Wednesday, March 17, 2010

reconciling god and science

This weekend I made my usual run to Target for 'necesities' (as much as one 'needs' Sun Chips and Drano).  I'm getting into the habit of bringing my reusable shopping bags every time I go thanks to the bag fee in DC (I go to the Target in DC a lot and I got tired of that fee really quick).  I brought just enough bags with me to carry what I needed to buy.
And then I saw that all Vitamin Waters were $1.  I'm addicted to that stuff so I stocked up of course. 
When I got to the check out lane, I noticed that I didn't have enough shopping bags for all the Vitamin Waters plus my necessities.  Still, I handed the cashier my bags and she went to town bagging my stuff.  Somehow, she was able to fit everything in 3 bags.  I'm not going to go into detail about these 'necesities' I had purchased so you'll just have to believe me when I say that I really didn't think it was humanly possible to pack all that stuff in 3 bags.  Impressed with her bagging skills, I complimented the cashier, "Wow you really know how to pack those things."  She replied, "Well I haven't figured out if it's God or science."  I thought about that dichotomy for a sec and replied, "Can't it be both?"  Yeah, I wasn't talking about her bagging skills any more.  She replied, "I don't think so."  I don't think she was referring to her bagging skills either. 
I encounter this idea a lot as a Christian and lover of science--the idea that God and science are working against each other.  Having attended Catholic school my whole life, it wasn't that strange to me that my religion classes were often followed by my science classes.  Heck, no one made a fuss when we learned about evolution.  I never questioned all the knowledge that comes through scientific breakthroughs and research (well, until I got older and understood research methods a lot better).  I've always assumed that God was the one that gifted scientists and researchers with the intelligence they possess and exercise in doing research.  And I had no problem believing that God started the Big Bang.  
But some Christians do--in fact, they have a big problem with science.

In fact, on a particular creationists website (I refuse to link to them, but if you really want to know, shoot me an email), the people behind the site claim that dinosaurs and humans were created by God ON THE SAME DAY.  Not that there is any proof of that other than some bible verses from particular translations that referred to God creating 'beasts' (which I've always understood to mean 'large animals').  In fact, the only resource quoted as 'proof' on that site is the bible. 
Why is it that some Christians are anti-science?  Are they people who believe every single word of the bible (hope they don't wear cotton blends or eat shellfish)?  Why do they feel so threatened or defensive when science disproves something contained in the bible?  If everything is a part of God's plan, was it not God's plan to give researchers the intelligence to figure out these things?  The bible is an ancient text that was written by many, many people and translated into many, many languages.  Is it possible that some things got lost in translation?  (I have a translating business on the side and, let me tell you, things definitely get lost in translation between English and Spanish and vice versa). 

These are honest questions.  I'm really trying to understand the other side here especially since I have had no problem reconciling Catholic teachings with science.

You know?  I can't help feeling that some of this is political (oh lordy...that's a whole other blog post...).


Anonymous said...

I've taken a lot of religion classes and even though I'm not too religious myself, I love religion. I look at what's in the Bible as being there for a reason. The events portrayed may or may not have happened, but the stories are there to guide believers, to help them through the tough stuff. Why anyone would chose to hate science though, is beyond me.

Juliet said...

I have to say that my friend Ben (a Christian and biochemistry professor) has a wonderful blog on religion and science at

I think part of the problem (and both sides mutually reinforce each other) is that there are a few very vocal people (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc.) who believe that religion and science can't be reconciled, and therefore they're anti-religion. They take the fundamentalist view of scripture as normative and more or less ignore the moderates. The whole argument leaves very little room for those of us who are religious but also pro-science and don't read the Bible literally. Having studied the history of biblical interpretation, I don't think it's an issue of translation (I mean, I'm not that brilliant and I can read New Testament Greek, and while the Hebrew Bible has a more complex textual tradition, I think scholars are able to understand it and communicate their knowledge reasonably well); rather, we are in a weird historical moment where many Christians (and members of other religions) are literalists. For most of church history, while people took the Bible literally because science hadn't advanced to the point to challenge a literal interpretation, they were far more interested in allegorical interpretations of the Bible, especially the Old Testament. Catholicism is not so disconnected from this tradition as evangelical Protestantism, which I think is why it's been able to adapt to scientific discoveries.

(I'm sure it's also political, but then everything is.)