The Mutual Exclusion of God and Science

I wrote most of this a while ago, I decided to post it after the following words were recently used in reference to me and my religion: pedantic, airhead, dumb, sh*t, and idiocy. Oh, I was also told to “piss off” and inaccurate internet memes were used to belittle me and my religion. Sad thing was, I wasn’t surprised.

I am constantly amazed by the amount of effort and energy spent on atheist forums attacking, disparaging, ridiculing, and trying to disprove religion. Instead of talking about what they believe and uplifting each other, they focus on their disdain for religion. The continuation of this trend and it’s seemingly increasing intensity, and even hatred, is what encourages me to write this post.

But let us be clear on a few things first:

  1. Several of the best, most important people, in my life are atheists. They continue to have lasting positive effects on my life. I am not painting all with the same brush, but I am sure most everyone is familiar with the large and vocal group that I reference above.
  2. I will not be “proving” anything here, if you are looking for that you might as well move along.
  3. Christians, and other religious folks, you aren’t getting off the hook in this post either.

During the 500 years that the bible has been publicly available there have been a lot of scientific advances, such as: the invention of the microscope, the first real understanding of the existence of dinosaurs, mapping of the flow of blood, the control and use of electricity, and Newton’s laws of motion, and so on.

Christianity has also progressed during this time. Moving from essentially a single denomination, often officially associated with a state, to many denominations of varying beliefs but with the same basic principles.

As science and religion have progressed we have gained greater understanding of the world, and universe, around us. But we have also arrived at a point of contention between science and Christianity – a situation that I think is just plain silly, and that says more about us as people than about science or religion.

The Big Bang Theory, or at least the basis for it, was first presented in 1927- less than 100 years ago. The theory is really pretty amazing and has some very strong supporting evidence. It is, however, a theory that can not be proven or recreated (which is really too bad because I love a good explosion). As we continue to make new discoveries we continue to hone our understanding of the Big Bang and other scientific theories. Sometimes these advances support our current understanding, sometimes they change our understanding. This is true for all of science.

Before the big bang theory, there was no strong scientific, widely known, theory for how the universe was created. The only explanations came from religion.

For about 1,500 years (exact time is debateable) the Catholic church was the primary Christian church and the majority of the Western World’s understanding of the creation came from the church. For the last 500 years, our understanding has changed because of the public availability of the bible and the emergence of other churches.

As science has progressed, reasons to question the details of the bible’s account of the creation have arisen. But really only for about the last 150 years. This is where things get silly.

As I visit the forums of the internet, and talk to people, the debate between religion and science about the creation has become more and more absurd to me. Many times this debate is based on one simple thing: “God created the earth in 6 days, and on the 7th he rested”.

A literal interpretation of the the bible’s account of the creation would lead one to the conclusion that the world was created only several thousand years ago, and was done so in six-24 hour periods. From a scientific point of view this just simply isn’t possible and is in fact directly opposed to the evidence. This is where the contention starts.

Lately I have seen a lot of comments like “…as stupid as modern day Christians…” or “…you mean that book written by a hallucinating drunk in the near east…”. These comments almost always lump Christians into one big stereotype and then are usually followed up by some berating that tries to establish the beliefs of all religions as “mythical” and “based on fables”. And it is always done by someone who claims to be more intelligent, more educated, more “enlightened”.

No one questions when scientist advance their theories. No one baucks when science finds it’s previous theories were wrong in light of new evidence. No one throws out the entire science book when a single part of it turns out to be less than perfectly accurate. No, we call that “progress”. But a different standard is held for religion. Religious views aren’t allowed to advance, there is huge controversy if a religion decides that a previous theory needs adjusting, and it has been suggested many times that the entire bible be thrown out simply because of the translation and interpretation of the word “day”.

But really the simple fact is this: Neither religion, nor science, have a complete knowledge of all things.

Any legitimate scientist knows full well that we are entirely in the dark concerning some things. Other things we understand to a degree, but not fully. Still other things we have nailed down. For many Christians – I’d contend the majority of them – religion is the same way. Some things haven’t been revealed at all, some things we understand to a degree but not fully, and some things we have nailed down. This is certainly true of the LDS religion that expresses the doctrine of continuing revelation and unrevealed truths.

Science is accepted as an ever advancing quest to understand the world around us, but religion is suppose to already know everything – otherwise it can’t be true. Science is allowed to be fluid, but religion is supposed to be already carved to perfection. And this diametric standard sometimes holds true for both non-religious and religious people – just from opposite viewpoints.

Many Christians seem to be slow to trust science, to allow it to be incorporated into their beliefs – expecting that anything that doesn’t “jive” is just a wrong theory and will some day change.

Many atheists seem to think that science some how discounts, and proves wrong, all of Christianity’s beliefs.

