A Short Note For College Students

With this short note, I simply want to make you aware that it IS possible to be both a believer in a religious faith and a scientist who agrees with the evidence of an old Earth and universe (billions of years old) and that life has developed and changed through the process of evolution-natural selection (including "macro-evolution").

The debates over Intelligent Design or the teaching of young Earth creationism in science classes may make it seem like those who oppose the teaching of Intelligent Design or creationism are anti-God. That is certainly what most believers in I.D. or young-Earth creationism say about those who disagree with them. However, that is simply not true. To be against Intelligent Design or young-Earth creationism is NOT anti-God. There are literally millions of people with advanced science training who are devout, active believers of their religion (mostly Christianity for those in the U.S.A.). Even the two main proponents of Intelligent Design, Michael Behe and William Dembski, agree that the Earth is billions of years old and that some evolution has happened (they do not think, however, that evolution can explain all of the developments of life). There are millions of science-trained, active believers of a religious faith who do believe that natural evolution can explain all of the developments of life; even that evolution is the ongoing creation of God. See Elaine Howard Ecklund's book "Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think" for a recent survey (year 2010) of research scientists mostly at top research universities.

The short articles in the science and religion section of the Astronomy Notes website will show you another way to view the interaction of science and religion in finding truth about the world.

Some books that will show you an alternate way that accepts both the truth of modern science and religious faith in God are:

  1. John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale, Questions of Truth: Fifty-one Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief (2009. Westminster John Knox Press). ISBN-10: 0-664-23351-1 and ISBN-13: 978-0-66423351-8. Polkinghorne was a professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University before being ordained as a priest in the Church of England. Beale is a social philosopher and long-time collaborator with Polkinghorne. Major areas of the book include: the concept and existence of God (great responses/rebuttals of the Dawkins crowd), the universe, evolution, evil, human being, and religion.
  2. David Wilcox, God and Evolution: A Faith-Based Understanding (2004. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press). ISBN-10: 0817014748 and ISBN-13: 978-0817014742. David Wilcox is in the biology faculty at Eastern University.
  3. Francis Collins, The Language of God (2007. Free Press). ISBN-10: 1416542744 and ISBN-13: 978-1416542742 (for the paperback). The hardback came out in 2006. Collins headed the Human Genome Project and is an evangelical Christian. An earlier article "Can an Evangelical Believe in Evolution?" introduces Collins view of how the scientific and religious world views are complementary. The article PDF is dated 2003 and it will appear in a new window. A local copy of the PDF is available here.
  4. Jean Staune, ed. Science and the Search for Meaning: Perspectives from International Scientists (2006. Templeton Foundation Press). ISBN-10: 1-59947-102-7 and ISBN-13: 978-1-59947-102-0. Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu are among the faiths represented by the research scientists who wrote essays for this book.

Some other web resources created by those who mesh their religious and scientific views without compromising the truths of either are given below. Yes, this list is certainly just a start! The links will appear in a new window.

  1. John Polkinghorne Q & A. People submit questions and Nicholas Beale and John Polkinghorne post their responses. Their "Questions of Truth" book (see above) was derived from the Q & A on the site.
  2. The John Templeton Foundation's "Big Questions" site has posted essay compilations from scientists, theologians, philosophers, and writers answering questions such as "Does science make belief in God obsolete?", "Does the universe have a purpose?", "Does evolution explain human nature?". Each essay is about 1.5 to 2 pages long and are freely available as PDF downloads.
  3. "The Fish Wars" by Wendee Holtcamp. Holtcamp is a Lutheran and was a community college biology instructor. I especially appreciate where she points out that the Apostles Creed states that God created the world and everything in it, not the methods God uses to create and sustain life. Link to copy on the American Scientific Affiiliation's website.
  4. "Integrating Faith and Science" by Linda Schwab, professor of Chemistry and "The Integration of Faith and Science" by Margaret Flowers, professor of Biology. The two articles are found on the same webpage of the ASA's website.
  5. "Must We Have a Separation of Church and Science?" audio link from the August 4, 2006 episode of NPR's Talk of the Nation with guests Francis Collins and Own Gingerich, retired professor of astronomy and history of science.
  6. The Speaking of Faith radio series hosted by Krista Tippett has had several broadcasts about the interaction of faith and science that included non-Christian perspectives with Christian perspectives. For example, see (and listen to!) these broadcasts:
    1. "Mathematics, Purpose and Truth" (Jan 10, 2008)
    2. "The Heart's Reason: Hinduism and Science" (Nov 22, 2007)
    3. "Beyond the Atheism-Religion Divide" (Oct 18, 2007)
    4. "Evolution and Wonder: Understanding Charles Darwin" (Sept 20, 2007)
    5. "Science and Hope" (May 10, 2007)
    6. "Einstein's God" (Mar 8, 2007)
    7. "The Biology of the Spirit" (Jan 18, 2007)

Organizations Focusing on Meshing Science and Religion

This is admittedly incomplete list but here are ones I've looked into.

  1. John Templeton Foundation
  2. The AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER). The DoSER had a recent (15-Dec-2010) session on an assessment of how science and religion get along. Elaine Howard Ecklund (sociologist) and Barbara Bradley Hagerty (NPR journalist) talk about how scientists and journalists approach religion. They both noted that the interplay between science and religion is more nuanced than how it is characterized in the popular media. Video link (don't rely on just the summary description page)
  3. WesleyNexus -- dialogue among clergy, academics, and lay persons about the meshing of science and religion within the Wesleyan tradition in the 21st century.
  4. American Scientific Affiliation: A Fellowship of Christians in Science.

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last updated: January 15, 2011

Author of original content: Nick Strobel