I remember quite vividly in class one day in the public school district when a substitute teacher came in to play a video.
It was a film on the origin of the universe and the formation of life, with a naturalistic perspective. The video played the entire class period. We had to end it early so that everyone could pack up and make their way to the next class, but it was plenty of time for the students to hear a professional narrator speak so matter-of-factly about a Godless beginning, the emergence of life from non-life, and the process of macro-evolution to create bacteria, fish, amphibians, mammals, and people. Nobody in the class seemed to mind. Nobody, except for one student who, after class, asked the substitute teacher rather sheepishly,
“Can still I believe in God and listen to science?”
This was middle school.
For a very long time in history, the issue of science vs. God was hardly even a question. God needed to exist. Stuff happened which people didn’t understand, so we said that it must be God. Later on, through movements like the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and Darwinism, we started realizing that lots of the phenomena on earth have natural explanations. Again and again, it turns out that it wasn’t God! And so, by observation of this newfound trend, we figured that naturalistic explanations would eventually answer everything. For instance, people believed that with God out of the picture, science would catch up and we would discover that the universe is eternal. Any god-explanation would be a god-of-the-gaps explanation. That is, God is only there to fill in the gaps which science has yet to explain. Any day now, and God won’t be needed at all.
Not long after, we discovered that the universe was not eternal. It came from a big bang. That complicated things! We also discovered DNA, RNA, transcription and proteins. We discovered 3.1 Billion bits of information in every cell of our body (1). That complicated things! We discovered that the universe is fine-tuned to support life.
Without getting into detail, I believe that science is getting us acquainted with a universe which shows strong evidence of theistic design. Many people push back against this notion, accusing theists for using God as their “get out of jail free” card, and ultimately stopping science from pushing further for “real” answers. They admit that many questions remain, particularly in issues of cosmology. However, they say things like “we haven’t found the Darwin of cosmology yet.” (2) How interesting! They are holding out for a new Darwin figure to be their savior on issues of the universe’s formation. Is this not also a kind of faith? I have talked to people who are stuck in the 1800’s, thinking that naturalistic science has slowly and steadily been solving all of our problems of origin. It does does not. It can not. We have more problems than when we started.
The “god of the gaps” has changed sides.
This can turn into a very frustrating dialogue between theists and atheists, because many atheists claim that there is no evidence for God. But how would one come about finding evidence for God? Would it not be by observing what God allegedly created and determining if it bears witness of a designer rather than a naturalistic origin? But every time we point out evidence for something designed, it is quickly written off as a god of the gaps. Maybe the reason these things look designed is because they actually are designed. Maybe the philosophy that science must exclude God is a philosophy which has doomed our chances of ever finding the right answers. Are we really stopping the scientific enterprise by suggesting this?
If there really is no evidence for God, what then are the atheists so busy debunking?
I must be careful here, because many have come to believe something very odd about Christianity: that it is anti-science, anti-reason, anti-progressive phenomenon fueled by blind faith. That is not Christian faith at all! But even if you talk to the nicest atheistic guy about Christianity, he’ll probably tell you, “Look friend, I’m glad you found religion. I’m happy for you! But it’s not my thing; I’m just not a person of faith.” I would wish to respond by gently asking the following question: Do you understand what faith even is? Faith is used in the Bible similar to the word “trust.” Faith in Christ is trust in Christ, and trust comes from holding on to that which we have discovered to be true by using our God-given intellect, to gather the evidence, weigh the evidence, and come to a conclusion. When we talk about “faith in Christ” we are not speaking about a weird spontaneous twitch we would have for some arbitrary belief that we use as a bulldozer against common sense. This sad form of blind, counterfeit faith—what many atheists call anti-science, anti reason, and anti-progressive—we Christians call it anti-Bible, anti-gospel, anti-Jesus, and just flat-out stupid.
We believe in evidence too.
We just think that a truly objective view of the evidence available should not demand a blind eye to the possibility of a designer.
I am reminded of Richard Lewontin, a renowned geneticist and evolutionary biologist who admitted that some things they propose about evolution is absurd, but he said we must accept these absurdities, because “we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” (3) He is so concerned about God being anti-science, I’m worried that he’s starting to become it. David Berlinski, who is a secular philosopher, defended the theists on this one, saying “If one is obliged to accept absurdities for fear of a Divine Foot, imagine what prodigies of effort would be required were the rest of the Divine Torso found wedged at the door… demanding to be let in?” (4)
Don’t get me wrong. I love science! I love what science has done to improve humanity. I love what science discovers for us concerning the nature of our incredible world. I love when science helps us to distinguish between miracles and natural phenomena. As Christians, we need to be aware of these things.
Science has been very good to us. It’s just a terrible god.
(1) “Human Genome Project” Encyclopedia Britannica Online Academic Edition.
(2) I once heard Richard Dawkins say this to John Lennox in a debate at the Oxford Museum of Natural History.
(3) Richard Lewontin, Billions and Billions of Demons (Review of the Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, 1997), the New York Review, p. 31,, 9 January 1997.
(4) David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion, p. 9.