According to the most recent Statistics Canada census taken in 2011, 76.1% of Canadians reported having an affiliation with a religion. This number includes those who are only nominally involved and has likely declined since then. Regardless, the reality is that millions of Canadians believe in some sort of supernatural reality.
With any sort of belief or conviction, there are bound to be perspectives of it held by others that are stereotypical, and at times, do not accurately represent the belief.
One such perspective I want to address is the notion that one cannot believe in both God and Science.
THE HISTORY OF THE “CONFLICT”
Historians of Science call the idea that science and religion are incompatible the “conflict thesis.” The origins of this thesis can be traced back to the late 19th century, to two men in particular, Andrew Dixon White and John William Draper. These men have something in common: they each wrote their own book about the history of the “conflict” or “warfare” between science and religion.
The reasons White and Draper wrote these books were not rooted in a love for history at all. White was the first president of Cornell University and wrote in reaction against denominational Christian criticism on the founding of Cornell as a non-denominational institution. Draper, an amateur historian and first president of the American Chemical Society, wanted to indict the Catholic Church for abuses of power.
When you dig beneath the surface of these two books, you discover that they are motivated more by politics than truth. Dr. Lawrence Principe, History of Science and Technology professor at Johns Hopkins University, states that “The problem with the books is that they’re terrible history. The historical facts … are cherry-picked or contorted, taken out of context in order to promote that authors’ main ideas about this perpetual warfare between science and religion.” Historian Dr. Edward B. Davis adds, “The idea that science and religion have been always involved in this inevitable conflict is not true.”
Although the historical “conflict” is, in reality, a 150-year-old political tool built upon falsities, this has not prevented modern media from continuing to treat it as legitimate history. I believe this is why so many people still think that there actually is a conflict between science and religion today – it is assumed to be the case and not something to be questioned.
DON’T THE TEACHINGS OF RELIGION CONFLICT WITH SCIENCE?
Recently, a friend of mine told me about their experience at a bar. A stranger noticed his necklace with a cross on it and asked my friend if he was a Christian. When my friend said “yes,” the stranger countered, “so you don’t believe in evolution then?” My friend clarified that he did, and that he affirms the modern scientific consensus on human origins.
While I cannot speak for every religion, drawing from my specific experience studying the Bible and Christian Theology, I can say quite assuredly that science does not conflict with the Christian worldview. Yes, there are some that deny evolution and believe that the Earth is only thousands of years old, but those convictions are based on an interpretation of the Bible that is rejected by many Christian scholars today, and this understanding is not at all central to the Christian faith. Dr. John Walton, an eminent Old Testament Scholar, writes that “if neither exegesis nor theology intractably demands those conclusions that argue against the modern scientific consensus … we have no compelling reason to contest the science.”
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS AND AN INVITATION
Whether or not a person believes in God or some other supernatural reality is entirely up to them. What I would like to do is invite people to think not only about what they believe but also why they believe it. I invite the skeptics of the supernatural to consider the idea that affirming the endeavor of science does not require an atheistic worldview. I also invite people who might disregard science due to religious beliefs to explore that as well.
I’m proud be a part of a university that fosters such a positive community of students. When we seek to understand the foundations of our own perspectives, as well as the views and beliefs of others, we make this community even better.
I also want to invite you to a panel discussion with three Acadia Scientists on this very topic!
“God & Science? A Panel Discussion With Scientists Who Believe” brings together geologist Dr. Robert Raeside, physicist Dr. Michael Robertson, chemist Dr. John Murimboh, as well as theologian Dr. Anna Robbins for a discussion about whether or not you can believe in both God and Science.
When? – Wednesday, February 27th, 6:00 PM
Where? – Fountain Commons at Acadia University
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/770242426690173/?ti=cl
Zachary Goldsmith is a second-year Theology student and the Theology Senator for the Acadia Students’ Union