January 16, 2021

Open Mic at the iMonk Cafe: Stories of Science/Faith Resolution

sciThis particular open thread is going to be a bit unusual.

I am limiting participation to only those readers who are either trained in some area of the sciences or currently work in a science related field (either teaching or practice.)

This thread is for this question: How have you resolved the tensions in your own life and thinking between science and your faith? What has been your journey? What was particularly significant in that journey?

I’m especially interested in those who were brought up in conservative Christian environments with typical conservative assumptions about the Bible.

Please keep “sideline comments” out of this thread.


  1. Chemical Erik says

    I am a Prossional Chemical Engineer, not a professional scientist. However, I my work requires me to understand and apply science in ways I believe qualify me to speak on this issue.

    I didn’t develop a firm view of the interrelation of science and religion until I read some of the books by Eli Goldratt relating to the Theory of Constraints (TOC). The thinking processes that are part of the TOC include the use of effect-cause-effect logic, which are a parallel to the scientific method. While reading his description of effect-cause-effect logic, I quickly recognized these logical steps are exactly those described in scripture. In fact, places where scripture applies this effect-cause-effect are consistently profound, deep passages.

    In Goldratt’s book titled “What is this thing called Theory of Constraints and how should it be implemented?” he has a chapter describing how sciences develop. “The three distinct stages that every science has gone through are: classification, correlation and effect-cause-effect.” He also clarrifies the place of science with this quote:
    “Science does not concern itself with truths but with validity. That’s the reason why everything in science is open for constant checks and challenges”.

    These understanding have led me to understand that true science is a way of exploring and understanding the world that was given to us from GOD. In the world we have both those who deny this gift in order to defend their interpretation of GOD’s word and those who confuse speculation and theory with truth. In order to fully embrace the gifts GOD has provided, we must apply the GOD-given scientific logic model to the world around us without falling for the rampant psuedo-science frequently championed by the “scientific community”.

    All this of course has many application on various scientific issues. I’ll refrain from going into any of those unless asked to do so.

  2. FollowerOfHim says

    “But once I started paying attention, (my kids got to high school), I found an out in the open bias against hard (concrete) science careers. More and more kids are being steered by evangelical church youth leaders into Liberty University as the best possible type of higher ed.” — Ross

    Ross: As a parent, you’re in a better position than I am to judge such matters. My knowledege of LU is informed solely by the first few chapters of “Unlikely Disciple” absorbed at my local Borders (and which I now officially feel the need to buy out of sheer free-loader’s guilt.) Its description of their general req class in Creationism/Biblical Literalism (NOT a part of the Bio curriculum) left me a bit depressed. I do take a quantum of solace, however, from the fact that not everyone even there buys everything they’re taught. Indeed, sometimes YECers raise questions that wouldn’t occur to some students who then go on to form their own, ahem, different, opinions down the road. Too bad it might take them a decade or two, however.

  3. I was using Liberty as an example, not the only one. There’s a definite bias in some evangelical circles against any higher ed involving physics, chemistry, biology, etc… Which wipes outs advanced electronics, most anything medical, astronomy, etc… But they do like the fruit of the labor of those in those fields.

  4. “Ross: As a parent, you’re in a better position than I am to judge such matters.”

    Becoming a parent changed my mind about a LOT of things. How to run a school system, how to discipline kids, wants vs. needs, long term vs. short term, etc…

  5. treebeard says

    I’m not a scientist, but my father is a psychologist and neurologist. He is a church-going, nominal Christian, and his knowledge of the brain and his belief in evolution are a stumbling block to his faith, by his own admission. I hope that qualifies me to ask the following question:

    To those commenters who accept evolution, what do you believe about Adam and Eve, and the temptation and fall of man as described in Genesis? In my discussions with my father, I have no problem acknowledging evolution as the way God may have created man. But if Adam and Eve, etc., are not literally true, I’m not sure how the whole story of the fall of man, and thus the need for our redemption by Christ, makes any sense. Could any who care to elaborate?

  6. “But if Adam and Eve, etc., are not literally true,”

    Genesis 27
    So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

    Did Adam “look” like God? Fingers, toes, nose, teeth, belly button, etc… If not then are we talking biology here or something else. (Knowing this can morph into an out of control discussion very quickly.)

  7. FollowerOfHim says

    Treebeard> “To those commenters who accept evolution, what do you believe about Adam and Eve, and the temptation and fall of man as described in Genesis?”

