A question was asked of Dr. Allan Sandage: “Must there necessarily be a conflict between science and religion?” A scientist reflects upon religious belief…
“In my opinion, no, if it is understood that each treats a different aspect of reality. The Bible is certainly not a book of science. One does not study it to find the intensities and the wavelengths of the Balmer spectral lines of hydrogen. But neither is science concerned with the ultimate spiritual properties of the world, which are also real.
“Science makes explicit the quite incredible natural order, the interconnections at many levels between the laws of physics, the chemical reactions in the biological processes of life, etc. But science can answer only a fixed type of question. It is concerned with the what, when, and how. It does not, and indeed cannot, answer within its method (powerful as that method is), why.
“Why is there something instead of nothing? Why do all electrons have the same charge and mass? Why is the design that we see everywhere so truly miraculous? Why are so many processes so deeply interconnected?
“But we must admit that those scientists that want to see design will see design. Those that are content in every part of their being to live as materialistic reductionalists (as we must all do as scientists in the laboratory, which is the place of the practice of our craft) will never admit to a mystery of the design they see, always putting off by one step at a time, awaiting a reductionalist explanation for the present unknown. But to take this reductionalist belief to the deepest level and to an indefinite time into the future (and it will always remain indefinite) when “science will know everything” is itself an act of faith which denies that there can be anything unknown to science, even in principle. But things of the spirit are not things of science.
“There need be no conflict between science and religion if each appreciates its own boundaries and if each takes seriously the claims of the other. The proven success of science simply cannot be ignored by the church. But neither can the church’s claim to explain the world at the very deepest level be dismissed. If God did not exist, science would have to (and indeed has) invent the concept to explain what it is discovering at its core. Abelard’s 12th century dictum “Truth cannot be contrary to truth. The findings of reason must agree with the truths of scripture, else the God who gave us both has deceived us with one or the other” still rings true.
“If there is no God, nothing makes sense. The atheist’s case is based on a deception they wish to play upon themselves that follows already from their initial premise. And if there is a God, he must be true both to science and religion. If it seems not so, then one’s hermeneutics (either the pastor’s or the scientist’s) must wrong.
“I believe there is a clear, heavy, and immediate responsibility for the church to understand and to believe in the extraordinary results and claims of science. Its success is simply too evident and visible to ignore. It is likewise incumbent upon scientists to understand that science is incapable, because of the limitations of its method by reason alone, to explain and to understand everything about reality. If the world must simply be understood by a materialistic reductionalist nihilism, it would make no sense at all. For this, Romans 1:19-21 seems profound. And the deeper any scientist pushes his work, the more profound it does indeed become.”
~ David Norris