Faith vs. Reason

Submitted by Hannah D. on Fri, 02/17/2017 - 16:07

What is the relationship between science and religion? While modern society may be prone to suggest that reason is better than faith, a quote from a famed scientist suggests a wiser approach.

“Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” – Albert Einstein

There is no need to ignore science from a religious perspective. There are, however, faulty ways to relate science to religion, even from a religious perspective. According to Prof. Cunningham, a lecturer in “Philosophy, Science, & Religion” from, the Intelligent Design argument can be summarized as follows:

1. There are things in nature that science can’t explain.
2. Where science can’t explain, a Designer is required to make it happen.

In other words, ID argues God from nature, sees God as a logical necessity based off of science. Does this really work? On one hand, there are two major problems in a naturalistic universe that science can’t explain all by itself: the Big Bang, and the Origin of Life.

The Big Bang’s difficulty lies primarily in logical and scientific fundamentals. Logically, you can’t get something from nothing. I don’t care if you start throwing around words like imaginary numbers, multiverses, spacetime continuum, or quantum fluctuation. I don’t care if you give it a billion or a trillion or a googolplex-illion years to happen. It’s just downright impossible. Scientifically, matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed. They can only change forms.

The Origin of Life is another problem. Organic compounds spontaneously organizing themselves in an oxygen-containing atmosphere is impossible because oxygen is toxic to such compounds. Anoxic conditions don’t change things; get rid of atmospheric oxygen, and now you have to deal with deadly UV rays. Put it deep in the ocean, and you’ll find that organic molecules readily break down via hydrolysis in water. Furthermore, you need just one type of chiral “handedness” for life; opposite “handedness” is toxic to life. But every known natural process that produces chiral organic compounds produces a 50/50 mixture of both chiral forms of those organic compounds, making life, once again, impossible. Then there’s the problem of DNA, and how to get information without an informed source.

So science can’t explain these two things. It can’t explain the universe’s origins, and it can’t explain the origin of life. ID then steps in to say, since science can’t accomplish it, God did it. That’s problematic, however, on two points.

Scientifically, who knows if, in the future, science can explain these things? Our knowledge of scientific laws and how the world works has been wrong before. While it may be very unlikely that science will eventually explain them, if it did, the ID argument for God’s existence would crumble.

Religiously, theism tends to teach that God created the world to behave in an orderly, scientific fashion. He made it to be intelligible to us. To cry out, “It’s a miracle!” every time we can’t explain a natural phenomenon is both cheap science and bad theology. God made the world understandable, and gave us minds capable of understanding it.

So, what about science? Since you can’t prove God with science, is science better off without Him?

Let’s see. In a purely atheistic, purely naturalistic universe, there is nothing but molecules. That means there’s no such thing as morality, and no such thing as the self. Due to survival of the fittest, the molecules that make up “you” work together for one purpose: to propagate your genes. If you believe anything about the world at all – that it is orderly, that humans have dignity, that you should look both ways before you cross the street – it is simply an illusion created by your brain. An illusion determined by your genes after millions of years of evolution said it improved your survival value, your chances to reproduce.

Your brain tricks you into thinking that life is real, that the world is rational, when actually, life is illusory and the world is nothing. Nothing but molecules.

If all this is true, then we have no reason to trust our brains. We have no reason to believe that our brains’ methods of reasoning – by logic or science or registering information gained through our senses or anything else – represent truth about reality. We have no reason to believe that the world is an orderly place, a place which obeys laws of logic and which can be accurately studied with the scientific method. We have no reason to believe that our senses are giving us an accurate picture of reality.

It is only if God exists that we can escape this chaos. If we have religion, we can believe God created the world to be orderly. And we can believe that He made us in His image, with brains capable of accurately sensing and reasoning about reality.

Science needs God. Science requires God. Without God, science would be a fool’s errand.

So, it’s fallacious to use science to prove God exists. But without religion – without faith – science is impossible. Instead of standing at odds with each other, faith and reason are more inextricably linked that it may first seem.

Author's age when written

It may sound like I’m rehashing Dr. Jason Lisle’s Ultimate Proof of Creation again (and really, I kind of am), but this is actually a summary of what is taught in week 4 of “Philosophy, Science and Religion” from the University of Edinburgh’s MOOC on Coursera.