Monday, August 22, 2005

Kruse Kronicle: Science and Christianity (Part 1)

Michael Kruse over at Kruse Kronicle is starting a series on Science and Christianity which should prove interesting.

The late Steven J. Gould wrote a book called Rocks of Ages, which points out that Science and Religion have non-overlapping magisteria, and thus should not come into conflict -- yet they do. Among Gould's conclusions are that scientists should not be making dogmatic assumptions about the existence or nonexistence of God, and religious adherents should not be making pronouncements about the physical universe. When I took freshman biology in 1970, my text had a section on science and religion warning about stepping too far outside one's realm. On statement in particular has stayed with me: If one bases one's faith on some aspect of the physical universe that is open to observation and analysis, then one risks having science destroy faith.

Magisterium is a term used more in an ecclesiastical sense, and refers to the Pope and bishops who are under his authority. To the Roman Catholics, it is the only authority that can define or interpret the truth. To Protestants, the magisterium consists of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and interpretation is left to the reader.

To scientists, the magisterium consists of the Scientific Method -- A means of acquiring knowledge by observation, generalization, developing hypotheses and theories, and experimentation. A good theory will generate predictions, which can then be experimentally tested. It is a dynamic process, and theories can shift over time as new knowledge is acquired.

If the predictions of a theory can be tested, then it under the umbrella of science. If not, then it cannot properly be called science.

Religion is truth that is revealed by God; Science is truth that is sought after using the scientific method. Can one live in both worlds? Of course. I do, and many others do as well. Job, in chapters 38 and following, was asked by God to expound on many biology and physics topics. Job could offer no reply and learned how little he actually knew. Today we know more about the world around us, yet this does not cheapen faith. Rather, it underscores the wonders of life and the universe around it.

1 comment:

Michael W. Kruse said...

"...should prove interesting." I've got you in Columbia and Carol in Manhattan (and I now a few other science types following this.) Interesting? Does the phrase "Fools rush in where angles fear to tread" seem fitting?

From your post I think you anticipate some of where I am headed. Thanks for engaging this with me.