Are Science and Religion Compatible Concepts?

Right now, there are quite strong opinions on this subject which serve only as tender for quite inflammatory remarks between scientists and those who might be said to be representing religion. Since the history of science is replete with examples of quite famous men who were very religious (such as Isaac Newton, or Blaise Pascal) who have contributed much to our understanding of the universe it is hardly a valid or logical argument to suggest that religious men can not make significant contributions to the progress of science.

Definition of Science

What is science anyway but the processes which men use to obtain a richer understanding or more thorough knowledge of the universe? The word 'Science' comes from the Latin 'scientia' {to know} and is taken generally to mean the systematized knowledge of nature and the physical world which is ostensibly derived from the observation, study, and experimentation carried on in order to determine the nature or principles of what is being studied.

How Much of Modern Science is Really Faith?

Frequently, the argument arises that religion is concerned with matters of faith while science is only concerned with matters of fact. However, since such a great amount of modern science is based upon opinion and faith in the interpretation of data within a particular context or with respect to a particular paradigm or model it is often difficult and frequently impossible to differentiate so called scientific theory from things normally thought to be matters of religious belief. Thus, we see that sometimes those who would present the image of themselves to be strictly men of reason are often found espousing 'theories' which they promote as being 'scientific' when, in fact, there is nothing substantial behind what they believe in but an unfounded faith in a popular theory that itself may be beyond any means to confirm either by experiment or observation.

Who is a Scientist and Who Isn't?

It is often tossed out that Creation Scientists (as if all scientists who believe in a Creator God could be lumped together) are not real scientists because they operate from faith rather than 'scientifically' using data, accepted models, logic and reason.    But a trained professional who follows the scientific method in his or her scientific work but who also just happens to believe in nonsensical illogical concepts and attempts to comprehend data (which might actually be gathered in a reputable repeatable fashion) in the context of an illogical concept deviates from reasonable standards of scientific integrity and behavior. Is that person still a scientist? By what or by whose standards? Academic institutions do not rescind the doctoral or masters or baccalaureate degrees which they issue simply because a person that was trained at their school at some point fails to adhere to reasonable standards of behavior, belief or the reasonable application of logic in the pursuit of their careers or research goals. The problem is that there is no reasonable standard that is regularly used to differentiate between professionals who don't interpret their data sensibly and those who do. The line is not drawn to be a simple one where people who believe in a Creator God who founded the heavens and the Earth are on one side (as pseudo scientists) while those who rebel at such things as superstitious and illogical are on the other (as true scientists).  By that standard then Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Leibniz, Coulomb, Faraday, Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, along with a host of other notables would be demoted from the ranks of 'true scientists' perhaps to be replaced by men who claimed atheism as their religion and reason and logic as their only tools (as if the scientists of old who believed in God were not men of reason or logic or suffered from a lack of real concern for the truth).  I believe that the facts are that a large number of modern mainstream scientists are really pseudo scientists because they eschew the application of reasonably applied epistemological standards with regard to indexing the knowledge gained by so-called scientific activities. Whether a researcher believes in God or not does not define him as being unscientific or scientific.  What defines a person as a scientist is whether or not they endorse and consistently use reasonable epistemological tests to qualify the knowledge that they generate in the conduct of their so-called scientific activities.   The scientific method besides being related to the performance of repeatable experiments also includes the generation of models or theories as frameworks to evaluate the data gained by experimentation or other data collection. These models and theories, as generated knowledge, are the primary product or output of scientific endeavors.   Such knowledge must have a quality index which is based not merely upon explanatory power (because otherwise one would not be able to differentiate it from the stock in trade of pathological liars) but rather upon its ability to predict previously unseen phenomenon or behavior.   When knowledge is of a high quality (based upon such an ability) then it allows us to create new technology which could not even be dreamed of by other methods.  Unfortunately, generating knowledge that is never required to be subjected to such a quality index is a common everyday practice and the weakest link of modern science. It is also why a great number of intellectually dishonest people are drawn to science. They think it a place where they can be free to manufacture intellectual constructs and models which have components that cannot be made subject to rational inquiry nor direct and certain scrutiny.   And, of course, they are right.  Public opinion and peer opinion (professional consensus) with regard to 'generated knowledge' are the only required standards in this day and age of rampant pseudo science.