These types of extreme views only prove to slow our actual understanding of our own existence and create debates that can essentially be summed up with: “I’m not wrong, you are wrong.”

What if I told you that God and science are not mutually exclusive?

Could it be completely possible that God used the properties of nature in his creation of the world? Could it be that God used physics, and a big bang, and extended periods of time, and even at least some amount of adaptation or evolution in his creative process? I believe so. What exactly he used, I don’t know for sure, but it would seem illogical for the God of nature to not use nature.

Maybe, just maybe, God is more of a scientist than a magician.

If you want to believe in a strict literal interpretation of the bible, I am ok with that. If you want to believe only what has been, or will be taught by science I am ok with that too.

However, no matter what you want to believe we should all, from either side of the debate, finally admit: We don’t know it all.

We like to act like we know everything, saying things such as: “Science has proven…” and “The bible says…” but if we are actually being honest – we’ll look around and humbly admit that there are a lot of things out there that we don’t understand.

And let’s stop throwing around disparaging comments about “stupid Christians and their fables” or “heathen atheists and their damned souls”. These types of comments, this type of “debate”, really shows just how undeveloped we are – spiritually, evolutionary, whichever you prefer.

Instead let’s all work together to better understand our existence. We won’t always agree on everything, but that is ok because if we always agreed we’d never progress. But there is a difference between disagreeing and schoolyard name calling. There is middle ground between having diversity in our understanding and tearing at one another because of our differences. We can be honestly educated about things and not have to agree with them or believe in them – but we also don’t have to attack them.

On the Topic of Faith:

I have seen several posts about “faith” not being a reason to believe in something. Comments such as  “…does religion have no other claim than faith?” are often found in atheist forums. It seems that many people do not realize how much faith they actually have in science. Some person, in some country, whose name we don’t know, whose credentials we’ve never checked, can perform an experiment we don’t understand, and write a paper that we will never read, and then when we skim over the blog post summarizing it with a cool picture and 3 paragraphs we are suddenly ready to accept it as truth without any verification – simply because the person is a “scientist”. That is some serious faith! I do it too, we all do. Lay followers of science exercise a lot of faith regularly. How many times have you heard the words: “Well you know THEY say…” when the person has no idea who “they” are? Two of the biggest theories in science (the creation of the universe though an explosion, and the divergence of a myriad of species from a single common ancestor) can’t actually be proven. They have strong supporting evidence, we can observe parts of the entire theories, but they can’t not be recreated or observed entirely – therefore, to a certain extent, accepting these theories requires some level of faith. There is nothing wrong with this.

On the other hand, for some people it is very hard to even consider that something might be true if it in anyway challenges what they were taught in Sunday school. Instead of allowing our understanding to grow, and our faith to stretch, we shut out new ideas. We ignore them, or dismiss them with a casual gesture. We can’t allow our faith to be challenged, or for it to wrap around and embrace a better understanding of life. Faith is meant to grow. Sometimes that means it gets stronger, sometimes that means it expands.

I would challenge anyone who believes science automatically discounts all of religion to really look a the situation and consider what you are saying. What you are saying is that the entirety of religion should be thrown out because some small part of it doesn’t match up perfectly with your understanding of the current claims of science. You are saying that none of it can be true because science hasn’t proven it, when the whole basis of science is the quest for better understanding. What you are saying is that you “know it all”.

I would challenge anyone who is afraid that their religious beliefs can’t abide science, to allow their beliefs to grow and strengthen and to embrace a more full understanding. Your faith doesn’t have to be threatened by science. Can you believe that God created the world and still accept the canon of science in general? Absolutely. If you try to say that science is all a bunch of theories of man that are probably wrong, simply because science doesn’t match up perfectly with your religion then what you are really saying is that you “know it all”.

Humankind is a complicated species, our history is complicated, our present is complicated, our future will be complicated and the universe that we live in is even more complicated. It is doubtful we will ever understand everything through religion or science.

Whatever your position on science and religion, whatever you believe, I’m OK with it, just remember – you don’t actually know it all.

Post Script:

Below is the comment area, if you are the type of person who feels the need to disparage, attack, belittle, or mock regarding ones belief in science and/or God – please move along without commenting. Regardless of your position I will freely trash any comment I deem as trash. If you like to discuss, ask sincere questions, or enjoy an honest discussion please continue.

In regards to the LDS faith, of which I belong:

  • Official doctrine on the length of time taken to create the earth: none
  • Official doctrine on the big bang or evolution: none
  • Doctrinal understanding of the actual process of creation for man or earth: very little, other than God was the creator.


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Luke Hopkin

Father, wilderness addict, Mormon. I believe that we don't give the gospel of Christ the credit it deserves, it is much more effective, deep, and personal than we often realize. I believe in principles of faith, in doctrine, and in revelation. I hope to bring new insights, and a voice for truth, to the conversation. @lukevhopkin
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