This blog post is by our own Dean Schulz. Dean has an extensive background working in, studying and teaching science and he has a deep love for Christ. Last Sunday we looked at this question during our worship service. We asked Dean to write this post as a follow up to Asher's sermon. It is a helpful summary of the different views on this questions. Thanks so much Dean!
An answer to the above question depends much on (1) what a person means by (Christian) “Faith” and (2) what a person means by “Science”. In the following I will briefly consider four views on this question.
1. The Young Earth View
If the definition of Faith includes God creating over only six 24-hour days about 6000 years ago, then the question’s answer is, yes. They do conflict. Why? I will not cite any detail here, but I find internal inconsistencies within this Young Earth view, and I see external incongruities with very well-established physical evidence. That includes evidence from cosmology, geology, anthropology, carbon-dating, and even accounts of ancient history. It certainly conflicts with Darwinian evolution.
I find all the arguments presented by defenders of the Young Earth view very contrived and too skeptical of most science. Where the defenders do try to resolve this view with science, they pick and choose evidence to prove their assumptions, rather than letting the evidence drive the conclusions.
For scientific and theological arguments against this view, see A Matter of Days (Hugh Ross).
2. The Naturalistic Science View
If by Science one means what is commonly taught in high-school and college textbooks, the answer to the above question is again, yes. They conflict. Why?
Such naturalistic teaching puts God out of a job, where the job description includes creating the universe and life and actively interacting with humans throughout history. Many science writers try to paint “faith” as a “spiritual” enterprise entirely separate from physical science. In effect, the typical science in textbooks, media, and universities is at best agnostic, but effectively atheistic. However, the Bible certainly teaches God’s overt interaction with our physical world.
Regarding Darwinian evolution in particular, there is increasing upheaval inside biology which is not very publicly known. Recent conferences have admitted that mutation plus natural selection cannot explain the variety of life as we see it. However, rather than accepting some supernatural explanation, they still stubbornly postulate some undiscovered mindless process that could create all the exquisite intricacy we see in even the simplest cell. No convincing proposals exist to date. I expect none ever.
Further, the “Cambrian Explosion” is a very short period of geological time when nearly all the phyla of animals appeared suddenly. This problem worried Darwin. Recent discoveries make the worry worse. Similarly, the fossil record very poorly supports Darwin’s Tree of Life, which supposedly depicts the common ancestry of all life from a first cell. But there are millions of missing links! In particular, every year a new fossil discovery causes the rewriting of the story about human evolution.
The following science-based resources clearly document the crisis and problems in evolutionary biology: Icons of Evolution (Jonathan Wells), Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (Michael Denton), Darwin’s Doubt (Stephen Meyer), and Darwin’s House of Cards (Tom Bethel).
3. The Theistic Evolution View
Theistic Evolution is an attempt to unify (Christian) faith with science—especially Darwinism. The major voice for this is BioLogos, an organization founded by Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project.
Because of the mounting unexplained problems with neo-Darwinian evolution, I find this view to be bankrupt from the start. A recent compendium on this subject by knowledgeable scientists and theologians is Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique.
4. The Intelligent Design View
Any view should follow the biological, geological, and astronomical evidence to where the evidence points—the most reasonable conclusions. I have found this to be true in the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. The approach taken by the Discovery Institute (www.discovery.org/id/) follows that principle. Its approach concludes that an Intelligent Designer was clearly involved in the design and creation of the universe and all of life. The Designer is intentionally not identified as such, so it avoids all accusations that ID is anything except science based. Thus, Discovery does not support the Bible as such. (Of course, there are not many realistic candidates for the job of the Designer. Other kinds of evidence can link the Designer to the God of the Bible.) The ID view is very compatible with a science-compatible interpretation of Genesis, which begins with the Big Bang (Gen. 1:1).
Reasons to Believe (www.reasons.org) takes a more specific view of ID—namely it does explicitly provide a science-compatible interpretation of the Bible. So, the approach of Reasons does make science and Biblical faith compatible. Resources include The Creator and the Cosmos (Hugh Ross) and Who Was Adam? (Fazale Rana)
My 60-year study of the subject of faith and science lead me to see that there is no major conflict between a proper exegesis of Genesis and scientific evidence based on firm facts. For some it means shedding some common interpretations of the Bible or some common interpretations of science discoveries. There still are plenty of questions to resolve. But Intelligent Design seems to be the right direction for unifying faith with science.