I recently attended a presentation here in Franklin by Dr. Michael Guillen, former science editor for ABC News. It is good to have another science geek in the neighborhood who is also serious about the Bible. In fact, his talk was about science and the Bible.
I liked the word pictures that Dr. Guillen used in describing the current state of affairs. He said that the world insists that science and the Bible are like divorced parents. They are incompatible. And as children of this divorce, we can no longer live with both parents. We have to choose. We have to choose one or the other. But, as Dr. Guillen pointed out, that is not an accurate analogy. And, as a truth-seeker in both the science world and the absolute truth of Scripture, this is a choice I am not going to buy into. It is a box that I am not going to allow myself to be trapped in. Because it is not necessary.
Dr. Guillen paints a more accurate picture of the relationship between science and the Bible by describing them as partners in a strong marriage. That is a good analogy. They are compatible. They support each other. We can find compatible and truthful answers in both. Are there ever disagreements in a strong marriage? Of course there are. And we have places today, such as evolution or the age of the earth, for example, where science and the Bible appear to be at odds.
But just like any strong marriage, the issues get worked out. This is the long view of science and the Bible. Issues in the past where the disagreement seemed intractable have faded away as we gained more and more understanding in how our world truly works; of how science and Scripture work in tandem. I think that compatibility is part of why so many scientists are also committed believers. The high percentage of believing scientists is one of the clearest evidences that the issues get worked out.
In 1916, a survey of one thousand prominent American scientists revealed that 42% believed in a personal God. While the public was appalled at the low percentage, the authors of the survey suggested that as scientific knowledge progressed through the twentieth century the number would soon approach zero. Why? Because these researchers were of the divorced-parents mindset about science and God. And the rise in scientific understanding would put an end to belief in God.
But their conclusion proved incorrect when the study was replicated in 1997 with a new group of science luminaries. The percentage of “believers” was 39%, not much different then eighty-one years earlier. In addition, many respondents to the 1997 survey decried the narrow line of questioning which followed the original survey word for word equating belief with the 1916 Evangelical Christian view of God. Many participants who answered “no” to the narrow line of questions indicated a belief in a supreme being in their written comments.
Remember the prediction in 1916 was that the number of believing scientists would go down to zero in a direct correlation with an increase in scientific knowledge and discovery. But the percentage remained roughly the same, a finding that surprised the authors of the new study. Why? Because, again, the new authors were operating from the divorced-parents mindset.
No, science and the Bible are like a strong marriage. And in the narrow world of science that I can understand as a geophysicist, the rapid expansion of scientific knowledge and theory continues to support and strengthen my biblical world view; not argue against it. Next post, we will discover one of our most unlikely allies in the strong marriage of science and Scripture when the Big Bang Theory steps up to the witness stand.