Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Believe in God and Science

I Believe in God (Absolutely) 
and in Science (Relatively)

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” Absolutely.

I also believe in science. Relatively.

When it comes to my health, I believe in the science of medicine. I reject “alternative medicine” which is not based on science.

At one point in my life, I had several acute attacks of diverticulitis within a year. When I had the second serious attack, I was told I needed surgery, and it was scheduled. When the planned surgery became public knowledge, a friend invited me into her home, where she introduced me to homeopathic medicine and told me she wanted to spare me the surgery. I experienced cognitive dissonance throughout the presentation, and it caused me to waver not at all in my decision to have the surgery. I chose treatment that involved an incision in my abdomen, removal of part of my colon, post-surgery pain, several days in the hospital, and weeks of recovery. Why? I believe in scientific medicine. (I have never regretted the decision to have that surgery nor to have my gallbladder removed. Both improved my quality of life.)

Does this mean I believe that science is absolute and infallible when it comes to medical health? Absolutely not.   My surgeon told me that the studies showed that after two acute attacks it was safer to have surgery than to risk further acute episodes. He also told me I must avoid seeds and nuts. Shortly thereafter I got to know a gastroenterologist as both friend and physician. He told me the studies showed that treating repeated episodes of diverticulitis with antibiotics is safe and that seeds and nuts had nothing to do with the onset of diverticulitis.

Different doctors, different specialties, different opinions. And treatment options and opinions may be very different 20 years after my surgery. Medical science is not absolute.

By its nature, the knowledge and practice of medical science is partial, tentative, correctable, and progressive. Mistakes – factual, theoretical, practical - are made (and eventually tentatively corrected). What seems today to be cutting edge may in some future generation look barbaric. The disagreements among medical scientists are to be expected. But none of this undermines my confidence in modern scientific medicine.

If I have a health issue, I am going to turn to prayer, because I believe in God. But I am not going to turn to alternative medicine, because it does not conform to reality or reason. For treatment I am going to turn to rational medical science.

I believe we put things and objects into space, including landing human beings on the moon and sending mechanical devices to explore Mars. To do this means that laws, studies, theories, tests, and conclusions of disciplines such as physics and astronomy have to be consulted and applied. Are such laws, knowledge, and theories infallible? No.

Newton got physics right enough to allow man to understand the workings of the universe and then to make many applications that work, demonstrating a significant level of correspondence of Newtonian physics with reality. But, he did not get physics so completely right as not to be corrected by Einstein. While Einstein and his successors have not given us a comprehensive or infallible understanding of the universe’s workings, what they have given us is sufficient to give success in nuclear physics and space exploration. However, relativity theory may in time prove relative.

This brings us up against the “hard sciences” of biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. What do we do with their “findings”? When a geologist looks at a rock, and says it]s a gazillion years old based on such calculations as he can make, is God’s creative work at stake? When an astronomer tells me how many light years away a certain star is, is God’s existence at stake?

They may be wrong, but it may be that their problem is not their atheistic, naturalistic assumptions. Of course, some of them do have atheistic and naturalistic assumptions. They are overconfident when they tell us how certain their conclusions are. They overreach when they tell us that their studies prove that there is no God, or, if there is one, that he is not the Creator. Their assumption that there is no God or no Creator God does have a determining impact on their speculations about origins.

On the other hand, I am not prepared to say that the Princetonians’ engagement with the emerging science of the 19th and early 20th centuries was mistaken. They were not so suspicious of science or scientific methods as “creation scientists” are today. (Yes, I know that the charge is that Hodges and Warfield  put too much credence in science because they were rationalists and evidentialists.) I do not believe they gave away the store of creation because they did not understand what was at stake. It seems to me that their response was careful, measured, and theologically sound. Their engagement is, of course, dated. It may be that they are not only dated, but wrong. But, I do not believe they capitulated to unbelieving science.

Once I was driving through the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi with two of my sons. The older one asked, “Dad, who made this road?” The younger one looked at the older as he must be stupidest older brother in the (short) history of the world, and said, “God did.” Well, yes. But, could we not talk about the how and when of the road’s construction? Of engineers and asphalt and graders and road builders.

I may be as simple as the younger son here, but it seems to me that it does not deny God to talk about such things as light years and geological age.  God exists and God created all things no matter how old the rocks are or how long light has been traveling from a distant star.

“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” Absolutely. No qualifications.

1 comment:

Metal Hunter said...

I feel the same way. I cannot believe all this (the universe itself) was created out of essentially nothing. There must be a God, if there is not, then why does anything exist??? There must be more than science! I believe God is the Master Scientist, and us, humans, are learning what He has already created!