Is It Unscientific to Believe in God?
WHEN reading about science, it is not unusual to come across religious expressions. For example, scientists have been referred to as “the high priests of a new technological culture,” and their laboratories as “temples” or “shrines.” Of course, such expressions are merely metaphors. However, they can lead to this important question: Is there really a gulf dividing science from religion?
Some may feel that the more scientists learn, the further they get from any belief in God. It is true there are many in the scientific community who scorn religious faith. But a significant number of others find themselves deeply impressed by the evidence pointing to design in the natural world around us. Other scientists wonder about more than design; they begin to think about the Designer.
Winds of Change
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has been prevalent for a century and a half. Some educated people may have expected that by now, belief in God would be banished to the realm of the ignorant, the gullible, and the naive. Nothing of the kind has happened. Many scientists openly profess belief in a Creator. Granted, they may not believe in a personal God or in the Bible. Yet, they are convinced that the design evident in nature requires an intelligent Designer.
Can such scientists be dismissed as naive? Reporting on scientists who believe that intelligent design is responsible for our cosmos and life in it, a book review in The New York Times comments: “They have Ph.D.’s and occupy positions at some of the better universities. The case they make against Darwinism does not rest on the authority of Scripture; rather, it proceeds from premises that are scientific.”
The same article also notes that proponents of intelligent design “do not stake any obviously foolish claims. . . . What they deny is that the standard Darwinian theory, or any other ‘naturalistic’ theory that confines itself to mindless, mechanical causes operating gradually over time, suffices to explain the whole of life. The biological world, they contend, is rife with evidence of intelligent design—evidence that points with near certainty to the intervention of an Intelligent Designer.” *
Such conclusions are surprisingly common among scientists. For example, a study released in 1997 revealed that 4 in 10 U.S. scientists believed in a personal God. That ratio had remained virtually unchanged since 1914, when a similar survey was made.
Understandably, in countries where a more secular spirit prevails, such as those in Europe, the ratio is lower. Yet, the British newspaper The Guardian reported that “the level of belief is highest among practitioners of the hard sciences, such as physics and geology, lower for the soft sciences, such as anthropology.” It added: “The UK has organisations such as Christians in Science.” The paper also noted that in Great Britain “church attendance among science students is proportionally much higher than for the arts.”
Still, it does seem that the majority of scientists scoff at the idea of a Creator. Such disdain exerts powerful peer pressure. Astronomer Allan Sandage observes that “there is a reluctance to reveal yourself as a believer.” Why? “The opprobrium,” he says—the disapproval and censure from colleagues—“is so severe.”
As a result, the scientists who dare to suggest that science is not necessarily at odds with belief in a Creator find that their voices are drowned out by more skeptical views. The following articles will focus on these often-ignored voices and on why these scientists feel as they do. How, though, are you personally affected? Can science help you to find God? Please read on.
^ par. 7 Prominent academics and scientists who have gone on record as subscribing to the idea of “an Intelligent Designer” include Phillip E. Johnson, who teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley; biochemist Michael J. Behe, author of the book Darwin’s Black Box—The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution; mathematician William A. Dembski; philosopher of logic Alvin Plantinga; physicists John Polkinghorne and Freeman Dyson; astronomer Allan Sandage; and others too numerous to list.
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Stars: Courtesy of ROE/Anglo-Australian Observatory, photograph by David Malin