I recently came across a Christian pamphlet that suggested science was nothing but another religion requiring faith to accept its lofty claims. The basic idea of the tract was that science was so much guesswork resulting in an inferior and false belief system when compared to the time tested truths of Bible. The article attempted to support its premise by pointing out that science had been forced to adjust its claims repeatedly over the years, whereas the Bible had remained steadfast, yesterday, today, and forever. The writer of the essay wanted to offer the Bible as something you could count on because of its unchanging reliability. In contrast, the ever shifting sand of scientific knowledge was presented as an undependable foundation for understanding reality and life.
Those who cherish this line of reasoning are correct. It does take a certain amount of faith when it comes to most of us accepting complicated scientific axioms, hypotheses and theories. For example, I learned the basic workings of electricity in school. I learned that atoms consisted of protons and electrons. I learned that the electrons of certain metals could be stripped off and sent traveling down wires as a source of power. I admit that I have to accept these ideas on faith because I can’t see atoms and. I can’t see electrons. My comprehension as to how it is possible for electrons to travel down copper wires resulting in my light to read by is very limited, so I simply have to trust that there are others who do understand the chemistry and physics of electricity. Every day I experience the benefits of electrical power, but when something happens and the power goes out, I am totally dependent on others to restore it. I am forced to have faith in those who actually do understand how the science of electricity works.
However, there is a marked difference between the two faith systems. Having faith in science does not require belief in an invisible, magical, unverifiable, and incomprehensible entity. If a person has the interest and intelligence, that person does have the potential to become one of those who have a workable comprehension of electrical power.
Not so long ago in human history, bolts of lightening were thought to be the chastising and judgmental arrows of one god or another. (2 Samuel 22:14 The LORD thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered his voice.15 And he sent out arrows, and scattered them; lightning, and discomfited them.) Benjamin Franklin was condemned for the invention of the lightning rod. It was considered by some ministers of his day an attempt to “control the artillery of heaven.” The Bible presents thunder and lightning as the voice and power of Yahweh and poor old Ben was using Jehovah’s special power for parlor tricks. Now we understand that lightning is nothing more than complicated than the interaction of a charged atmosphere with oppositely charged portions of the Earth’s surface. We call it static electricity. Powerful, yes – supernatural, no.
Since the first experiments with electricity until now there have been significant changes in humanity’s ability to understand and harness this force of nature. Science had to expand and readjust its teachings on the subject as more discoveries were made. The Bible’s teaching on the nature of electricity, however, continues to remain “static.”
Although the stagnant nature of the Bible may offer comfort for those afraid of growth and progress, in this instance I would have to say that my faith is better placed in science. In fact, in my opinion, the very ability of science to change with the advent of new information demonstrates its superiority to every other “faith.” The Bible claims to have all the answers already and its promoters laugh at any discoveries that contradict its archaic ideas. This rationale is aptly demonstrated in the challenges presented in the endeavor to understand human origins. The theory of evolution is by no means a complete or finished science at this time. There are some holes in our ability to accurately explain every nuance of how all the pieces of the evolutionary puzzle fit together. As more information is realized, the theories will continue to modify and adapt.
As I said, to a degree it does take some amount of faith to accept several things modern science tries to explain. The difference between trusting the increasingly verifiable claims of science versus trusting the impossible to confirm claims of the Bible should be obvious to anyone willing to admit it. While there is no question that science lacks the answers to many questions, the Bible retreats from satisfactorily answering any questions concerning nature by simply brandishing the words “GOD did it.” The faith that science demands is one based on experimental proofs, verifiable theorems and a history of being able to reorganize when new knowledge becomes available. The Bible cannot revise its position, no mater how much evidence comes against it. Since it claims to be the very words of GOD, it cannot be found to be deficient in any way and remain authoritative. Obstinacy can be a strength in certain situations, but flexibility is usually considered a stronger and more desirable quality.
Using a leadership model for allegory it sounds something like this: Would you be more likely to place your trust in a leader who can admit they are wrong on occasion, or do you prefer the leader that never admits to error?
The Bible says that the Sun once stood still. (Joshua 10:13) Of course thanks to science we now know that the Earth goes around the sun so if anything stood still that day it would have had to have been the Earth. Without the rotation of the Earth, there would be severe repercussions that would threaten all life on this planet, even if that rotation only stopped for a few hours. The Bible says that rabbits chew the cud (Leviticus 11:6 ), which they do not. It says that some flying insects like grasshoppers have four legs. (Leviticus 11:23) There is no such thing. The Bible repeatedly assumes a geocentric universe with the canopy of the sky overshadowing the Earth. Above the sky is the dwelling place of the Almighty, who looks down and oversees the goings on below. The Geocentric Bible is a website maintained by those who still believe that the universe revolves around the Earth, because the Bible says so. Of equal interest are those who insist that the Earth is flat likewise, because the Bible clearly describes a flat immoveable Earth. If the Bible is indeed the Word of the Almighty Creator of the Universe, then it must not have error. While the “Geocentrics” and “Flat Earthers” may seem peculiar to mainstream Christians, at least they are honest and consistent with what the their holy book clearly describes about reality.
I used the Bible as my guide for life for many years. Now I use my brain. Science does not have all the answers, but continues to live, grow and learn with each passing year. The Bible does not harmonize itself with reality at all; demanding those who truly believe to put their minds on hold, do what they are told and not question too much.
Science encourages a doubting, questioning sort of faith which is not satisfied with incomplete answers. It applauds innovation. The Bible demands a slavish sort of faith, paralyzed and inflexible. It applauds mindless servitude.
It has only been in very recent history that science has had a free hand to explore the mysteries of the world outside the confines of ecclesiastical control. In that short time the comfort, lifestyles, and life spans of much of humankind have been amazingly improved. The things we take for granted today in the area of medicine, travel, technology, availability and variety of food, etc. are nothing short of miraculous when compared to all of history up to the present century. Our luxurious western way of life is in large measure a legacy from science. The Bible held total sway over western thought for well over 1000 years and in that amount of time, one would think there would be extensive progress made for the betterment of human society. In my opinion, the Dark Ages and horrific plagues born of ignorance of the basic science of sanitation are the awards of long term rigid Bibliolatry.
Is science a religion? I don’t see how. Science has no deity, no rituals, no meeting houses, no inflexible dogmas, strives to open hidden treasures locked in our world, no messiah and glories in tearing down old walls of ignorance. In fact as far as I can see, science is the exact opposite of religion.
What do you think?
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)