Science vs. Religion

This is something I wrote quite a while back but thought I would post it here and see if anyone else has anyone to say. :) (If you want to read any of the previous comments, head over here. [Sorry, the post and comments are no longer available]) [EDIT: I have made some additional remarks at my post Creation Science]

Since physics and astronomy have been a big portion of my life and interest, I enjoy thinking and writing about such subjects. The String Theory post was the first attempt at such a discussion on my blog. There is much discussion in and out of the Christian community about such things as the age one the universe / earth, evolution, big bang, “creationism” and other such scientific (and un-scientific) theories. This will be my first attempt to tackle such issue all at once. Obviously I won’t be able to address everything and I will try and be as concise as possible (I tend to ramble and I will apologize for that now). This will probably be a long post so bear with me (or not, your choice). Also, one thing to say before people jump on me for not supporting some of my claims with specifics: I will try and do the best I can to make references but I am moving soon so my books are packed up and are not at an easy reference point. If need be I will reference them after I move. So here it goes.

There are many Christians who believe in Creationism or Creation Science. I am not one of those people. This in NO WAY implies that I doubt their salvation. This merely means I disagree with some of their beliefs, these beliefs are not primary to salvation and therefore essentially DO NOT MATTER. That being said, I am a science guy and enjoy discussing such things and believe that people should always be furthering their understanding of God and His universe. What I have learned and believe does not fall in line with some of the main tenants of Creation Science. I guess the purpose of this entry is to suggest to both Christians and non-Christians that someone who is saved can still believe in the Bible as well as what science tells us.

It seems that most Creation Science is primarily used to go against evolutionist ideas as well as big bang theories (among others). The goal of Creation Science, I think, is good. It is an attempt to ratify things seen in the universe and to mingle them with ideas in the Bible. The problem that I see is that they don’t always really look at everything seen in nature. I suppose I should start with evolution. Evolution is the subject that I know the least about as it has not really been part of my studies so I will attempt to keep this brief. There has never been any proof that macro evolution (the changing of species from one to another) actually happens. This theory is followed like a religion and takes just as much faith to follow. Micro evolution (the adaptation and genetic changing of a species) has had reasonable evidence to suggest that it is possible and does indeed happen. Logically speaking it would be a fallacy to suggest that because micro evolution happens so does macro. On this topic I would probably be siding with the Creationist as there is little evidence to support this theory. The problem that arises is that evolution is often associated with the age of the earth because it takes millions and / or billions of years for evolution to take place. It is at this point that I generally break with beliefs of both evolutionists as well as Creationists. I do believe that the earth is approximately 4 billions years old but not because evolution mandates that. The evidence collected from both the earth and moon in a variety of ways suggests this age. I do, however believe in the timeline suggested in the Bible since the birth of Adam. The Bible puts forth that there is about 6000 years from Adam’s birth to current day. I have no reason to believe that the Bible would not be literal about these ages.

So why do I believe that humans have been since Adam about 6000 years ago while I do not believe that the age of the earth is similar? Because I believe in the Bible and in science. Let me start with the Bible.

Genesis 1.5: God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

The Hebrew yom is translated primarily as “day” and is from a primitive root meaning day, but it is also translated as many other things such as age, always, Chronicles, completely, continually, eternity, forevermore, lifetime, period, some time, years, and multitudes of others, but you get the idea. To me it is clear that the mere use of the word yom does not necessarily imply a single day. It must be read in context in order to correctly translate the word. So how do we read Genesis in context so we can understand what “day” should actually mean to us? The Creation narrative tells us where we come from and that we are under God’s authority. I think ultimately the usage of “day” comes from the fact that it is something we can understand. The 7 day week we are used to, we understand the Sabbath and that there is a division between the days. I think that this usage helps us follow along with the narrative. There doesn’t seem to be anything explicit about the passage that would let us know exactly. It is not a simple matter of taking the text literal or not it is a matter of listening to the narrative and the narrative is not explicit about what a “day” means. I suggest, then, that we should turn to science to see when the universe did begin.

