e.g. revelation, intuition, communion with God, holy scripture) and they may trump physical evidence (“believing is seeing.”)N.B.: NONE of these assumptions (of science or faith) are scientifically testable!
7Applications Science Faith Explaining how things work Extrapolating past processes/eventsPredicting future processes/eventsFaithWho’s in charge? (existence, nature of God)Purpose (of humans, the universe)Good & evilLife beyond the physicalScience and Faith can address different kinds of questions.Science: How does this work? When did this happen? What’s going to happen next?Faith: Who’s in charge? Why do we sense a power calling us to rise above what we are? Do we have a role beyond this physical existence? Why was this made to work this way? What is its “purpose”? Why does evil exist in the world? Where does love come from, or joy?” What’s our purpose? Does it all end at death?
8How Science seeks truth Does not “prove things right”!Proposes explanation (hypothesis) from observations, tries to prove it wrong.Hypotheses left standing are “provisional truth.”“Laws”: explanations that always seem to work.“Theories”: reliable, and explain many different things.How does science work? From observations of the physical world, science proposes explanations.It advances by proving that proposed explanations (“hypotheses”) are wrong and rejecting them, not by proving them true!The ones left standing are “provisional truth,” as long as they are not disproven and replaced by better ones.“Laws” are hypotheses that stood up to every conceivable test, always seem to be true.“Theories” are explanations that make sense of many different kinds of observations (e.g., atomic theory, gravitational theory).
9Limitations of Science Assumes unchanging natural laws, has no tools for the supernatural, so says nothing aboutExistence or nature of God.Miracles (= coincidences)PurposeGood or evilProves nothing(!)Advances by disproving and discarding false ideas.The assumptions of science enforce certain limitations Science has no tools to deal with anything supernatural, which would fall outside one of its fundamental assumptions; it offers no comment onthe existence or nature of God miracles (presumed to be coincidences) “purpose” good or evil etc. Science proves nothing, except that wrong ideas are wrong!!
10Strengths of Science Objectivity Reproducibility Self-correction ProgressionPredictionThose same assumptions confer great advantages to science:Objectivity (the measurements, not my wishes or beliefs, determine the answer.)Reproducibility (the rules don’t change, so anyone else can repeat my experiment and get the same results Conclusions aren’t dependent on the operator.)Self-correction (if my work can’t be duplicated, I must have screwed up and my conclusions must be rejected.) “Cold fusion,” for instance, died a quiet death for lack of reproducibility.Progression (because processes don’t change, once we understand how something works, we can build on that to understand how the next thing works.)Prediction (since the rules don’t change, what’s happening today illuminates what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow.)
11How Faith seeks Truth Proposes explanation for experiences. Looks for consistency with various kinds of evidence.Seeks confirmation via prayer, revelation…May use experiments, usually to confirm rather than to reject hypotheses.How does faith work?From various kinds of evidence (e.g. “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” of scripture, reason, experience, and tradition) it also proposes explanations.It usually looks for consistency with other kinds of evidence (including from the natural world.)It seeks confirmation from supernatural sources (prayer, revelation, scripture…).Like science, faith can be experimental (“Is my trust appropriately placed? If I step out on this limb, will it hold? How about another step? Another?”) but unlike science, usually seeks to confirm, not falsify and reject, its conclusions. (“Oh! I’m going toward the trunk!”)
12Limitations of Faith Not objective Not reproducible Not self-correctingNot progressiveNot predictiveFaith’s assumptions enforce limitations too (the converse of science’s advantages!):With the admission of non-physical evidence comes subjectivity; conclusions are not independent of the operator.It is not reproducible; if someone else has a “faith experience” I cannot assume mine will be the same even if I try to replicate the circumstances.It is not inherently self-correcting. When the evidence is chosen or rejected based on consistency with the pre formed conclusion, it will support it—whether true or false. [Classic examples will come up in young-earth geology, “creation science,” “intelligent design.”]It is not progressive in the same way that science is. It cannot assume that others’ experiences can be replicated exactly, but it certainly learns from them (hence the importance of “tradition.”It does not give predictability; with the possibility of supernatural intervention at any time, predictive ability is limited to cases where one fully comprehends the will of the supernatural power (a claim often made and very rarely achieved.)
13Strengths of Faith“Ultimate Questions” (that science can’t touch) can be addressed.Truth can be found, and false conclusions rejected, by supernatural revelation.Access to truth is not limited by education, experience, or intellect.Faith’s assumptions also confer great strengths:Faith can address “ultimate questions” inaccessible to science.Truth can be found, wrong conclusions corrected (even in cases of incomplete or faulty data) by supernatural intervention (inspiration, “conviction,” etc.)Access to truth is not limited by a person’s education (access to data,) experience, or intellect. If God regards everyone as a (potential) adopted child, He certainly can make Himself known to them.
