Often science and faith or religion are presented in stark contrast to each other. Science is objective, certain, factual, provable – while faith or religion is subjective, uncertain, questionable, unprovable. There is some truth here, but I think it is too often exaggerated and inaccurate polarization occurs. Science is not as objective or certain as some would like to think it is. And faith or religion can have more objectivity and rational thought behind it than some care to admit.
What got me thinking about all this was a chapter in the book “The Explicit Gospel” by Matt Chandler. He really gave me some food for thought.
As a former nurse, I related to his comment that scientists change their minds quite often. We are told with certainty that a particular food, drink, medication or treatment is good for you or the best approach. And then a few years later, new studies show the opposite – or can simply have different or inconclusive findings. You can’t be certain what future research will show!
I particularly liked a point that debunks the so-called pure objectivity of science. It is not as though data is just out there in the world, and scientists randomly or unintentionally collect it. Rather scientists first have a theory, an idea to prove, or a problem to solve – and then they go collecting data. Do you see the subjectivity involved? As this quote in the book states:
Science…cannot start with observation, or with ‘collections of data’ as some students of method believe. Before we can collect data, our interest in data of a certain kind must be aroused: the problem always comes first.
He also references a Kevin Dunbar, a scientist who decided to study…scientists! He did an observational study of 4 different chemistry labs at Stanford University. It revealed the frustrations inherent to scientific pursuit, and he called it the “dirty secret of science.” Results often contradicted theories. They would be looking for X and find Y. Data would sometimes not make sense, and a project would be ditched as a result. There were studies riddled with anomalies. Etc. He emphasized that these were not sloppy people but some of the finest labs in the world.
The point here is not to demonize science! Okay? Science is good! The point is to attempt to show how science can be unfairly elevated to a god-like status and given virtues that are actually not accurate.
Pure objectivity and certainty is a myth and science requires trust or faith too.
And sadly Christian faith can be unfairly demoted to something that is merely a crutch for non-thinking people. Yet, there are intelligent people of faith and there are indeed rational reasons that can be given for belief.
So…Let’s stop the polarization.