Question of the Month
Question of the Month
Is Science Compatible with Religious Belief?
Pastor Scott Plavnick,
Baptist Student Ministries
Throughout history, many religions have believed that the universe is controlled by capricious gods. Animism believes there is a spirit in each animal, rock and tree. Under these worldviews, there is no point in trying to figure out how this universe works, because these gods or spirits could simply change their minds. People did not believe the universe could be understood.
The Judeo-Christian worldview of the Bible is that a rational, eternal, Creator God outside this universe created not only all there is, but also the natural laws that govern this universe. Mankind, as uniquely created in God’s image, was tasked with caring for this world, and so was meant to research and discover these natural laws to do this job. Historically, this worldview became the foundation for science.
Many of the early Scientists were Christians, operating out of this Christian worldview: Otto Brunfels, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Evangelista Torricelli, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell
Gregor Mendel, Lord Kelvin to name just a few. Many of these and others explicitly did their science to “discover the glory of God,” the Creator.
Atheistic science may uncover what people CAN do, but it can’t tell society what people SHOULD NOT do. Without the morals of religion, society is left with 'survival of the fittest,' the morals and lack of human rights of the Nazis and the Soviets, two of the biggest world powers led by atheistic science.
- Vishal Mangalwadi, author of “The Book that Changed Your World”, and www.revelationmovement.com
- Note especially the “Truth Matters” 10-part short video series at the bottom of the page.
- Francis Schaeffer, “How Shall We Then Live: Episode 6: The Science Age,” https://vimeo.com/19361248
Catholic Student Club
There is a myth that some believe, which is that science has refuted religion and that science is the enemy of religion or faith. However, this is completely at odds with the Catholic Tradition, which holds that if God is truth, then whatever is true is of God, and therefore there cannot be a contradiction between the truths of science, philosophy, literature or art and the truth of religion.
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we read about creation. This text at times has wrongly been taken literally as a way to scientifically explain the creation of the world. However, a close reading of Genesis shows that the creation narrative was never meant to convey scientific truth about how the world came to be. The fact that Genesis contains two creation narratives (Gen 1:1-2:4 and Gen 2:4-25) demonstrates this fact. Genesis can impart existential truth to the reader about who we are and who God is. The first creation narrative tells of God creating the world out of nothing as he spoke the created world into existence. This demonstrates the almighty power of God, who is Creator, and who imparts onto creation order, structure, and intelligibility from the Divine mind. This creation narrative speaks of the human person being created in God’s image and likeness, and as a result, the human person has the capacity for reason and can know and love the Creator. The other creation narrative in Genesis, which speaks of Adam and Eve walking with God in the garden and participating in the naming of creatures conveys that the human person is invited into an intimate relationship with God and that God has given humanity dominion and stewardship over all of God’s creation.
These creation narratives convey truths which contribute to two essential theological assumptions that are necessary for the flourishing of science. Firstly, the scientist must believe that the world and all that is in it is not God. That is to say that creation/nature is not divine, but is something other than God, and therefore does not need to be worshiped, but instead can be studied, investigated, analyzed and experimented on. Secondly, for science to flourish, the scientist has to believe that the world is intelligible. If the world is endowed with some intelligible structure, reason, logical pattern or order, then humanity can study and uncover this intelligibility stamped into all of creation. These theological assumptions allow for the sciences to emerge and it is for this reason that there are many great figures in the history of science who were also devout Catholics such as Fr. Georges Lemaitre, a Catholic priest who formulated the Big Bang theory, and Abbot Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics.
In summary, the Catholic Church posits that the proper relationship between faith and science is one of compatibility. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 159 states:
Faith and science: "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth." "Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are."
- Watch Bishop Barron speak about science & religion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KF8mgwgIKGE
- Watch an interview with Dr. Stacy Trasancos, scientist and theologian, and author of the book Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science, as she shares about how she came to faith through the sciences and now sees science as “the study of the handiwork of God”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlZWIKVyWN0
Muslim Students Association
The Quran is a book of signs—not a book of science. However, when God speaks about His ability to bring people back to life, He usually talks about His power to create, including the creation and expansion of the universe (51:47), earth’s rotation (27:88), the growth of babies inside their mothers (22:5 and 23:12-14), and so on.
