Science and Religion
by Natashia Metz
Growing up in today’s world has thrown a lot of teachings at us over the years. In school, we are taught the basics of science: chemistry, biology, environmental science, physics, etc. At home and in church, we are taught the basics of religion: Genesis, The Holy Trinity, and God’s Grand Design. However, the bridge between these two is so often overlooked that the confusion can quickly turn into animosity.
Being both a geologist and a Christian, this is a debate I repeatedly have with friends and family on both sides of the spectrum. How can you be a Christian and still believe the Earth is 4.6 billion years old? How can you be a geologist and still believe that there is a higher being? Rather than shy away from the in-between and choose just one side, I have decided to stand in the divide and embrace the unknowns of both worlds.
So, let’s just dive in, shall we? How can science and religion exist in the same world? In my own perspective, science is associated with the physical and natural, whereas religion delves into the spiritual and supernatural. When the issue is centered on preserving the environment, ending the extinction of a species, growing crops or plants in certain areas of the world, or understanding the way that volcanoes work, the solution will be found in studies of the sciences. When the discussion is centered on the spiritual connection to God and his Holy Spirit, the morals of the soul, or what happens following the end of life, the solution will be found in the Word of God.
It’s quite interesting to me that these two fields are at such a standoff today when their histories are so intertwined. Throughout history, the theologians of various cultures were considered the scientists. Take, for instance, the Greek mythologists: they would describe their weather as an after-effect of the moods of their gods, the stars were aligned in order to tell the stories of their deities, and even the rivers were situated in such a way as to reflect some story of an interaction with a god or goddess. Over the centuries, religions and sciences evolved both with and against one another.
So why is there such a conflict between science and religion? The key lies in the basis of each separate field. Science is based on observations seen in the natural world, whereas religion is based on faith. A scientist tends to believe what can be seen, touched, and measured through experimentation, so he or she will reject ideas that can’t be proven with these methods. A deeply spiritual person, on the other hand, doesn’t need a laboratory experiment to feel God’s effect on his or her life.
Kinda sounds like that place we are all aware of, huh? Somewhere between a rock and a hard place? Well, you’re in luck, because I know rocks! Honestly, the conflict that exists between the two is obvious and has precedence, but there is also a means to meet halfway. What should you do the next time a heated debate arises between your scientific and/or religious beliefs? Is it OK to accept not just one side of the debate, but both?
I am of the mindset that we are all “only human.” In other words, we don’t know the truth behind every question because our minds can only comprehend so much. Do you want to know what I believe? I believe that God created the sciences as a means to help us understand his Grand Design. Is it not possible that both religion and science are true? For those that believe God designed the entire world, do you not also believe that he designed science? He provided the religious and scientific puzzle pieces and it’s up to us to fit them together.
In my opinion, it really is as simple as this: Science tells us “what” and religion tells us “why.” Science can define what is happening, what we are observing in the natural world. Religion can define why it is happening, why the world even exists to begin with. Therefore, the two really can coexist. The struggle is in discovering how exactly the two of them can coexist congenially. Having intelligent discussions rather than heated debates regarding separate viewpoints can lead to better understanding rather than the existing conflict.
I view science and religion as two instruction manuals that help guide us in the world we live in. You can choose to follow only one of them, but to open our hearts and minds to all that the world and God have to offer, we must be willing to read both—even when it may at times feel uncomfortable. The sciences can enrich our minds just as the teachings of the Lord enrich our hearts.
To leave you with something to ponder, think on Job 11:7-9, “Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty? Such knowledge is higher than the heavens—and who are you?It is deeper than the underworld—what do you know? It is broader than the earthand wider than the sea” (NLT).
Natashia Metz, a geologist who works for an environmental consulting firm, enjoys teaching worship with preschool age children at Christ’s Church.