Science and Religion an Interesting Mix
It is often queried how Christians who are practicing scientists balance the seeming conflict between faith and science. The apparent conflict seems to centre primarily on the question of origins. The Christian view, as articulated in the Bible, is that God created the earth and placed human beings in it after furnishing it with plants and a variety of animal species. The view that is attributed to modern science, through Charles Darwin is that all species have evolved from common ancestors through a random process of natural selection based on survival of the fittest.
What is often overlooked, however, is that the view of origins that is being represented as the scientific position does not reflect or accord with the views of some of the most notable scientists of all time and pioneers of modern science, including Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, both physicists. Newton, Einstein and others saw such order in the universe that they could not attribute to random chance.
According to Newton, who wrote more on religion than he did on natural science, the world was created by God along rational and universal principles and these principles were available for all people to discover (Principia, Book III; cited in Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from his writings, p. 42, ed. H. S. Thayer, Hafner Library of Classics, N. Y. 1953). It is reported that an atheist colleague of Newton saw a model solar system on Newton’s desk and asked who made it. Newton said nobody did. After smiling at what he thought was a joke, the colleague repeated his question, obviously unable to accept that nobody made the model. Newton simply pointed out the absurdity of his being unable to accept that the model was made by nobody while accepting that the real thing of which the model was only a crude representation came about by chance.
Albert Einstein in his book “The Evolution of Physics: from early concepts to relativity and quanta” written jointly with his collaborator, Leopold Infeld dismisses the idea that events in nature are purely attributable to chance. In the foreword, written by Walter Isaacson, Einstein is quoted as saying “Some physicists, among them myself, cannot believe that we must accept the view that events in nature are analogous to a game of chance”. Einstein continues, “Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way.” In his words, “There lies the weakness of positivists and professional atheists”.
The matter of basic origins cannot be determined at the level of biology except by extrapolating backwards into the realm of physics and mathematics. Biology is built on chemistry as the understanding of the complex molecular building blocks of life such as carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and DNA is based on the fundamental understanding of atoms and molecules in general which is the realm of chemistry. Chemistry is built on physics as the understanding of atoms and molecules is based on the fundamental understanding of the nature and characteristics of the forces and sub-atomic wave/particles elucidated by quantum mechanics which is the realm of physics. Physics is built on mathematics as the understanding of the physical world is based on the use of physical quantities which give to the forces, matter, wave/particles and energy that make up the physical world numeric descriptions, which is the realm of mathematics.
At such levels that are closer to the root of the tree of origins, the most authoritative pioneers of modern scientific thought saw a level of order that they could not rationally attribute to chance. Einstein considered that a reality exists that is independent of our ability to observe it. As Einstein said “physics is an attempt conceptually to grasp reality as it is, thought independently of its being observed”.
While there is evidence that some new species have developed through an evolutionary process, it seems contrary to reason, contrary to foundational physical laws and mathematically improbable that such evolutionary processes could be extrapolated indefinitely backwards in time to account for all living species. For some Christians who are practicing scientists, there is no conflict between faith and science as faith tells them why God works while science helps them to understand how God works. In the words of Sir Isaac Newton, “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who sets the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done”.