Research into the age of the earth yields an age of around 4.5 billion years. Determining this age can be difficult because of the earth’s molten core that causes surface features to be replenished. Even though many features change there have been rocks found that date to around 3.5 billion years using different radiometric dating methods. This therefore establishes a lower limit on the earth (which is much older than many Creationists assert). Because it is hard to directly measure the exact age of the earth, indirect methods must be used. The best way to do this is determine the age of the Solar System which should roughly have the same age as the earth. Meteorites that have fallen to the earth can be used to find the age of our system and generally turn out to consistently be between 4.3 and 4.5 billion years (I know I am not citing sources, I apologize, you can find them for yourself.). Also, magnetic “markers” at the mid-Atlantic ridge show an age of around 80 million years. This follows from the fact that as magma emerges from the mid-Atlantic ridge the earth’s magnetic field essentially imprints its signature into that rock. As is spreads away from the ridge on either side there are locations where the magnetic field drops to 0 and then comes back with the opposite polarity (Magnetic north becomes magnetic south and viceversa). This reversal has been observed some 170 times. There is some inaccuracy here because it is not completely know how long it takes for the earth to change its magnetic field (meaning the 80 million years is essentially an estimate). This age is definitely not the best in determining the age of the earth because of replenishment of the earth’s core as well as the inaccuracies of determining how long it takes for the magnetic field to flip. That being said, it still seems to suggest that it is older than what Creationists suggest. (note: it has also been directly observed on the sun that magnetic fields do flip)

What is my point? My point is simply that scientific evidence cannot be ignored. It is also that when you don’t ignore scientific evidence you don’t have to throw the Bible out. They can indeed coexist. Even if you want to argue the age of the earth it is now nearly impossible to argue the age of the universe (at least a minimum age). The Big Bang theory has significant evidence to suggest that it (or at least a form of it) is correct. Direct observations in the sky lead to an age of the universe of about 13 billion years. The big bang theory always blows my mind because to me it fits perfectly with Christian theology. It always confuses me when it is used by scientists to suggest that it shows Christianity is wrong and thrown away by Christians because they say it doesn’t fit with the Bible. To me, both parties are blind to what the big bang really tells us about God’s creation.

Big Bang theory suggest that at a quantum singularity (normal physics breaks down at a singularity, it should also be noted that this did not happen IN space as there was nothing at all before the big bang, not even space) 13 billion years (or so) in the past “exploded” (which is not the best description as it didn’t really explode, it just became and started to expand) and the universe came into existence.

Genesis 1.1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Ummmmm… These two beginnings seem remarkably similar. The age can be extrapolated from current expansion of the universe as well as ages of stars and galaxies. All measurements of expansions lead to a singularity where density and heat are essentially infinite (check the Hubble Law as an example of such evidence). Cosmic microwave background radiation also points to a single creation event as the radiation is fairly smooth and even in all directions.

Personally, everything I have learned about physics and astronomy have drawn me closer to God and given me even more reason to believe. It blows my mind that some scientists can study the same things and not see a divine creator. It would be too much to go into here, but the complexities of the universe, cosmologically speaking, are so amazing that to deny a divine creator seems ludicrous. Similarly, it seems blind to me that many Christians can deny what legitimate science indicates. The science supports the Bible, it does not change it or challenge it.

There may have been a few more subjects I wanted to discuss, but it is getting late and I have forgotten what they are! I know this is a bit long, but I hope it has at least made sense. I really look forward to any comments that are out there. I will try and respond to them as I really do enjoy discussion. I probably won’t post another blog entry for a while as this is pretty involved and I do need to focus on getting ready to move to Canada, so possibly in another week I will try and get something else up. I named this entry “Science vs. Religion” because that always seems to be the argument, but indeed, they can coexist. Science cannot prove a religion but it can definitely support it.

I look forward to hearing from you! Shalom!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from a previous blog so the original comments no longer exist.

1 Comment

  1. mattjones (Post author)

    Some of the old comments:

    Blackpriester
    August 1st, 2005 at 03:49
    Hi Matt,
    You are, psychologically speaking, a rather interesting construct :).

    How one could understand the METHOD of science (as I am rather confident you do)
    and NOT think that evolution is the better theory than “creationism” to explain
    the observable FACTS on the Origin of species is almost beyond me.

