Science Versus the Bible

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Does science conflict with the Bible? 

The following are the notes prepared for an interview between senior ministerJeff Johnson and scientist Daniel Briere.  Questions were provided to Daniel in advance.  The live interview was performed on stage as part of the sermon on November 2nd, 2008. 

Is it possible to be a scientist and a Christian? 

Absolutely! But it is not an easy task.  Not because the findings are in conflict, but because the thought processes are so different.  Science depends on evidence that can be demonstrated again and again by experimentation.  Christianity depends on faith using evidence that is all around us, including the bible itself, but may not be testable by experimentation.  A scientist who chooses to be a Christian must use more than science to understand the universe and our role within it. 

But I thought science contradicted the Bible; don’t you have to choose one or the other?

Not if you have a clear understanding of the goals and limits of each of these disciplines. 

• The goal of the bible is to show the relationship between God and mankind, from the creation of man, his fall, and his eventual rise.  It serves as an instruction book on how to build and maintain a relationship with God that is necessary for salvation.  It therefore describes the purpose of life.

• The goal of science is to use observable and measurable evidence to describe and explain the world we live in.  It attempts to understand the details on how life functions.

So Science answers the “What” questions of our world and the Bible answers the “Why” questions of the world.  What are the limitations of both disciplines?

• Science is limited as we are limited because conclusions are dependent on the data we can collect from our senses and by what we understand of natural law (assumptions like the law of gravity cannot be broken).  Any phenomena beyond these limits are simply classified as “non-scientific”.  However, non-scientific does not mean they did not happen.  All it means is that scientists cannot explain them based on these limitations.  For me, I think that a God who created natural law could break them at His convenience.  Hence, the reason why miracles can happen, but science can never say they do!!!

• Christianity is limited by what is not mentioned in the bible.  The bible is not a biology book, a physics book, a geography book, a history book, or a medical book, although many would argue that it fulfills many of these requirements.  The bible is fact, or truth, with minimal explanation on the details of the workings of the universe.  However, the fact that the bible does not mention things like dinosaurs doesn't affect the validity of its message in the least, because that is not its purpose. To hold otherwise is about as logical as criticizing a car because it can't fly!

Overall, while both describe the universe and life within it; the bible discusses the purpose of life, while science attempts to explain the details on how life functions using our best guess based on what we have observed though experimentation.  If used properly, science and Christianity can complement each other as opposed to being in conflict.

If science and faith can be complimentary, then why isn’t the scientific community more tolerant of the Christian worldview … they ridicule anyone who even suggests Creation?

I think there are two traps that people easily fall into. 

Trap 1: Intelligence on the side of unbelief.  There is no doubt that many of the most intelligent minds in the history of the world were those of scientists.  It is also true that most scientists are not Christians.  So, does that mean that intelligence is on the side of the unbelief, that truly intelligent people would never become a Christian?  Let’s look at it this way; are we believers in Christ childish, sentimental or uneducated people? I certainly do not think that, but this is the world-view; only unintelligent people believe the bible.  This prejudice not only keeps many from even considering the legitimacy of the bible Scriptures, it causes others to attack the bible as mythology.  What I find most compelling is that many of the most gifted scientists in the history of the world were believers in Christ.  This list includes such scientists as Isaac Newton, Johann Kepler, Robert Boyle, Lord Kelvin, Louis Pasteur, Matthew Maury, Michael Faraday, Clerk Maxwell, John Ray, and Carolus Linnaeus.  I feel I am in good company.

Trap 2: One discipline can explain everything.  Science has become a very powerful discipline.  It not only can improve the quality of life, but can extend it.  It can be used to try to understand the workings of a biological cell or the workings of the universe.  But can it explain everything? The answer is NO because of the limits of science we mentioned before.  However, not everyone believes this to be true.  Some scientists believe that science is the only way to explain the universe.  They believe this so strongly that they will defend their position by looking for evidence to discredit any alternative explanation. 

1. They attack what they do not or are not willing to understand.
2. They fear what they do not understand.  What if they are wrong?  What does it say for their lives? 

Is it possible that science will prove how life originated?

