Religion and Science


Two Issues Concerned

1. Whether the belief in God can make sense with scientific discoveries

2. And the debate of the Creationists and Evolutionists over the origins of the universe

  • Big questions - like how did we get here etc. - have been on debate by philosophers and theologians for years
  • It is wrongly thought that science has overcome religion with proving "facts", yet it hasn't answered the key questions like what is the meaning of life and how did we get here 
  • Some people think that science is a better than religion, however a survey in America shows that many thought that evolution was unproven and chose Genesis instead
  • Religion and science each have their own approach, some say religion asks why and science asks how. Different approaches mean different answers
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Four key issues in Religion and Science Debate

1. Belief in God and modern science 

  • Seen as a question: is God the best idea to explain the start of the universe?
  • Religion and science debate why the universe is here at all
  • The "God Hypthothesis" is one that explains everything with reference to God however this goes beyond modern science 
  • For believers this hypothesis is important because of their belief of God as the Creator

2. The "how" and "why" oversimplification

  • Its thought religion explains "why" the universe is here, while science explains "how" things happen the way they do
  • This is an oversimplification because science clearly explains why and how things happen. e.g. accounts on gravity clearly explain why any object with a mass is attracted by other objects that have mass 
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Four key issues in Religion and Science Debate

3. The modern scientific worldview

  • Science is seen as something that gives facts, undermining areas that were considered by religious belief. e.g. evolution is seen as evidence against God as creator. While evolution may do this it isn't clear that it does 
  • This view has been restated by Dawkins - "faith is a great cop out... faith is belief in spite of lack of evidence." 
  • Its true science is based on empiricism, it doesnt however disprove God. Science rather helps us to better the understanding of the universe
  • Science can be used to explain religious belief - there are also people who believe in both God and evolution. If some believes in creationist ideas this doesn't make them ignorant. 

Science and Religion - Friends, enemies or just different 

  • Intelligent Design shows a mixture of science and religion, whereas creationsim may show hostility between both
  • The intolerance of religions for science as reflected in some creationists' ideas is mirrored by the rejected of religion by some scientists
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The Origins of the problem with Evolution

Started in 19th/20th centuries as evolution become more popular when people questioned the status of the Bible. Was the Bible inspired or revealed?

  • Because people questioned, some started to question God
  • Some Christians didn't think evolution was a problem, but some Protestants did and this formed Christian fundamentalism
  • They rejected evolution it because it challenged God as creator and said humans evolved from humans
  • Some fundamentalists used the empirical method of science to prove science wrong, using it as a tool to prove the Bible right e.g. they explained Biblical miracles in an empirical way - Jesus appeared to walk on water, but actually he was walking on shallow water with sand banks below it, so appeared to walk on water 
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Creation - Scientific and Religious Views

Scientists and theists agree earth came from somewhere, but disagree how and why it happened.


  • The Big Bang Theory - Edwin Hubble (1920's) saw that stars become redder the further they travel away from earth. From this he concluded the Red Shift - he idea that the universe is constantly expanding, he dated this back to a beginning. This was nicknamed Big Bang which talks about a large exploision of energy where all matter comes from. This is said to have happened 13.7 billion years ago
  • Stephan Hawkings said that the Big Bang doesn't rule out a creator, but places a limit of when he might have carried out the job. 
  • Most creationists are evangelical Christians, it is the literal belief that God is the creator of the universe in 6 days. Some use the Bible to work out the state of the universe e.g. Ussher
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Creation - Scientific and Religious Views


  • Theological explanations for creation: James Ussher came up with a creation time and date of the 23rd October 4004BC
  • Other creationists interpret the Bible's 6 days as six long periods, not literal days. We all still come from Adam but we can't sate time exactly back from Adam
  • Bible supplies enough ammunition to understand creation. The above views shows how they explain Genesis in different ways
  • Other more liberal theologians say creation is ongoing, God is still the creator at the start. This intepretation states that Genesis isn't to be seen literally, but to help people understand their relationship with God
  • For these people, the Big Bang does explain the method of creation, but not the reason. 
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Negative religious responses to scientific views

Henry Morris - an utlra-conservative Christian, proposing scienitic creationism, which maintained the 6 day creation and the Fall

Thomas Chalmers - the Gap Theory = between the first verse of Genesis and the rest of the account there was a gap, this was an extended piece of time that included the fall of Satan, after the 6 day creation took place

A.J Monty White - any evidence showing earth older than the Bible is misleading 

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Positive religious responses to scientific views

Adam Ford - religion has been looking at scientific issues long before science came about, but the more science discovers about the world, the more we discover about God

John Polkinghorne - religion provides a "total" view of life, including science. As the universe turns out to be more complex, more people are leaving the old scientific method. Science is useful in that it shows hypothesis' as accurate, but religion is also important as it shows a sense of meaning for a person 

Fred Hoyle - an atheist who argued how can one find out about the atom without the direction of a higher intellect? The chances of a cell emerging by chance is like a tornado ripping through a scrap yard and creating a plane. 

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Dawkins and Creation

1. Evolution is still the best explanation, supported by loads of evidence. Darwin's random process of evolution worked so well that their appeared to be design 

2. Paley's argument is wrong, natural selection is a blind process which Darwin discovered and we now know this is the explanation of the apparent purpose of life. But natural selection has no purpose, no vision, its the blind watchmaker 

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Evolution - scientific and religious views

Is evolution just a theory or fact? Should creationism and evolution both be treated as a theory as no-one has proper evidence to show either. Is that a fair middle ground to take?

  • Darwin's Origin of Species - asserted that species evolved from animals challenged the Church's teachings. These changes occured via natural selection - the fittest survived, being a direct conflict with Genesis and that every being was created for a special purpose. There is no place in Darwin's world for a God who cared about the welfare of creation.
  • Religious responses - some refused Darwin's theory because it is just a "theory" whilst other modern believers have no difficulty understanding evolution as past of God's method e.g. the Anthropic Principle by Tennant states that evolution could be in God's creative plan 
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Positive religious responses to Evolution

Denis Alexander - God has to use evolution in order to create intelligent life

Arthur Peacocke - God makes things to make themselves

Chalres Kingsley - evolution is "the noble conception of God. In that humans are capable of self-development"

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Negative religious responses to Evolution

Michael Behe - life at the molecular level is too complex to have come by little changes. Everything has to function at the same time - it wouldn't work if parts evolved gradually. Irreducible complexity is best accounted for by Intelligent Design. The best explanation for molecular life is intelligent design, which Darwin's theory cannot account for 

Other creationists beliefs against evolution: evolution challenges the Bible, fundamental problem - places humans on the same level as animals. Evolution is just a "theory" whereas the Bible is facts. Discoveries of scientists are used to back up the Bible - e.g. archaeological findings of the Flood - link to Noah's Flood. Science shows that in the past sea levels caused big floods - proof for the Bible

William Wilberforce - "is it possible that all favourable varieties of turnips are intending to become men?" - This is absurd, but Darwin's theory seems to imply something as stupid as this

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