Faith vs. science. Is there a contradiction between faith in God and science?
Faith in God and belief in science will never contradict if God, in fact, exists and is the Creator of the universe. If God is the Creator of the universe, and there is ample evidence that He is, then science is just knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths about His creation. If God doesn't exist, then faith and science will contradict since science is the search for facts about the cosmos. For those with faith, however, science can be one of our greatest forms of worship.
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Science is mankind's attempt to understand how the world works. The scientific method is one of the greatest tools to accomplish this. It starts with a question about the world. Then background research, a hypothesis or educated guess about the research, an experiment, analysis to determine if the hypothesis was correct, and the report of the results. If the hypothesis was correct, the cycle is finished. If not, another hypothesis is put forth, and testing begins again. The scientific method infers that a provable fact will be repeatable and verifiable—that other scientists will come up with the same answer if their experiment is performed in the same way.
There is nothing unbiblical about the scientific method as such. God made light, matter, water, plants, animals, and humans. We honor Him when we endeavor to understand His amazing creation. We also learn more about Him, about His wisdom and power and elegance. And we appreciate His grace more fully when we understand the implications of the miracles He performs. Being thankful for healing is much richer when we see the cancerous tumor disappear from one MRI to the next.
There are two areas in which science and faith are at odds with each other. The first is not the fault of science, per se, but the presumption of the scientists themselves. Science is about observation and proof. That which cannot be proven is not fact; it is either theory or historical report. Much practical good has been accomplished on the basis of theory alone. Humans went into space with only a theory about the effects of zero-gravity on bodies and equipment. Drugs and medical treatments are developed every year based on theories. But, again, theory is not fact. Because of this, we cannot know for certain what has happened in the past based on science alone. Even if we could develop life in a lab, it would not tell us in all certainty how life first developed in the history of the world. It is not observable. Similarly, anything too small or too far away to observe cannot be known with certainty. We know that if we drop something, it will fall. And we can infer that the large mass of a planet causes a star to wobble. But the mechanism of gravity is still only a theory. And until we can observe the planet, we cannot assert its existence affirmatively.
The area in which science and faith more fully collide is in the realm of ethics. Science has no ethic. The scientific method doesn't care about the environment or unborn children. Science is about fact alone. Faith, however, is the basis for ethics. Faith tells us that humans have value far above fact. Faith explains that there is something greater than knowledge, and the search for knowledge should not have free rein and be allowed to damage the very thing it is studying. Science agrees that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) but it doesn't have an opinion on the preservation of people. Faith tells us that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and have great value far above what could be learned from organs and cells and atoms. Science tells how we work; faith tells us we have worth.
Faith and science should be partners, each giving more depth to the other. Science, when properly used, validates faith in a Creator and exhibits the awesomeness of His work. Faith guides science to noble causes and gives science context. The best scientist is one who understands there is a Creator and enthusiastically learns what he can about that creation.
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