Mark Swint

Science and Religion

I am intrigued by the element of human nature that makes us prone to the idea that most issues are ” either – or” propositions. We seem all too willing to accept the notion that there are only two sides to everything. Often, two sides are just the extremes of any position and a third “middle ground” may exist. I guess you could say there could be three (or more) sides to everything.

I take for example the argument, nay, the battle, between Science and Religion. The basic assumption is that one either accepts science and the scientific method, OR religion, and the almost mythological accounts it posits, ut not both, for the existence and purpose of everything. In this I think we err.

First, those most arrogantly supportive of the cleverness of men over anything thing else greater than ourselves, make very erroneous assumptions about the claims of ‘religion’ on the subjects of creation and existence. I put the word religion in brackets because to categorize religion as one single entity is wrong. There are myriad viewpoints that support a religious world view, just as there are myriad viewpoints about different aspects of science.

“But wait!” you say. Science is pure, refined and perfectly unified in its theory. Not so my good friends, not so. I point you to the tale of Sir Issac Newton, arguably one of the most brilliant men in history. When he presented his ideas about motion and introduced the concepts of ‘Newtonian Physics’ to the Royal Academy he was nearly run out of England. He incurred such wrath that the august scientist Robert Hook – himself a brilliant researcher ‘ swore in his indignation that he would destroy Isaac Newton. All this because Isaac dared to contradict the 2000 year old assumptions of Aristotle. Newton was so distressed by his rebuff that he retreated to his country home and hid out for several years. Today we have researchers at great odds with one another over the truth or error of String Theory. And in case you have missed it in the mainstream media, the whole “Global warming is human caused” thing is very far from being universally accepted by scientists. If you think I am stretching the truth hear just Google “Solar Flux” and learn how Mars has been warming concurrently with Earth. (I wonder how we did that?)

The point is, “Religion” and Religious theory” cannot be categorized into one single viewpoint. The fact that certain vocal fundamentalists decide to interpret one element of creation in the most literal sense i.e. that God create the world in 6 days , does not mean that every good Christian, Muslim or Jew must believe the same thing or lose the faith.

I point to the creation story as found in Genesis as an example. Scientists (rightly, I think) laugh at the notion that the Earth was created in just 6 Solar periods or just 144 hours. But, I ask, is this really what the Bible says? Oh yes, the word ‘day’ is used butdoes that mean 24 hours. The term ‘day’ is used but Bible in various ways. In fact, in the story of Adam and Eve the Lord says ‘In the day that ye eat thereof you shall surely die!” Yet we read that Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and, rather than die that very day, as the literalist would insist, they were expelled from the garden and thrust into the dark and dreary world. In this case the word day was used to mean ‘event that’ or ‘once this is done’. Actually, it is consistent that once they ate of the forbidden fruit, their lives changed and they were expelled from the Garden. According to the account, they changed from immortal to mortal and they did eventually die. So it could correctly be said that on the day they ate of the fruit circumstances were changed and it became sure that they would eventually die.

When we say that the earth was made in 6 days we can all think back to the countless times when our parents and grandparents  related to us accounts of their youth and said “in my day” or as Archie and Edith Bunker said in the opening song of the T.V. series ‘All in the Family’ “Those were the days.” Using the word Day to refer to a creative period in the Bible is the same as the use of the term Age to refer to an anthropological period such as the Bronze Age, the Stone Age, the Neolithic Age. We must remember that Moses, the writer of Genesis was not a scientist, He was a goat herder. He claims to have seem a vision of the creation of the world and he was then left with the task of describing what he saw in words he had at his command.

I believe Science and Religion can peacefully co-exist. They may disagree on the fine points but the idea that you must choose between science or religion to live your life is just silly. Let me show you how easy this can really be. PLATE TECTONICS is the accepted theory of land mass formation and the creation of Seas and Continents. It states (simply) that chunks of the Earth’s Crust float on the mantle and move about. As one chunk crashes into another one is driven downward and the other is lifted up and over, this creates high places and low places. Any GEOLOGY 101 class will teach you that at the beginning the surface of the Earth was smooth and featureless. They go on by saying that as the plates began to move, the water, which covered the Earth completely and evenly, began to gather to the deep spots leaving dry earth to appear, slowly at first, and then as islands and continents.

Now let’s look at Genesis and the words of a simple goat herder trying to describe what he saw in a vision.

Genesis 1:2 And the Earth was  without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep (Water?) And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

So far there is no disagreement with Tectonic theory.

Genesis 1:9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

Again, no disagreement! If we allow that Moses did not know the term Plate Tectonics (A Greek term) and simply used words at his disposal to describe a process that he did not understand we can then say that the BIble and Geological Science have common ground. It should be pointed out here that Tectonic theory did not come abobut until 1965, thus it can be rightly argued that the Bible had it right well before Science figured it out. What the scientists did was give process and explanation to an account that was just a simple observation.

My point is, where there are two diametrically opposed positions at work there can be, and usually is, a third position that might include both.

It is my firm belief that I and many other scientifically minded people can  hold to a religious belief while using science to explain the things  that are observed and recorded in books of scripture.


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