Science & Religion:
Oil & Water?

"Science and religion? At odds by definition." That has been the underlying assumption of mainstream education, law and popular opinion for many years. True, the purview of science is limited to questions of observable fact or the effects of observables, to cause and effect, while religion majors on life's "whys." But are the two branches of knowledge incompatible and unrelated? If so, does this mean that they are enemies, as many believe?

Popular scientist Carl Sagan said famously, "The universe is all that is, or was, or ever will be." Yet, a rising tide of researchers—especially in the physical sciences—proclaim ample evidence for an intelligent designer, pointing from the creation to a Creator. While this ties an intelligent agent to the natural world, it does not make the leap of tying this creator to the revealed Creator of Bible—that is outside its purview and stated goal. That would be improper representation of supernaturalism, according to the thinking of Stephen M. Barr, featured below. Barr maintains that, "Supernaturalism is out of place in physics, astronomy, chemistry, or botany. However, it is necessary in anything that touches upon the nature of man, for man is made in the image of God." Barr maintains that the so-called war between science and religion is actually ongoing disagreement between religion and materialism.

Physicist and Christian Richard Bube quipped, "There are proportionately as many atheistic truck drivers as there are atheistic scientists." Indeed, it seems that an increasing number scientists, like five-time Nobel Prize nominee and world-renowned chemist Dr. Fritz Schaefer, integrate faith with scientific pursuit. In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, Schaefer said, "The significance and joy in my science comes in...discovering something new and saying to myself, 'So that's how God did it!'"

For skeptics, is holding unwaveringly to materialism not a bascially religious commitment? If indeed there is more to the world than what can be quantified and examined by science, then is science's perspective authoritative—even on matters of science?

For believers, if all truth is God's truth, why should followers of biblical religion worry about what science uncovers? Won't objective observation reveal whatever created order may exist in the universe? Shouldn't biblical believers in particular be at the fore, investigating "their Father's world"? We have gathered thinking from the realms of science and religion (many individuals cross over those lines) to address this abiding issue.

—Leadership University Editor/Webmaster, Byron Barlowe

Featured Resources

Retelling the Story of Science (New Resource)
Professor Stephen M. Barr
Science is not in conflict with religion. Materialism is, with its "tendentious reading of scientific history" and agenda to rid mankind of religious superstition (read: supernaturalism) and mystery. Barr convincingly compares the ancient pagan, who elevated the material to the supernatural, with the materialist who lowers the supernatural to the material--with the same result. A broad and clear assessment of a confusing topic.

Scientific Facts and Christian Faith: How Are They Compatible?
Otto J. Helweg
The causes of the science versus Christianity battle may be traced to three errors. First, the proponents on both sides often fail to define the term, "evolution." Second, both sides have failed to see science as a product of a Christian worldview. And, finally, both sides confuse the realms (limits) of science and theology.

Is Science a Threat or Help to Faith?
Dr. J. P. Moreland
Moreland, Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, responds to the question "How are we to understand the relationship between science and Christianity?" He concludes, "There is nothing wrong in principle, however, with bringing one's theology into the practice of science.... It is time for Christians to rethink these matters and allow theistic science to be a part of how they love God with their minds."

Scientists and Their Gods
Dr. Henry F. Schaefer, III
Five-time Nobel Prize nominee in theoretical chemistry and professor at University of Georgia, Schaefer is also a popular speaker. In this transcript, he presents a coterie of Christians in science and their views of faith and science.

The Democratization of Science
Brian Harvey
Harvey argues that what Americans deem 'science' is increasingly subject to popular arbitration, which scientists decry, while simultaneously wanting to protect science from popular scrutiny. Scientists and their apologists seem neither to question their own rational presuppositions nor to allow for it by others, especially the religious non-scientist. "...In matters of religion and science populism expropriated the Cartesian method of radical doubt and elevated it into an art form."

Preserving Theology and Science Through Philosophy
Thomas J. Burke, Jr.
Abstract of a paper which concludes that, the proper solution is not to try to incorporate theology into science or science into theology, but to recapture the fully cognitive nature of philosophy. Philosophy understood as a cognitive discipline can bridge the gap between Theism and Scientific Naturalism without distorting either.

Aquinas and the Big Bang
Professor William E. Carroll
"Too often contemporary discussions about the relationship between science and religion suffer from an ignorance of history, and our question is an example." Carroll attempts to reconcile Big Bang cosmology with the doctrine of creation by hearkening back to Aquinas's distinction between creation and change. "Aquinas developed an analysis of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo that remains one of the enduring accomplishments of Western culture. His analysis provides refreshing clarity for our often confused contemporary discussion of the relationship between science and religion."

Science and Religion
Chris Stamper
World Magazine: Despite evidence of God's creation, the newest worldview may be closer to paganism than to the Bible.

