by Matt Voss
Science vs Religion Part III: Science & Religion
Alas, this will be the last of the trilogy; I promise there will be none of that Crystal Skull garbage. Here we’ll focus on the loving marriage of Science & Religion and how the pair is more like Buttercup and Wesley than they are like Buttercup and Humperdink. If you’re just joining us, Part I: Science and Part II: Religion will bring you up to speed.
We don’t have to choose sides; this isn’t reps vs sets. We don’t have to choose between science and religion because they are not mutually exclusive- Sagan says. The third option is the truth that science and religion can and do agree on many an issue.
If we look through the lens of division and focus on the differences, we will surely find fodder for argument, but if we, of open mind, choose to look at the similarities between Science and Religion, we will find harmony. Below are several examples of how these two friends back each other up like Riggs and Murtaugh, so be you of scientific mind, by all means, read on!
There’s a Buick in the Pyramid
Last week, I made reference to C.S. Lewis and Ravi Zacharias as the type of intellectual and analytically-minded Christians that would represent Christianity well in deep conversation. Another hero of mine is Patrick Mead, a Scottish scientist and minister who holds doctorates in psychology and.. here goes nothing.. psychoneuroimmunology. Nailed it.
Although he’d be the first to say he “didn’t go to preacher school,” his ministry style is so disarmingly hilarious that he can speak to even the most ardent scientific skeptics of religion; in their own language, no less. In the following video, he tells a great story to illustrate the meaning of the word “anachronism” by way of finding a Buick in an apparently unadulterated Ancient Egyptian Pyramid.
There are tons of scientific anachronisms in the bible that shed an interesting light on the relationship between science and religion. There are biblical scriptures that are thousands of years old that make references to laws of the universe that human science has only recently discovered. It’s a little like finally realizing that your parents were right all along about your now ex.
There’s Science in the Bible
The following is far from a comprehensive list, but for more examples, you can enjoy the rest of Patrick Mead’s talk (and accent) here. He goes into some of the rules that God gave the Jews 3000+ years ago to avoid sickness and death using practices we use today to guard against germs. Germ theory surfaced in 1546 and was jeered at; it wasn’t until the 1890s that it was accepted. We’re so smart, aren’t we?
The beginning seems a logical place to start. In Genesis 1, it says “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” So water came before land. I think we’re all in agreement there; see Genesis 1:9 or “Day 3”.
Time Magazine said in 1976 that, “Most cosmologists (scientists who study the structures and evolution of the universe) agree that the Genesis account of creation, in imagining an initial void, may be uncannily close to the truth.” Hardly conclusive? Maybe they just got lucky? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Job 26:7-8 says “He suspends the earth over nothing. He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.” So the earth is somehow floating in space? That doesn’t jive with my personal experience with gravity, but I’ve seen the pictures from the moon.
Also, I’m no meteorologist, but even with the Power of Google I’m not sure I understand how water stays up there; how would the concepts of evaporation and precipitation have made any sense to a guy that lived before Moses? FYI, history doesn’t know for sure when Job or Moses lived, but we know that Moses was the younger and is said to have been in the ballpark of 1570-1270 B.C. That’s old.
Let’s talk about circumcision! Genesis 17:12 says, “He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised.” Fact: the eight day after a baby boy is born sees a spike in prothrombin, a blood clotting mechanism in the blood. During the first 7 days, the little guy’s blood hasn’t yet gotten enough vitamin K from the bacteria in his digestive tract to produce enough prothrombin. After the spike on the eighth day, prothrombin levels normalize and never again is surgery quite as safe as it is on the eighth day.
Isaiah 40:22 says “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth… He stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” Check out these doozies:
- First, regarding the circle (assuming sphere) of the earth part: we humans thought the earth was flat until 1492-ish, some 2,200 years after Isaiah was written. Christopher Columbus wrote in his diary that, “For the execution of the voyage to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics, or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied.”
- Secondly, the “God spreads out the heavens” bit perfectly syncs with the modern scientific idea that the universe is expanding. Isaiah (c. 740-681 BC) said this way before Edwin Hubble proved in 1925.
- This “spreads out” notion also lines up with the Big Bang Theory wherein all that we know in the universe originated and exploded outward from a single point in space, and is still moving away from that point.
Thermodynamics and The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory certainly has its merits. Leonard’s hopeless awkwardness is so relatable and the Sheldon/Amy Farrah Fowler duo is just adorable. Okay, enough with the pop culture stuff; this is Science.
In a quick sum-up, The Big Bang Theory (BBT) posits that before the universe began, there was nothing. Then a collection of superultramega-dense matter exploded with unimaginable force so as to fling debris all over space, where it formed ordered solar systems, planets, life, etc. The stuff is still hurling away from the point of origin, hence “the universe is expanding.”
In my opinion, and I think a lot of scientists would agree, the BBT is a good start, but it leaves much to be explained. Some parts make sense, but others don’t, so our next step is to tweak parts of the idea in small increments to see if a newer version might fit better.
Science is like a crossword puzzle; experiment by changing one letter at a time until the solution fits from every angle, and always be prepared to erase.
There was nothing, then it.. exploded? Okay, so science is always changing as new information is discovered; I get that, but in order to believe that nothing can explode into something as complex and ordered as the universe, we would need to address three pretty well-accepted paradigms.
- First is our experience with explosions. Bombs are really good at rearranging things, but can really only take them apart unless you’re one of those artistically liberal types that could manage to see bombs as masterful sculptors of chaotic piles of rubble. Quoth Patrick Mead, “you don’t blow up a building and say ‘oh look, pandas!’”
- We would also need to have a look at the First Law of Thermodynamics, which says that energy cannot be created or destroyed (Conservation of Energy). We’ve got all kinds of science based on this one, so to revamp or remove it would leave us with a lot of reworking to do.
- The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the Law of Entropy. It says that everything in the universe will one day return to the dust from whence it came. Biomass decomposes, rock erodes, and metal rusts. Even Firefly was cancelled after just one season.
The Mawwiage of Science and Religion
Is there a potential solution in marrying the scientific and religious origins of the universe? Let’s talk about that. What if there was nothing in the universe until something outside the universe reached in and created it? Let there be stuff.
Now what if this being, operating above all natural laws contained within the universe, decided to spread this stuff out and gave it a flick, sending the stuff shattering and flying about the cosmos. A flick of that magnitude would create an intense amount of heat dispersed as light, and I bet it would make a pretty Big Bang.
That gives us something from nothing, and an unimaginably powerful explosion to send it all careening through space just the way Science and Religion say it happened. Let there be light and a really, really big bang.
What do you think?
It’s a gross oversimplification of something we could never know while we remain a part of the universe, but apparently it’s worth thinking about; people have wondered about the origin of the universe since well before Job and Moses.
If God is real and really loves his creation, why wouldn’t he bend the rules once in a while and reach in to help us? I think he has, and I think that’s what science is; science is a tool that we can use to figure out the laws under which God created this universe to run.
With or without help from ancient writings, we’ve got some basic answers figured out, but much more work to do. What other questions might we already have a hint or two in answering?
I have no doubt that the short list of things we’ve always wondered about will be answered one day – why are we here, how was the universe made, and what’s love got to do with it?
I think that those who want to will know all that there is to know, and although we might not come close in this life, it sure is fun using science to work on the puzzle.