Summary: Genuine scientific enquiry illuminates the glory of the creation and the glory of the Creator.
“Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?”
In the 1500s, most people were taught and most people believed that the earth was the centre of the universe. There was an astronomer named Galileo whose studies led him to believe that this wasn’t the case – the sun and all the other planets didn’t seem to revolve around the earth at all.
The scientific community and the church at the time objected strongly. They insisted that the earth WAS the centre of the universe. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church claimed that this is what the Bible taught on the issue. They put him on trial and forced him to recant, and kept him under house arrest for the final years of his life.
Many non-Christian scientists still refer to this incident today to demonstrate that religion or faith is opposed to science. Galileo is, in a way, where the “Science vs. God” mentality started.
You’ve probably all heard it: the accusations that a claim is “not scientific” as if that puts an end to any debate; the question or challenge, “can you prove that scientifically?” as if science is the great unbiased and universal arbiter of all that is true.
For many people the following equation is true:
• Science=fact, religion=faith
You get that sort of idea from many of the police shows out there today – the CSI franchise in particular. Scientific, forensic evidence is irrefutable, unbiased fact – and if you can’t prove something scientifically, you really can’t prove it at all.
And so we come to our question – Hasn’t science disproved Christianity? Isn’t faith in some divine supernatural being the exact opposite of rational, scientific thought? If you go to church, do you really have to leave your brains at the door?
In order to answer these questions, I’m first going to deal with some broad principles of scientific methodology, the nature of science and Christianity, and then we’ll look at the question of God’s existence and creation and evolution and things like that if we’ve got time.
Much of modern science as we know it began with Christians trying to bring glory to God. Moreover, theology, or the “study of God” was known as the “queen of sciences” . Many scientists in the early modern period weren’t just Christians, they were priests, monks and clergymen. Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle to name but a few are recorded as saying that the very motivation for their scientific endeavour was to investigate the wonders of the world and by so doing bring glory to its maker.
This supposed enmity between science and religion has not always been there. In fact, it’s certainly not present today as more and more scientists are coming to the view that believing in a creator is not intellectual suicide and nor is it irrational – in fact, some would say, it makes perfect sense of the evidence. But more on that later.
We also need to understand that science is not by definition fact, and that scientists need just as much faith as Christians.
Let me start out with a few examples. At the end of the 19th century, Lord Kelvin, an eminent and well-respected scientist said this: “heavier than air machines are impossible”. Less than two years later, the Wright brothers flew their first plane. A short time later he said: “radio has no future”; “x-rays are a hoax”.
I don’t want to heap ridicule upon the man, but you get my point. History is littered with rejected scientific theories and discredited scientists.
And this should not be surprising if you understand the way science actually works – scientific methodology in other words.
Science is a process, not a series of facts. Science is a process which falsifies. What do I mean by that?
Well, the way scientific enquiry works is like this: someone comes up with a series of hypotheses, theories by which they can explain certain natural phenomena. Then, by repeating experiments under controlled conditions, the hypotheses are tested. Just like experiments in high school science – data is recorded and a conclusion drawn. Any theory which doesn’t fit the empirical data is demonstrated to be false – falsified – until one (or perhaps none) are left. If you get the same result enough times which supports a certain hypothesis, the theory is considered “proven”.
But any theory is only one experiment away from falsification.
Consider this: Suppose you come up with this hypothesis – all swans are white. You experiment by viewing and investigating swans. You visit their habitat. You see thousands of swans and they’re all white. The theory is considered proven. But then you visit another part of the world and around the bend in the river you see floating a black swan. All it takes is one verifiable experiment - in this case one black swan – to falsify your theory.