A recent post on the NPR subsidiary blog 13.7 Cosmos & Culture asks a complicated question about how or why one chooses religion over science or views the two as not mutually exclusive. Marcelo Gleiser’s “The Need To Believe: Where Does It Come From?” never really provides an answer, though it offers considerations from both the religious as well as the scientific (or sometimes atheistic) sides. In fact, Gleiser does point out that “much grief comes from the insistence from either side that the opposite is wrong or meaningless,” citing a specific case where an atheist criticizes a fellow scientist for professing a belief in God. What I find most interesting about the post is Gleiser’s insistence, rightfully so, that there is far more “in-between” belief than most people realize. The divisions between science and religion, believers and nonbelievers is not as polarized as the media and even staunch believers and deniers want the rest of the world to believe. Gleiser argues that these “in-between positions” manifest themselves where “doubt and the limits of what we know creep in.” The limits of our knowledge always make us vulnerable to doubt. This is why religious people rely so heavily on faith. We need not limit that faith to spiritual matters. We can have faith in science, too.
Regardless of what some scientists want us to believe, science does not and likely never will have all the answers. Greater knowledge and understanding will always be one more experiment away. The revival of skepticism in early-modern Europe had the right idea inasmuch as the skeptics exercised a suspension of judgement, waiting patiently to see what the next experiment would confirm or prove wrong or reveal about the world, the cosmos that no one had considered. Unfortunately, much of today’s religious and scientific cultures are too sure of everything, and that certainty, more than anything else, leads to criticism and persecution of others’ beliefs.
I possess what I think is a unique approach in the area of science and religion. Like many men and women, I do not see the two as mutually exclusive. On the contrary, I believe that both religion and science possess truth. In fact, almost every early “scientist” or natural philosopher never would have considered separating the two. Men like Francis Bacon, for example, believed that God and nature, even our observation of that nature, were forever intertwined. Hence, the early belief in a Second Book of Scripture, the Book of Nature, which could teach us as much about and draw us as close to God as the Bible itself. For me, science and God can be seen as one in the same. I firmly believe there are certain laws, laws of physics for example, that are constant, that even God cannot violate. At the same time, since I also believe science could never provide all the answers, could never possibly have all the answers, I believe God resides beyond the unanswerable. Most believers in a God believe that God to be omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. If that is the case, then God does have all the answers. God knows everything about physics, for example, and knows how to manipulate matter, everything in nature and the cosmos, to produce his desired results in any given situation. Believers may call these miracles, but if we could breakdown such miracles, I submit that we would ultimately see God’s application of perfect scientific knowledge.