Science does not aim to prove anything, but rather to disprove.  If there is enough evidence to support a hypothesis, it becomes a theory, eventually becoming a law.  But, only one negative result is needed to disprove it.  So, one scientific approach is simply to discredit intelligent design.  This, in turn, would support an alternate explanation, like evolution.  What I find most interesting is despite numerous efforts, no negative evidence exists for intelligent design.  In fact, when scientists have claimed to have the scientific evidence needed to discredit the teachings in the bible, these same scientists pull back quietly in retreat when the scientific evidence is later discredited.  Here are two examples:

1. Stanley Miller experiment. 

1953 - Origin of life experiment.  Primitive atmosphere was believed to consist of water, methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide.  So these materials were added to a glass chamber, heated to cause evaporation, and the gases hit with simulated lightning.  The result was amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.  Scientists claimed that this experiment showed that the basic building blocks of life could have been created without a Creator.  However, years later the tide turned when the evidence was found showing that not all these chemicals were in the primitive atmosphere.  When the ‘correct’ gases were added their experiment failed.  It continues to fail daily as these narrow-minded scientists cannot accept another possibility, a Creator.

2. Feathers on a dinosaur. 

Since the 1970s scientists have been searching for fossil evidence that dinosaurs evolved into birds.  In 1994 scientists claimed they found their missing link.  Specifically, a fossilized dinosaur (Sinosauropteryx) found in China was covered with a down of fibers that they claimed were primitive feathers.  Although not capable of flight, this evidence gave scientists the ammunition they needed to show that two radically different animals could evolve from the other.  However, in 1997, just three years later, the theory that dinosaurs gave rise to birds was dealt a blow by palaeontologists who examined critical evidence from this fossil and declared these 'proto-feathers' to really be frilly structures on the creature's back, not feathers at all.  Again the scientists retreated, but the search for the missing link continues. 

As Christians we are called to have faith … so isn’t it offensive to God when we use science to support our beliefs?

I think God wants us to think.  Of all of God’s creation, mankind is unique.  For one, mankind was given morality.  But in addition, mankind was given intelligence.  Why would God give us these unique qualities if he did not want us to use them?  Science is just one way to use our intelligence to understand the world around us and bring us closer to understanding God.  As Robert Boyle, the father of modern chemistry, said: “From a knowledge of God’s work we shall know Him.”

Has your knowledge of science helped your faith?

Absolutely!!!  The more science discovers about the universe, the more detailed and beautiful it becomes.  It shows more and more that random chance could never have created the universe, or even a single bacterial cell.  I think God is in the details, that’s why I spend my time looking at his creation through a microscope :)

Let’s say that some of the people here have a friend who believes in evolution or a student has a teacher/professor that rejects Intelligent Design … what advice would you give them?

First, a scientific theory is not a fact.  Theories are constantly being adjusted to fit with new data (one could even say that the theory of evolution is evolving) or sometimes these theories are thrown out completely. 

For example, before the time of Copernicus in 1543 all scientific data pointed to the fact that the earth was the center of the universe (for example, if the earth were moving, we would feel it, or at least feel some wind in the direction of movement.  If the earth really moved around the sun, then we see the stars move).  The data was so strong that the Church got scared that they would lose people to science that they claimed that the bible supports this scientific fact.  However, once Copernicus arrived, his experiments showed the earth was not the center of the universe.  The Church’s acceptance of this prior theory caused the Church to be denounced as outdated. 

Second, there is a huge difference between microevolution and macroevolution. 

Microevolution explains slow changes in species to adapt to their environment.  This is called natural selection.  There are quite a few examples of this in nature.  The evolution of the peppered moths is one example.  I think God gave us the ability to change with our environment. 

The peppered moth has a mixture of white and black specks on its wings.  Prior to the Industrial Revolution in England, the trees were white in color; hence moths that had more black specks were eaten more by birds than whiter moths because they showed up as black against the white background of the tree bark.  However, the Industrial Revolution brought a lot of soot and other pollution and the tree bark became dark in color.  The tables turned.  It was now an advantage to be full of black specks than white specks.  The tables turned once again when environmental standards were established, bringing the white color back to the trees and naturally selecting for white colored moths.