14(Science/Faith Gedankenexperiment): The Perfect “Theory of Origins” “Everything was created 30 seconds ago, exactly as you perceive it.”Is it true?Is it useful?Is it scientific? Supportable with scientific evidence?A science/faith “Gedankenexperiment”:The “Perfect Theory of Origins”: the universe (including you, your memories, fossils, geological record, scriptures…) was created 30s ago, exactly as you perceive it now.Is there even a single datum (observation) that disproves the theory! (Impossible—it was created that way 30s ago.)If the “theory” accounts for all of the observations (data,) with no contradictions,Is it true? (Who knows? There’s no possible test.)Is it useful? (Confers no insight about operations past, present or future.)Is it “scientific”? (No, not based on assumptions required for science.)Does it gain any credibility by citing “scientific data”? (Not based on scientific foundation, so scientific data are irrelevant. God can do anything He pleases and leave any evidence He chooses – or none.)
15Which is the right tool to understand the universe? Science?Faith?Both?If we fight over which is right, who wins?Which is the “correct” toolset? Around the world, across cultures:Science has become a predominant way of seeking to understand the physical universe,NOT because it gives us Truth (capital “T”).Because it’s so inordinately useful!Example: How many used the weather forecast to decide what to wear out today, and how many just prayed about it? Weather forecasts rely on the identical scientific assumptions set forth, including that of “no supernatural knob-twiddling.” Is it a denial of faith to rely on the weather forecast?Faith is how humanity universally seeks to address questions about the “ultimate reality” that transcends science.Trouble arises when we insist that there is only a single toolset, and use it (and insist others use it) where it’s inappropriate.
16Issues for “Bible-believing” Christians For our own faith:Why is there so much physical evidence that apparently doesn’t jibe with Genesis account(s)?Does God contradict Himself in nature and scripture?Does the physical evidence tell us how God worked then, or now, or both?Issues we need to look into in this discussion series:(For “Naturalists” (there is no supernatural) life is simple; “what you see is what you get.”)For those who believe in the supernatural as well, and regard the Bible as an authoritative guide for faith and lifeFor those who believe that an essential tenet of faith is accepting all of the Bible as divinely-inspired, accurate historical and scientific documents describing God’s operations including creation (this is the usual sticking point,) there is the problem of physical evidence that appears incompatible with scripture as we read it. How do we come to terms with that evidence in the context of our own faith? Why did God implant in creation such vast quantities of evidence that “the Laws of Nature” (how He works) are beyond, or other than, those in the brief Genesis account(s), and say of it all, “It is good”? Has God created contradicting evidence in scripture and the natural world? If so, why might He do so? Can we hold to our belief that Genesis describes how God began things, yet acknowledge that science is providing evidence about how God works now, without feeling threatened?
17Issues for “Bible-believing” Christians For others’ faith (evangelism)If knowledge of the scientific evidence will lead to rejection of the gospel, what’s to be done?If the scientific evidence is another way in which God reveals His greatness, what then?In the context of presenting the gospel to others:Should we be concerned that the huge volume of scientific evidence will lead people away from trusting in the authority of scripture, and thereby from faith in God and His redemptive work? If so, we face challenges in dealing with it.If we try to dismiss or suppress the evidence, we in effect admit that Christian belief depends on maintaining a level of ignorance and avoidance of critical thinking.If we misrepresent the evidence, or falsely attack as frauds those who discovered it, we are using the weapons of the enemy, and forfeit Christianity’s standing as a guardian of truth. We discredit Christianity by telling “sanctified lies” to protect the Truth.Or can we point to the physical evidence as another means by which God is revealing His greatness (“The heavens declare the glory…”)?
18Issues for (Christian) scientists What about apparent scripture/science discrepancies?How do we deal with “miracles”?Do we acknowledge the limits of the discipline?How should we deal with proposed explanations that science has no tools to test?Since we can’t distinguish between “miracle” and “coincidence,” how shall we respond to the remarkable?For those who rely heavily on the scientific approach to understand the universe:If we accept the Bible as authoritative, how do we deal with apparent discrepancies between the scriptures and the scientific evidence? (In what ways is scripture “authoritative”?)How do we deal with miracles? Do they occur? Does God violate His laws of nature? Or does He work within the bounds of laws higher than the ones we presently understand?Do we have sufficient humility to acknowledge the limitations of our discipline?Science is built on untestable assumptions; are we arrogant when we use it to judge the correctness of world views built on other (also untestable) assumptions? What tools have we to test whether an omnipotent God created the universe 6000 years (or 30 seconds) ago?Can we acknowledge science’s inability to distinguish between coincidence and miracle, and simply choose (if we will) to make gratitude and joy our response to what we perceive as good?
19This has been the foundation This has been the foundation. Now let’s go on together to build understanding!In this session we have defined the basic rules and tools of science and faith, and the kinds of issues each is suited to address. In the following sessions let us build on that as we come to grips with the evidence that the universe (the cosmos, our earth, the biosphere, humanity) contains about itself.