Dig Deeper: Can Science And Faith Co-exist?

Would it surprise you to learn there are many professional scientists who believe in God? Many people think that, surely, all rational scientists must not believe in God, but that isn’t true. In fact, two scientists can look at the same evidence and one will believe that God is real while the other will not. Some scientists look at the complexity of the human genome and conclude that humans must have been created by God. Other scientists look at the same genome and believe it all happened by chance. How can that be?

What is science? 

Science is a discipline which aims to find out how the world works. Scientists investigate things such as what matter is made of, how cells replicate, and how the solar system runs. Part of the scientific method involves observation and replication. Scientists can tell us how the world functions because they run experiments again and again and then figure out the rules which govern the natural world. Science is a valuable tool because it helps us understand how this world we live in works.

But, science, like all disciplines, has limitations. It discovers the rules of nature but it does not invent them. Science, for example, cannot answer questions about purpose. For example, if you see a kettle of water boiling, you can use science to figure out how the kettle works and why the water boils. But science cannot tell you why someone decided to put the kettle on. You need to talk to the person who put the kettle on to figure that out. Another limitation is it doesn’t help you investigate historical claims. If someone tells you that a book was first released in 1993, science cannot help you determine if that is true or false (even radiocarbon dating does not have such pinpoint accuracy). You could read the book and see what the “first published” date printed inside the book is. You could call the publisher. There are ways to find out if the claim is true. But science is not one of them.

What is faith?

Faith, on the other hand, does not aim to answer questions about how the world works. Faith, rather, asks if there is a God, why He created us, what our purpose is in life, how we should live, why the world is so broken, and what happens after death. All of these depend on evidence which stands outside the discipline of science.

One of the difficulties we often face is in thinking science is rational and empirical whereas faith is the opposite. But this assumes we should be investigating faith the same way we investigate the natural world — with the scientific method of observation and replication. However, faith seeks to answer questions about God, purpose, morality, and destiny, and since science does not deal with these questions, it is unreasonable to expect science to give us the evidence we are looking for. We should rather be looking to investigate the truth and rationality of someone’s faith using the appropriate disciplines.

Where science and faith coincide

For example, a lot of the evidence to determine the truth of someone’s faith lies in looking into history rather than how the world works. The Christian faith, for instance, stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is a historical event which cannot be investigated with the scientific method because it has happened only once in the past. Someone who wants to find out if this event happened must then look to history and historical evidence to determine if it is true. One of the pieces of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is the fact that the disciples of this man were willing to die for their insistence that they had seen Him alive after His crucifixion. People would not persist in lies that threatened their lives. We can also use other sources to corroborate what is mentioned in the Bible. We can go to documentation of events in first-century Palestine to see if certain things the Bible affirms as having happened really happened. For example, the New Testament mentions a lot of different Roman rulers. Their names and the dates for when and where they ruled can be checked from sources outside the Bible, and they confirm what is said in the New Testament. This points in the direction of the trustworthiness of the New Testament.

These are just some of the evidences for the truth and rationality of the Christian faith. What is important to realise is that someone can both be interested in science and have faith because the two do not stand in opposition to one another. Rather, they aim to answer different questions. In some ways, they also complement one another. We should look to science to understand how our world works, because there are so many interesting things to learn. At the same time, we should also look to faith to tell us about why we are in this world and how we should live in it. Both of these together make for an exciting life!