Religion and Science: Can They Coexist in the Modern World Since the dawn of man, humans have struggled to explain the many mysteries of the universe, and to justify their existence in it.
Throughout this journey of self-understanding, numerous standpoints about human existence have evolved and merged into a complex, abstract manifestation called religion. Advances in science and technology have yielded a new breed of human thought that has disturbed and shaken the foundations of religious ideology.The new, scientifically-grounded understanding of the universe has unfolded a plethora of answers to age-old questions, which are antithetical to the explanations offered by some religious beliefs. The Bible has answered the questions: how was the world created, how did the planet evolve, how were humans formed, and what role does God have in the world. Fundamentalists believe the Bible literally when they want explanations to these questions. Scientists have different explanations. However, believers in the modern world understand that religion and science must coexist if they are to have faith in God in the twenty-first century.
Apparently conflicting views of creation can coexist in a modern world where believers interpret the traditional Bible stories and scientific discovery. According to the book of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light” (Genesis 1:1-3 Catholic Information Network Online).
Fundamentalists believe that this process took place on the first day at God’s command.Scientists explain that the universe and all of its containments exist because of the ‘Big Bang Theory’. According to the big bang theory, the universe began as the result of an explosion about 10 billion to 20 billion years ago. Immediately after the explosion, the universe consisted chiefly of strong radiation, which formed an expanding primordial fireball. After some time, some of the energy of the fireball was converted into matter, chiefly in the form of hydrogen. From this giant fireball, particles of light emerged for the first time (Britannica Encyclopedia Online).Creation science contends that the big bang theory bears striking resemblance to the Genesis account.
The words of the Bible do not need to be taken literally by believers. The words of Genesis should be interpreted metaphorically and allowed to fit the scientific theory the origin of the universe. The creation of planet earth was explained by the ancient Hebrews in the Bible, later by evolutionist scientists and today by believers who are able to reconcile these differing stories through contextual interpretation and faith.And God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth. ” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens. So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.
And God saw that it was good. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds. ” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1: 11-12, 20-21, 24-25) According to religious theology, the Earth is less than ten thousand years old. However, there is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that proves the Earth to be many billions of years old. Many religious thinkers have responded to this evidence, by claiming that the methods used to ascertain the Earth’s age are inaccurate.
They argue that radioactive dating; a widely accepted method of determining the age of rocks, is inaccurate because there is no available rock sample of a known age, to which the method can be calibrated.However, this argument is obsolete because the only calibration required to find the age of a rock is the measurement of decay rates, which can be found in the laboratory in a controlled experiment (Badash, 1995, 90). Because of the evidence provided by scientific research, many religious thinkers have been forced to compromise their position, and have attempted to blend scientific fact with biblical accounts of the age of the earth. Many theists contend that the words of the Bible are metaphorical, and can be interpreted in a way that reconciles the biblical account of the Earth’s age with scientific fact.
According to Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, the earth was created in six days: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31). They argue that other passages in the book of Genesis can be interpreted to mean that a day to God can be thousands of years, and because of this, the Earth could have been created over a much longer timeframe than six days, and can thus be as old as science proves it to be.Biological evolution encompasses the changes experienced by a particular species over thousands and millions of generations as it reproduces varying offspring, more of which are generally better suited to survive in their environment than the generation before (Britannica Encyclopedia Online). Evidence for biological evolution can be seen in the diversity of life that surrounds all humans. It is estimated that there are over two million species on Earth, all of which have similar defining characteristics. Every living organism on Earth has basic structural units called cells.This simple fact alone is key evidence that all species on Earth have common ancestry.
Furthermore, the history of life recorded by fossils presents compelling evidence of evolution. The fossil record shows that the first complex life, jellyfish and worms, appeared on earth about six hundred and eighty million years ago (Britannica Encyclopedia Online). As the fossil record is evaluated further, it can be shown that these life forms evolved into more complex life-forms, and those life-forms into more complex ones, and so on.Because evolution can be clearly seen in fossil records, it is highly probable that evolution is responsible for our species’ coming to being. The overwhelming evidence in favour of evolution encourages believers to recognize the Genesis story as an allegory or metaphor for a world that was created over a period of time. Modern science has provided many explanations concerning the origin of man, which contradict the traditional idea of creation, but that can be explained with a contextual interpretation.The traditional description is found in Genesis 1:26-27: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.
” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. The Genesis story is believed literally by some people, but science provides the theory of biological evolution.Creationism holds that God created the earth and all of its species, and that the Book of Genesis gives an accurate account of creation. There are many schools of thought concerning creationism. Biblical creationists believe that the scientific explanations of the creation of the universe contradict the words of the Bible. However, another school of thought, scientific creationism, believes that scientific explanations of the origin of the universe do not necessarily contradict the words of the Bible. Creation science tries to blend science with religion, and uses scientific knowledge as an aid in their argument.Although the explanations of the mechanics of the universe offered by physics may not appear to be simple, as humankind learns more and more physics, the structure of the universe does in fact seem more and more uncomplicated.
However, theists postulate that an infinitely complex God is necessary to explain the simple structured universe. Descartes argues that God is a very complex being, having qualities of omnipotence and omniscience. The theist’s position replaces the question, “How did our simple universe get here? with the much more difficult question “How did an infinitely complex God get here? ” The principle of Ockham’s Razor posits that simpler explanations are more likely to be correct than complex explanations (Britannica Encyclopedia Online). This scientific principal cuts God out of the picture. According to the most well known scientist of our time, Albert Einstein, “the more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature” (Larson and Witham, 1998, p. 313).
In other words, the more a person understands about the workings of the universe, the more he or she is aware of nature’s simplicity, and the less likely he or she is to believe in God. This is the reason why 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences are non-theists (Larson and Witham, 1998, p. 313). However, theists claim that the existence of God can be proven through scientific fact.
Rev. William Paley in his 1802 book, Natural Theology, argues that, “an artifact exhibiting a complexity of parts that collaborate to create a purposeful function requires a designer” (Foster, 1989, p. 8). Paley argues that if humans see evidence for a similar design in the creations of nature, then the object also needs a cosmic designer, or God (Foster, 1989, p. 59). The Old Testament provides a definition of faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
” (Hebrews 11:1). This definition provides the believer an explanation when science fails to provide an explanation. Everything in nature can be seen or measured.
However, God is intangible, and to believe in God is a complete act of faith.Many theists point out that certain aspects of nature are also invisible, such as gravitational fields and magnetic fields (Foster, 1989, p. 60). However, a parallel cannot be drawn between the invisibility of these natural phenomena and the invisibility of God, because these aspects of nature can be measured.
God, on the other hand, cannot be proven to exist through empirical evidence. If scientific evidence exists that refutes the teachings of the Bible, then why do people believe in religion? Religion gives humanity a sense of security, a sense of individual purpose, and most importantly, brings people together.Arguably the most important aspects of any valid religion is its belief in a code of conduct, a set of moral teachings that define how people should behave towards others. According to Judge Overton, While the statistical figures may be impressive evidence against the theory of chance chemical combinations as an explanation of origins, it requires a leap of faith to interpret those figures so as to support a complex doctrine which includes a sudden creation from nothing, a worldwide flood, separate ancestry of man and apes, and a young earth. Thomas, 1998, p. 293).
Creation science does a good job of stretching the words of the Bible in order to keep up with the fast-paced findings of science. However, the overwhelming amount of evidence in support of evolution makes it a far more plausible explanation for the origin of species. Another problem between science and religion concerns the existence of God. The field of physics describes the universe in relatively simple concepts. Religion is one of the major ways one generation passes on its values and morals to each succeeding generation.Religion has also been viewed as a way to control the masses. According to Karl Marx, “Religion is the opium of the people.
” (Foster, 1989, p. 72). Some of the most difficult questions of the universe were answered first by religious stories from the Bible and then later by science. Today there are still some questions that science cannot answer unequivocally.
Despite the scientific arguments that challenge the teachings of religion, religion will always remain an institution in society because when science fails there is faith.Thus, there is a need for religion and science to coexist. Works Cited Badash, Lawrence.
Scientists and the Development of Nuclear Weapons. Prometheus Books. February 28 1995 Foster, Richard J. The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power. HarperOne. August 1989 Larson, E.
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“Leading Scientists Still Reject God” Nature. Vol. 394, No. 6691, Macmillan Publishers Limited, 1998.
Lovgren, Stefan. “Evolution and Religion Can Coexist, Scientists Say”.National Geographic News. October 18, 2004 Robinson, B.
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Devil, Disease and Deliverance: Origins of Illness in New Testament Thought. Sheffield Academic Press. July 1 1998