Catholic Frogs
Jean L. Bertelsen Pond
Pond challenges those on both sides of the supposed debate between science and religion--but particularly Christians--to remain flexible regarding preconceptions and Biblical interpretations so as not to pre-determine outcomes. "I suggest that it is presumptuous to claim any precise understanding of where and how God has acted in Creation."

Scientists of Faith Speak

A Scientist Reflects on Religious Belief
Dr. Allan Sandage
Observational cosmologist and astronomer at the Carnegie Institution, Sandage gets straight to the point in this interview, answering questions like: Can the existence of God be proved? Must there necessarily be a conflict between science and religion? and, Can a person be a scientist and also be a Christian?

Being a Christian in Science
Rich Milne, Probe
Using Walter Hearn's book Being a Christian in Science as a basis, we will look at what scientists really do, why Christians might spend their lives in science, and what resources there are for believers who make science their chosen career.

Why I am a Christian
Professor Henry Margenau
Physicist Henry Margenau gives a deeply moving and intriguing account of his journey of faith, through upbringing in World War I Germany through many answered prayers to his exalted positions in physics and other disciplines(the first time he has done so in a public forum). From the first of three Truth Journal editions.

Why I am a Christian
Professor David Martin
Martin provides a brief but lucid essay that takes into account science's limited approach to the transcendent while appreciating the aura of existing as a whole person. God cannot be proved and we are not simply "faulty computers more or less capable of logic and scientific inference. We are aware of the world as miracle and of transforming experiences which constantly point beyond themselves." Belief in the Christian story of redemption makes sense.

Book Reviews on Science & Religion

Books in Review: Bible and Science
Reviewed by Professor Stephen M. Barr
Fr. Stanley Jaki's 'Bible and Science' acknowledges that biblical authors held a primitive view of the natural world. But it is their understanding that laid the foundation for later scientific inquiry. Reviewed by Stephen M. Barr.

Books in Review: The Mind of the Universe: Understanding Science and Religion
Reviewed by Ernan McMullin
McMullin's review teases apart some of the ambiguities of the author's approach. For instance, despite the provocatively misleading title, McMullin writes that the "real argument of [Artigas'] that certain of the properties of natural science, and of the natural world disclosed by science, testify to the operation of mind, specifically to the mind of God." McMullin states, "Artigas...calls into question the currently fashionable model of the science/religion relationship as a dialogue.... His book thus gives an importance to philosophy that is quite rare in books of this genre." But coherence is a challenge, especially where Artigas treads.

Books in Review: Science and Religion: From Conflict to Conversation
Reviewed by Stephen M. Barr
For such a brief review, Barr fairly thoroughly dismantles Gerogetown U. process theologian John F. Haught's book, which he claims seeks to embrace atheists' claim that the universe "designs itself." Barr faults both his understanding of science and his theology, which seems to revise "the dogmas of God's omnipotence, omniscience, and providence" while reducing God to a participant--not the Cause--of natural processes and events.

Books in Review: Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion
Reviewed by Carol Iannone
Iannone reviews Larson's account of the debate over evolution that came to a head at the 1925 Scopes trial and continues to this day. "In some ways, America seems to be only just learning the truth of the Scopes Trial and the implications of the debate over evolution. Even if Edward J. Larson does not convince us of the middle way, his book is a crucial piece of the educational process."

Books in Review: Six Modern Myths About Christianity and Western Civilization
Reviewed by Jeff McAlister
Very brief review: "The subject matter includes Darwin’s theories and the presumed 'warfare between science and religion'; the supposed complicity of Christianity in the rape of the environment; the human body and its 'repression' by the Church; and the phenomenon of witchhunting.... This book does much to expose the intolerance of supposedly 'tolerant' modernity and is highly recommended."

Literature Survey, Origins & Design 17:1
Paul Nelson, Access Research Network
Although a bit dated, this brief annotated bibliography of then-current literature compiled by noted Intelligent Design author Paul Nelson will prove helpful for research, apologetics, teaching, etc. For online archives of Origins & Design, see: Note: click Table of Contents link.

Related Resources

New Book for Sale: Science & Religion: Conflict or Coherence?
Dr. Henry F. "Fritz" Schaefer
Schaefer is one of the most distinguished physical scientists in the world. US News and World Report speculated in 1991 that Professor Schaefer is a "five time nominee for the Nobel Prize." He has received four of the most prestigious awards of the American Chemical Society, as well as the most highly esteemed award (the Centenary Medal) given to a non-British subject by London's Royal Society of Chemistry.

In this new book, available through our online Resource Center, Dr. Schaefer's university lectures have been expanded to full length essays. Throughout, this collection of essays (some of them found for years here at retains the highly personal character of the university lectures, general respect for those with whom the author disagrees and a delightful sense of humor.

Ask the Animals
Patricia A. Mondore, M.A. and Robert J. Mondore
A view from Scripture to science: Job's injunction to investigate life and its environs not only points our focus back to God, but is also an endorsement of the scientific method. If all truth is God's truth, this makes sense.