When modern people hear talk of science and faith, they don’t know whether to stay silent or prepare for a heated debate. The story we often hear goes something like this: with the rise of science and technology, belief in God is foolish. We assume miracles cannot happen, that science and faith cannot mix. Here are five reasons why science and faith are compatible.
1. Scientists cannot escape the question of God.
The story of science and faith is much more complicated than we have been told. Some of the most outspoken atheists or skeptics have painted a simplistic picture, one that is not scientific. The truth is much more interesting. Stephen Hawking, who is often seen as supporting the atheist cause, doesn’t end up where we would expect. He ends his best-selling A Brief History of Time with this remarkable passage: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” (p. 190).
In later interviews Hawking answers this question: “The overwhelming impression [of the universe] is one of order. The more we discover about the universe, the more we find that it is governed by rational laws” (Gregory Benford, Leaping the Abyss: Stephen Hawking on Black Holes, Unified Field Theory and Marilyn Monroe, Reason 4.02 [April 2002]: 29).
Hawking openly questions the scientific need for God. This leads him to a pressing question: “You still have the question: why does the universe bother to exist? If you like, you can define God to be the answer to that question.” At the end of the day, many scientists think that the belief in God is compatible with science. Still have doubts? Keep reading.
2. Nature is well-ordered.
The question of God is on the mind of scientists and philosophers. But why? Well, nature is more ordered and life-centered than they thought. The evidence has led scientists further and further into supposing something of a rational mind of God behind everything.
Wrestling with the work of Albert Einstein, Paul Davies believed there were several pressing issues. Natures order led Davies to wonder, “Where do the laws of physics come from? Why these laws rather than others?” (Paul Davies, Physics and the Mind of God: Templeton Prize Address, First Things [May 1995]). These burning questions of God open the door to science. They do not close it.
The universe is also more dynamic and ordered than we realized. Modern philosophers of science and physicists have found that living matter possesses an inherent goal or purpose-centered organization. Nature is a movement of giving life. This purpose is somehow contained within living things. To quote a line from Jurassic Park, “Life will find a way!”
3. Nature bears the marks of a designer.
Gods handiwork bears the signs of design and dignity, the world is full of wonder. Another reason for a belief in God is that the life-oriented properties of nature must have existed originally for the world to exist at all. Gerald Schroeder, the physicist, writes about this issue in his book God According to God (HarperOne, May 2010).
The first compound that would eventually lead to the earliest life must have had the ability to reproduce. If it did not, then as its molecular machinery degraded, it would have disintegrated. Any beneficial mutations that might have accumulated during its span of existence would have been lost and the trek toward cellular life would then have had to begin again… Life appeared with purpose already as part of its birthright. This simple undisputed fact is extraordinary. (p. 31)
This truth has led many to believe in an infinite creator who has ordered all things in this way from the very conception of the universe in order for life to be sustainable at all. Science can only stand in wonder at such a necessity.
4. Science is only one source of truth.
The New Atheists, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, claim far too much about what science can or cannot do. Often they do not deal with the very issues that have led many scientists and philosophers to assert the belief in God. Their failure to construct “a plausible worldview that accounts for the existence of a law-abiding, life-supporting, and rationally accessible universe” ultimately puts their arguments from a supposedly scientific perspective on difficult ground (Antony Flew, There Is a God[HarperOne, 2008], xvii). Gerald Schroeder comments on this setback:
The most powerful challenge to atheists view of the world lies within the world itself: the simple reality of existence. Why is there existence? Forget things as complex as life. Just consider the being of anything: space, time, matter in any form. Is there some law, some axiom, that demands there be existence independent of an underlying force that brought it into being? Even if we posit that the universe and all existence are eternal, the question remains: Why is there an is? Its a question that calls for an answer. (p. 25)
Faith in what must be (i.e., God) for the world to exist as it does is actually rational. Science has not found evidence precluding the belief in God, miracles, or the resurrection of Jesus. Such fields are outside the competency of science and its methodology. Faith is not incompatible with the evidence. Everyone has to believe in a hypothesis concerning where the compelling evidence leads them. Such basic beliefs are the building blocks of understanding the laws of nature. This poses another problem for atheists.
5. The laws of nature pose a problem for atheists.
Science cannot exist without the assumptions of a stable creation, with meaning, purpose, or the laws of nature to govern it. Without the assumptions brought about by Christianity, modern science would have no footing whatsoever. If nature were inherently self-serving and motivated merely by survival rather than to the giving of life, the stability of natural laws would be unknowable. Nature itself would be a moving deception. We would not have the ability to even perceive such a reality if it existed.
“Science is based on the assumption that the universe is thoroughly rational and logical at all levels,” writes Paul Davies. “Atheists claim that the laws [of nature] exist reasonlessly and that the universe is ultimately absurd. As a scientist, I find this hard to accept. There must be an unchanging rational ground in which the logical, orderly nature of the universe is rooted” (Russell Stannard, God for the 21st Century [Templeton Foundation Press, 2000], 12).
Scientists see this rationality which many people want to discount as superstition. The evidence, therefore, points to something of an infinite creator and to a belief in him.
If you are still skeptical after reading this short introduction to the compatibility of science and faith, check out this recent interview that offers similar conclusions. People don’t need to feel as though they need to choose between belief in God and holding to scientific truths. There is a better alternative: studying the ever-increasing scientific evidence with an open mind to the very real possibility of Gods existence.
In the video below, Christianity Explored explains why we need good science and good Christianity to live and know life well.