    As I am sure you know, scientific postulates, hypotheses and theories MUST
    be falsifiable in order to be deemed scientific. Because if you can’t prove them
    wrong, there is no way to test them. Neither creationism nor ID meets this
    standard.

    Pus, in their attempts to point out weaknesses in standard Evolutionary theory
    (which Evolutions do, too – it’s called “peer review”) they replace the strong
    points of evolution (layer of fossils that ALWAYS match Geological Strata,
    cladistics, wonderful matches between genetic relationships and previously
    assumed cladistic relationships etc. etc.) with the unbelievably bad and
    completely bogus claptrap of “Flood Geology”.

    Which would bring me to dispute you claim that a literal interpretation
    of Genesis and scientific findings can co-exist, but that is a topic for
    another day…

    I invite you to read up on evolution, pros and cons on http://www.talkorigins.org.
    Also, concerning the “how-to” of the scientific method of searching for truth,
    please read Dr. Carl Sagan’s excellent book “The Demon-haunted world”.
    Another excellent ressource to hone your critical-thinking skills and
    find about about the latest anti-scientific clap-trap (although sometimes
    a tad too “militantly” Athiest – don’t say I didn’t warn you) is http://www.randi.org,
    run by James Randi, the world’s foremost debunker of paranormal claims.

    I congratulate you on your stance toward “Old-earth-creationism”, and
    am happy that Christianity seems to work for you. Judging by your
    writing in this article you also don’t seem to be one of those “Dominionist”
    Christians who snoop in people’s b**ts and beat them with large sticks
    if they don’t like what they smell, specificall if its Gay, Atheist, Liberal,
    Wiccan, non-tradional etc.

    I like you – and I think it’s not too late for you to become a great critical thinker :).
    Best regards,
    – Markus

    Mattithyahu
    August 1st, 2005 at 16:30
    Thanks for coming by. Your comment makes me believe you didn’t actually read my post.

    “How one could understand the METHOD of science (as I am rather confident you do)and NOT think that evolution is the better theory than “creationism” to explain the observable FACTS on the Origin of species is almost beyond me.” As far as theories go, Creationism is not considered a scientific theory because it is not falsifiable (as you pointed out). I never suggested that Creationism is better. In fact I suggest in numerous places that Creationism is wrong. But I also suggest that Evolution is NOT as solid a theory as others have made it out to be.

    “Which would bring me to dispute you claim that a literal interpretation of Genesis and scientific findings can co-exist, but that is a topic for another day” As also mentioned in the post, I don’t hold a strictly literal interpretation of Genesis.

    The post was to suggest that both Christian and scientific views can be held at the same time without contradiction. I don’t believe in “Creation science” but I do believe that the universe was created. Science and religion talk about different things. Science aims to talk about HOW the universe works whereas religion talks about the WHY of things (which science cannot do).

    Cheers,
    Matt

    tammy tsosie
    May 8th, 2006 at 11:00
    i am currently a senior in high school and am doing a research paper about the topic Evolution vs. science and i was wondering if you had any interesting info, or photos, art. etc. to email me asap it would really help and make me understand a lot more thank you

    Kyle
    May 21st, 2008 at 11:18
    To me it seems that religion is a much more simplistic, and acceptible way to view things. Both Physics and Religion started when man was created, although in a primal form. Since Religion is simplistic compared to Physics (you also need to account the fact that we view things more towards religious aspects than a bunch of numbers, calculations etc). This being fed into your thoughts, it’s only natural religion has more of an impact on people than Physics, Physics is still growing, while Religion expanded like the universe. Like an Explosion.

    My point? Both are acceptible, but one is leniant on:belief, culture,feelings, etc.(Religion). While Physics is dependant on theories, experiments, calculations, and trial-and-error.
    The issue with whether one is right or wrong? Both are right in their own ways but to prove whether ‘god’ is real, you need to begin to delve into physics to prove it.
    Why, do you ask? Well if I say a Cat created the world and I write a book about it, does it make it true? No, you need proof.

    To say that one is more correct than the other is to think that what you view is 100% correct and nobody else is smarter than you. Thinking this way also means you know ALL the secrets of the universe, and how everything works (Physicists don’t even know how dark matter and dark energy work yet(which takes up about 96% of the universe)).

    Reply

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