Islam teaches that it is important to observe, learn, and think. This motivated scholars to make progress in many fields of knowledge, such as medicine, anatomy, mathematics, geography, astronomy and architecture. Algebra, alchemy and alcohol are all Arabic words. The Canon of Medicine by Avicenna (Ibn Sina, 980-1037 C.E.) was an important medical text in Europe for more than 700 years. Many surgical tools that are in use today were invented by Albucasis (Alzahrawi, 936-1013 C.E.). Mariam Al-Astrolabiya, a female Muslim scholar who lived in the 10th century in Syria, was famous for designing and making astrolabes, to help travellers and sailors find their way based on the location of the sun, the moon and stars. Arabic numerals (0, 1, 2, 3, etc.) are used worldwide.
Muslims invented a lot of sciences and developed many others (which they had learned from the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Indians and others). This paved the way for the European industrial revolution. The invention of cameras, computers and GPS systems could not have been possible without the contributions of Muslim scholars.
Christian Students @ UTM
The Bible, upon which all the fundamental Christian truths are based on, has stood the test of time to show that it stands above all other books in the world. There is no other book more faithful in its historical records, accurate in prophesying on events that had not yet occurred and highest in the wisdom and ethics it presents.
Let me give you some examples:
In the original Hebrew, Genesis 1:1-2 states that God created the heaven and the earth, yet the earth became void and emptiness. This gap between verses 1 and 2, which is neglected in most English translations but evident in the original language, accounts for the billions of years which we commonly date both the universe and the earth, as well as the presence of countless pre-Adamic creatures.
Furthermore, it was written in the book of Isaiah twenty-seven hundred years ago that the earth is a circle (Isa. 40:22). Job 26:7 also says that the earth hangs upon nothing. This was well before it had become common knowledge that the earth is spherical.
The Christian faith was not one founded upon myths or legends. There are strong archaeological proofs that the people and places mentioned in the Bible actually lived and existed. Although not everything in the Christianity can be explained by tangible and empirical proofs, we see that the Bible being representative of the faith is very much compatible with science.
Ahlulubayt Student Association
According to the Islamic understanding, religion consists of answers to fundamental questions such as, "Why am I here? Where dd I originate from? To where is my ultimate decision? Where does true happiness and success lie and how can I achieve them?" Among the teachings of religion is to see the world as an act of God's creation, a gift to human beings and a means for them to acquire perfection. The Qur'an states, "It is He who created for you everything that is in the earth" (2:29). The Qur'an invites us to study and ponder upon this blessing. "Have they not then observed the sky above them, how We have built it and adorned it, and that there are no cracks in it? And We spread out the earth, and cast in it firm mountains, and caused every delightful kind to grow in it. In this there is an insight and admonition for every penitent servant." (50:6-8) Therefore, learning about the universe is not only compatible with religion, but encouraged by it. The religion provides a purpose behind pursuing the sciences by casting this universe as a resplendent collection of signs, the study of which will lead one to knowledge of God.
Islamic tradition holds that the great prophets of the past not only taught people about life after death but also guided them as to how they can improve the quality of their lives in this world. David, the Prophet, taught people how to weave coats of armour (21:80). The Prophet Muhammad (blessings of God be upon him and his family) encouraged Muslims to learn from the cradle to the grave, to be literate, and to even travel to China (considered to be a global centre of medical expertise at that time) if need be in order to acquire knowledge. Throughout the ages, Muslim scientists have been at the forefront of their fields. Traditionally, many saw knowledge as a single continuum, all of it emanating from God, Al-Aleem (the All-Knowing), and the highest level of knowledge being knowledge of God Himself. That is why famous scientists like Ibn Sina (Avicenna), the father of modern medicine, and Nasir al-Din at-Tusi, the creator of trigonometry as its own discipline, were also venerable philosophers, scholars, and devout practitioners of religion.