Technology is produced by "Tweak and Fiddle"

    Most new technology is produced by the good old fashion tweak and fiddle method.  The tweak and fiddle method is the experimental method.  Engineers and or scientists (as engineers) experiment and fabricate and test again and again and again until they can herd electrons through precise arrays of components and get precisely the desired functional responses which comprise the operational characteristics of the technology that they are endeavoring to create, enhance or otherwise improve.  This is the brute force method of technology generation and such methods have been used for thousands of years.  Is it scientific?  Yes, it is scientific inasmuch as experiments are conducted, hypothesis are generated and tested.   However, even though scientists and engineers have presented us with all of this wonderful technology it is important that we recognize that technology may work just fine even if the theory or model which outlines the details of its operation may be completely wrong.   The Chinese invented gunpowder and used it for a thousand years and brought its use to a high art in warfare and fireworks.   Yet the technical details of the physics and chemistry behind it all were not known to the ancient Chinese artisans and guild masters who compounded their various formulae and used it in their various technological applications.

Science vs. 'Science'

    It is important to differentiate the scientific tweak and fiddle production of technology from the 'science' which may use technology but doesn't produce technologically applicable knowledge.   In other words so-called 'science' which purports to authoritatively inform the population about the origins of the universe is not the same sort of science which may produce a cellular phone.   Things become mixed up here quite often in the minds of both scientists and the lay public.

    Cosmologists, astronomers, astrophysicists, and geologists, for example, may create and use technological tools to gather and analyze data and in those functions of technology generation they follow the tweak and fiddle method but in the intellectual generation of a model of the origins of the universe they do not.   Men are interested in the stars and planets and galaxies which surround them and in their origins and are willing to pay good money to people who can properly inform them.  The problem here is that scientists are in the dark about the fundamental properties, characteristics, and nature of matter itself.  Sure, they have learned to herd the electrons around in precise ways through various materials so that our world is furnished with airplanes and cellular phones and televisions and automobiles and computers and the list goes on and on but they do not really know what an electron is.

    They often know how to manipulate electrons and because of that knowledge which is codified in formulae it is also assumed that they understand the fundamental features of matter.  This assumption could not be further from the truth.   The interactive behavior of charged particles is thought to be well known by most people but when we get down to cases we see that top scientists are forced to admit otherwise.  Tim Folger in an article titled 'Call Them Irresistible' in the September 1995 issue of Discover magazine quotes Robert Dynes who is an experimentalist at the University of California at San Diego: 

"We don't know what's causing superconductivity.  At least I don't. Some of these people think they do. No theory has comfortably described all these experiments. I'll probably offend a lot of my friends with that statement. But all the cards haven't fallen into place."
Dynes indicated that more is at stake here than figuring out how superconductors work.
"The thing that theorists like Phil (Anderson) and David Pines and--the list just goes on as long as your arm--the thing that's got them excited, and that causes all the strife, is the underlying belief that we're entering a new era in our understanding of electrons. It's a much, much broader problem. I think people really smell a new era.  The confusion over superconductivity, betrays a serious gap in physicists' understanding of the most basic properties of matter."

A Secret Agenda and Unscientific 'Science'.

    If the most basic properties of matter are not understood by those who are considered the top researchers in the world then it is more than just a little presumptuousness to extrapolate from a position of such ignorance the origins and nature of matter and the universe itself.   Sir John Maddox, former editor of Nature, who was knighted for his contributions to science remarked in the December 1999 issue of Scientific American that the two theories which dominate modern science, General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are incompatible with each other.   What can this mean but that either one or both of them are wrong in their fundamental assumptions and conclusions.  Yet these two paradigms of thought dominate modern academia and serve as the fountain of ideas for those who would use them to impose their beliefs which have tremendous sociological impact for the lives of billions of people.
    These people wish to have nothing to do with God but instead desire nothing better than to convince the whole world that there is no God and that man is the measure of all things, including truth.   Such people have supposed that the high ground is theirs for they lay claim to it by associating all things which are referred to as 'science' with the technology of our modern world and by the continual attempt to delegitimize belief and reliance upon a Creator God.  

They would suggest that science is the true savior of mankind and that scientists ought to be the rightful rulers of society.   The problem is that their case is offered not in a court of reason but rather in a court of ignorance for the public is generally utterly ignorant of what it is that scientists do not know and thus cannot challenge their self appointed authority.  Give a man a satellite dish and a PBS station to pump his mind full of unsubstantiable ideas concerning the origins of the universe in order to wean him from obedience to his Creator.  Then, fill his stomach with hybrid wheat and warm him with electricity generated by solar or nuclear power and transplant into him a dead man's heart when his own fails. Then claim that all of his comforts were brought to him by science and tightly associate that 'science' with the 'science' (which is pseudo science) that says that there is no Creator and teach him that all of his woes are due to his archaic and irrational belief in God.  Most people won't recognize that the 'science' which brought them their technology is not the same as the 'pseudo science' which seeks to make them bereft of their God. And the fact is that those who think it their duty and right to replace God don't want them to know the difference.

C. Cagle