Macroevolution, on the other hand, or the idea that species diverge to become new species, has much less evidence, and in many cases negative evidence.  Let me summarize a few examples of negative evidence for macroevolution (see the video from the book “The Case for a Creator” by clicking here).

Similar parts for similar function: Many scientists claim that the reason that man and ape must have diverged from the same species is because they share so many similar features, even as far as being 99% similar in their DNA sequences.  But let me ask you this; does this show that one evolved from the other or just that God used the same parts to make their physical bodies?  Did cars evolve from roller-skates, or did we build them using similar parts because we saw no need to re-invent the wheel?  For an example in nature, take feathers.  Feathers are extremely strong; capable of supporting a bird’s body in extreme wind conditions.  At the same time, they are incredibly light, adding very little to the weight of a bird (also used for insulation, camouflage, and sexual display).  Are two different species that share feathers related by evolution or do they simply have feathers because God wanted them to fly and feathers are the best tool?  Overall, when God created all the animals and mankind, I think it makes perfect sense that he would use similar parts for similar functions, like feathers for flight, hair for warmth, and fins and gills for swimming, and that in turn uses similar DNA sequences.

Similarly, there is the idea of irreducible complexity.  Put simply, this means that a biological machine can only work when fully assembled from multiple parts, but each part by itself has no function.  Take an engine, for example:

Engine analogy – An engine consists of multiple parts.  These may include the cylinders, pistons, valves, spark plugs, crankshaft, connecting rod, piston rings, and sump.  As a whole, an engine is a very powerful machine.  For example, if a car were a biological organism, the presence of an engine would be a clear advantage over other organisms without them, because these organisms could move, and as a result be more likely to find food and avoid predators.  This would clearly be an example of natural selection.  However, individual parts have no advantage.  What good are spark plugs without the other parts of an engine?  Where is the natural selection?  The fact is that evolution can only explain subtle changes, like changes in one of these parts.  It could never explain how multiple parts were formed at once and then combined perfectly to make a functional machine.

Even Darwin himself said “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive slight modifications my theory would absolutely break down.”

What is most interesting here is that recent advances in cellular and molecular biology have shown that tens of thousands of irreducibly complex systems make up organisms. 

Molecular biologist Michael Denton recently wrote, "Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than (1 billonth of a gram), each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machinery built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world."

Cambrian explosion.  According to Darwin’s theory of evolution, subtle changes in organisms over a large period of time resulted in new species.  Specifically, simple organisms like bacteria were the first on the scene, followed by more complex organisms, then more complex organisms, eventually leading to the species we have on earth today.  According to his theory, if you were to look at the fossil record you would see these subtle changes in species over time.  However, this is not the case.  In fact, if you lay out the time the first biological cell was created to the life we know today on the face of a clock, you would expect to see different and more complex life forms every hour according to Darwin.  You don’t.  For over 10 hours in a 12 hour period, there is nothing in the fossil record except simple cells, like bacteria.  However, in just 2 minutes in this 12 hour period, all the basic life forms we know today emerge at once.  How can this be explained with subtle changes?  This sounds a lot more like Genesis than evolution to me.

Now, one would think that Darwin simply did not know this fact.  But, this rapid appearance of fossils was noted as early as the mid 19th century.  Even Charles Darwin saw it as one of the main objections that could be made against his theory of evolution by natural selection. 

In conclusion, if you encounter a situation where a friend, a teacher, or even you are starting to become convinced that a claim made by science is a fact, especially if it conflicts with the bible, just remember two things.  First, that there is just as much evidence against evolution as there is for it.  Second, as John McCain says: “Look at the track record”.  Based on prior scientific theories, there is a very likely chance that the theory of evolution will eventually be altered or even proven wrong.  With that kind of tract record, I put my bet on the sure thing and that is full trust in the bible as the ultimate source of truth!!!

Further study: If you found this material intreguing and you would like to see more, I highly recommend both the book as well as the video for Lee Strobel's "The Case for a Creator".  The full video is available for free viewing from this link.  In addition, you may want to research this topic on the internet.  Keyword: apologetics

I will also try to provide additional pages on this website to address questions.

God Bless, Daniel

Question 1: What about the Big Bang Theory? Click here.