Did Science Kill God? [phil]

Did Science Kill God?

NPR recently ran a segment about the loss of faith in the younger generations and the growing number of atheists.  (Actually they’ve been doing a lot of segments about that lately, along with mentioning gun-related violence in every story they can, and scads of stories featuring homosexuals and same-sex couples.  Almost as if they were trying to shape culture the Fox News way, only they are more subtle…  Anyway, off my rabbit trail.)  One of the reasons that people often give for leaving the church (besides not liking organized religion period, the world-view gap between generations, and not liking some of the church’s views on cultural matters that clash with popular culture) was the idea that the science had made God irrelevant.

There is a lie about God that we have had for millennia. It is not put into church creeds or on our Facebook “religious views” descriptor. Even so, many people have the idea that the universe is a machine and God takes care of the things that machine can’t do on its own.  God is the god of the gaps.

DNA Rosary Time 11-2006

The ancients knew how very few things in nature really worked, in terms of mechanistic cause and effect.  So for the rest of the things, God did them.  They believed God made it rain, God made it get warm in the spring, God created the babies in the mother’s womb, God created the universe, God created all the plants and animals, God controlled the tide (I hear a certain talk show host still believes this), etc., etc.

But then we developed science and we started trying to figure out how things “really” worked.  We figured out the water cycle, and the wind patterns, high/low pressure air masses, dew points, and other things that determine when, where, and how much it will rain.  So that couldn’t be God’s work.  We discovered genetics, DNA, cellular meiosis, mitosis, and embryological development.  So our own personal existences couldn’t be God’s work.  Physicists figured out a bunch of things about the building blocks of matter that I couldn’t begin to pretend to know about.  So God wasn’t even keeping atoms and molecules together.  Natural selection and evolution meant that God didn’t create the plants and animals.  The Big Bang meant God didn’t even create the universe; at best he caused the Big Bang, but even then cosmologists are trying to find explanations for that.  And the gravitational pull of the moon and sun control the tide.  I guess you can explain that.  God is not at work there.

And so, God gets smaller and smaller.  Some Christians then see science as a threat to God.  Non-Christians (well, non-theists in general, too) see scientific progress as proof against God.  And people see God and science as conflicting.

(Another rabbit trail: I would point out that science and technology, while linked, are not the same thing.  Science is what we know.  Technology is how we apply what we know.  Science declares the glory of God by describing the beauty of His handiwork.  Technology, well you have to keep an eye on that rascal. Technology is an expression of the heart and impacts people for good or for ill.  Penicillin, wheels, drought resistant grains, toothpaste, water filters, and toilets are all technologies that bring good things to people.  But we also have technology like sarin gas, anal pears, weaponized smallpox, online porn, tv, and dubstep that are inherently evil, or at least one needs to carefully consider their impact.  What good can come from this technology?  What ill can come of it? Can people be trusted to have this technology and not hurt themselves or others with it?  “The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” (MLK Jr., Strength to Love (1963), Ch. 7).  Perhaps we should take a page from the Amish and say that certain technologies (like dubstep) are just more trouble than they are worth and we would be better off leaving them alone.)

But that god of the gaps is too small a god to be God.  That is why it is a lie.  If one accepts that God is the Creator and sustainer of the universe, then these arguments of a shrinking god who is contradictory to reality fall apart.  “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” because “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” and “all things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” and “in Him we live and move and have our being.” If God created the universe and life, then the mechanisms by which they work are also His creation and are the work of God.

Whether someone is a proponent of theistic big bang/evolution or a literal creationist, he or she declares that God created and directed the process.  Whether we “know” (I put this in quotes because what we know for a scientific fact one decade can completely change by the next.) how atoms work or not does not diminish God.  If we “know” all the intricacies of genetics and embryology or  even build creatures or people using that knowledge, it does not diminish God.  Science serves to explain how the universe works.  We can use that knowledge for technology for good or for ill.  But science also serves to describe the universe and in doing so, shows the glory of God.  For “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.”

In the not too distant future, a very arrogant scientist meets with God.  And the scientist tells God, “You aren’t so great.  I figured out how to create life too.”  God replies, “Oh, really?  You can take earth and make a man?”  “Yes.” says the scientist, “I can extract all the necessary components, and combine them through various techniques into a zygote which can be placed in a growth chamber and develop into a fully functional human.  I can even decide what characteristics he will have.”  “Well,” says God, “this I have to see for myself.  Please demonstrate.”  So the scientist grabs a shovel to go dig up some dirt and God says, “Whoa, there, get your own dirt!”

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3 thoughts on “Did Science Kill God? [phil]

  1. I wish I had a more intelligent comment to offer, but what I have to say is: this is an awesome post. I like both your definitions of science and of technology, as well as the distinguishment between them. Lots to chew on.

    Also, love the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote.

  2. Phil…love this post, particularly the ending analogy. Your willingnes to engage this tension and speak to it openmindedly and redemptively is refreshing and engaging. Great stuff.

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