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Reconciling Faith and Science

Contributing Writer

faith-and-scienceSince the Creation of Atom event that was held on Feb. 13, I’ve received a lot of feedback. I have been very pleased with most of the comments I’ve heard thus far, and am very happy that the event was so well attended. The topics of science and religion are clearly important to Georgetown College. So while I’m very excited about how well received the event was by what appears to be the majority of students, not everyone was so pleased, and I’d like to address that.

Most students (and faculty as well) had only positive things to say to me about the Creation of Atom. I did hear some constructive feedback on what could have been done to better the discussion, but there werevery few negative opinions.
Those who did have negative things to say about it basically had the same complaint: the professors talked about or appeared to advocate ideas that were against their personal religious beliefs, and as a Christian school we shouldn’t allow events that contradict that person’s view of Christianity. Most of the comments had to do with professors saying certain parts of the Bible shouldn’t be interpreted in a literal manner, specifically the creation story in Genesis. In the opinion of these few, and I’d like to emphasize that they are very few, that discussion should never have happened on Georgetown College’s campus.

While people are certainly entitled to hold whatever opinions they like, no matter how unfortunately ignorant and unreasonable, I profoundly disagree with their assertions. The issues brought up during the panel are things that need to be discussed. The fact is that certain interpretations of scripture are flat out contradicted with scientific theories, and a literal interpretation of the creation story is one of them. Let me be clear: I am not saying that the Bible is necessarily wrong. Science cannot prove or disprove anything, but it does provide evidence, often very strong evidence, about how the natural world works. The fact that piles of scientific evidence directly contradict the idea that God created human beings (along with everything else) in their present form roughly 10,000 years ago does NOT mean everyone should abandon their faith. It simply means that one must read the creation story in a different way.

Lots of American Christians tend to have difficulty accepting the ideas of evolution and the “big bang,” mostly because these ideas are difficult to reconcile with the creation story. Many like to point out that these ideas are “only” theories, not facts. This is simply an unfortunate misunderstanding of the term theory as it applies to scientific hypotheses. A theory, as defined by the National Academy of Sciences, is “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.” Both the theory of evolution and the big bang theory are substantiated by enormous amounts of evidence. The idea that they are “just theories” or simple conjecture is just plain wrong. Even so, people choose not to accept them as true, which they are unfortunately free to do.

I still don’t understand why it is that people are so eagerly accepting of scientific advances in technology or medicine, or of “just theories” like gravity, cell theory or heliocentrism. The same principles of gathering evidence were applied to the theory of evolution, but people still refuse to accept it. “No one was there to observe evolution, so how can you say it’s true?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked something along those lines. The answer is inferences. Yes, scientists make inferences. Lots of great scientific theories are based off of inferences, because so many things are simply not directly observable. Heliocentrism is one such theory. No one has ever gone out past the solar system and looked to see if the planets actually orbit the sun, but all evidence that we’ve gathered points to that being the case. Evolution is the same way. No, scientists can’t look back in time and watch species evolve, but all of the evidence we’ve gathered (which is quite a bit) points to that being the case.

There is much more I could bring up, but unfortunately I cannot do these issues justice in the small space I am confined to here. Science does not disprove faith, and it does not tell us that Christianity is not true. However, it does provide strong evidence for how the natural world works. I would implore everyone to keep an open mind and not avoid apparent challenges to your faith, and instead confront those challenges head on and find truth through honest, reasonable thought and inquiry.