    I’ll maintain the thread by replying to your question under iMonk’s theme “How have you resolved the tensions in your own life and thinking between science and your faith?” I won’t ask whether you trim your facial hair with a hedgetrimmer.

    It’s unlikely I’ll add much new to what you’ve gleaned in conversations with your father, but my angle of attack is the following.

    I view the Incarnation as fundamental in the precise sense that if God became man, then at some level we need not spend too much time worrying about either the physical origins of humanity or of the details of prehistory. This is not to dismiss Genesis, of course! But I simply don’t start at the beginning, as it were; from the Incarnational perspective, one could do worse than to start at John 1:1 and work backwards. “AIJ, not AIG”, to be too clever by half.

    Did we descend from apes? I, like yourself (I surmise?) think so. All the more, then, the extreme humility of Christ in His taking on the form of a servant. If it didn’t bother Him, why should it bother me? (Consider also how odd it is to “protect” Christ from any such putative baseness — as if He came because our humanity was good enough for Him!)

    But what of the Temptation and Fall? Again, the bare facts of Christ’s coming, His Passion, and His Resurrection all speak to the need for our redemption — and to that of all Creation. Moreover, I am more convinced of the fallenness of man by the man in the mirror than by any attempt to explain it historically.

    I can’t claim that the Incarnation alone is a miraculous lens bringing the entire Hebrew Bible into the sharpest focus. But it is a persepctive that allows us to be surprised by hope (to borrow the title of NT Wright), a hope even a logical math type like me can feel even as I write!

  8. [I promised to come back]

    Raised in what I guess could be described as a fairly fundamentalist church. At the time, I had no impression of creation being ‘pushed down my throat’. People didn’t go on about it, but I guess that’s just because it was taken as fact. Lots of educated (even scientifically educated) people in that church, but I think they were mostly of the “too much thinking will destroy your faith” variety…

    It was as a teenager that I started getting interested in this stuff – and went through quite a few pendulum swings, from creationist, to evolutionist, to creationist again. Mostly depending on the last book I had read (cf that Proverb about one person seeming right until his adversary speaks).

    I remember being dismayed by the beligerous attitudes of some creationist authors, by their baiting, sarcasm, denigration. The general tone tending towards point scoring and not an honest search for truth. Just defending their turf.

    Two books that stick in my mind – one by a Christian (I regret that I’ve completely forgotten title and author), whose approach was refreshingly humble, and whose conclusion was pretty much: Old earth, real evolution, specific act of God to ‘create’ Adam and Eve by breathing soul into apes. (This is from memory, 20 years later, so could be a horrible distortion).

    The other was by a microbiologist called Michael Denton (Evolution – a Theory in Crisis), a book that is astonishing frank about lots of the ‘holes’ in evolutionary theory. Brave man, he was knowingly exposing himself to be used as ammunition.

    I guess in the end I settled for an unstable equilibrium with a good dose of “I don’t know” – an ingredient which I have often found disappointingly lacking on both sides of the debate.

    My ‘position’ as it stands – and it hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years, is definitely old earth – Ockam’s razor excludes all the clever young earth scientific explanations. I’m not so sure about 100% biological evolution – I remain unconvinced that trying to do an impossible thing for an impossibly long time makes it possible.

    Real Adam & Eve? Possibly, dunno.

    Real sin? Yup, that’s me.

    Real Jesus? Thank God, yes! And that’s where the real questions start…

  9. I’m a computer scientist does that count? I’ve also studied origins for years… The strongest contention against theistic evolution within a Christian framework that I’ve heard (and not seen directly addressed in this thread) is this:

    Evolution is a cruel process. If survival of the fittest is true, then what kind of god would use millions of years of suffering and death as the impetus for evolutionary change? And if such suffering and death is the impetus, then this would mean that the world was created with suffering and death preceding man’s sin (unless we believe that our pond scum progenitors sinned).

    If suffering and death are not the result of a sin, then why would we need a savior to take these things away? And why would we WANT to be saved from the change engine of evolution advancement?

    I therefore believe in old earth creationism, embracing natural selection (a better term than “microevolution”, IMHO). But my grounds are theological and philosophical, more than scientific.

    I’m curious as to how those of you who are Christians embracing some sort of theistic evolution can reconcile this dilemma.

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