Science & Christianity

Four ViewsRichard F. Carlson

At the beginning of the 21st century, Christians continue to wonder whether faith and science are partners or opponents. In this book, six scholars sort through the issues as they present four views on the relationship of science and Christianity. These views include creationism, independence, qualified agreement, and partnership.

Contributor Jean Pond is a proponent of the “independence” model. She thus agrees with agnostic Darwinist Stephen Jay Gould that “Science and religion are not in conflict, for their teachings occupy distinctly different domains.” (pg. 71) But Senior Discovery Institute fellow Stephen C. Meyer disagrees. Meyer responds to this view by observing that in reality, science and religion often tread upon the same ground, for “Christianity in particular does not simply address questions of morality and meaning as Gould’s NOMA principle asserts, but it also makes factual claims about history, human nature and, it would seem, the origin of the natural world.” (pg. 112)

Meyer then articulates his view of science and religion, called “qualified agreement.” In particular, materialistic theories of origins betray a theistic understanding of the universe. As Bertrand Russell described materialistic science, “Man is the product of causes which had no provision of the end they were achieving” and that predestined him “to extinction in the vast death of the solar system.” (pg. 127-128) Meyer argues that this plain history demonstrates that many proponents of materialistic science have viewed science as antithetical to faith. According to Meyer, new scientific developments including Big Bang cosmology, fine-tuning arguments, and information in DNA, support design in the universe and theistic perspectives of reality.

In the volume, Howard J. Van Till argues for acceptance of evolutionary science. Van Till puts particular emphasis upon emotional arguments, which he calls the “transparently shoddy scholarship” against evolution coming from the Christian community which is an “embarrassment.” (pg. 196). Van Till views opposition to evolution as either based upon (1) peer-pressure, (2) childhood impressions, (3) or careful examination of the data, which he states a position “that appears to be rare.” (pg. 200). For Van Till, the key question is, “Is the formational economy of the creation sufficiently robust (that is, gifted withal the requisite capabilities) to make possible the actualization of all the different physical / material structures and all forms of life that have existed since the beginning of time?” According to Van Till, the answer is an assumption because “For the sake of scientific theorizing we assume that the formational economy of the universe is sufficiently robust to account for the actualization in time of all the types of physical / material structures and all the forms of life that have ever existed.” Van Till urges Christians to accept that assumption as true.

Stephen Meyer responds to Van Till by noting that assumptions should not cloud the minds of scientists, for design theorists “think that scientists should follow the evidence wherever it leads.” Meyer contends that “questions about whether natural self-organizational capacities or acts of intelligent design better explain the natural world ought to be decided by empirical investigation rather than a priori principles,” such as those proposed by Van Till. Meyer concludes that the empirical data does not support Van Till’s hypothesis that life can arise via natural processes, in particular because there are no “self-organizing” forces which can explain the sequence-specific ordering of the chemical bases in DNA. Thus Meyer argues that Van Till’s assumptions can be empirically tested, and they have been found to be false.

This debate will likely continue long into the future. However the respectful and fruitful dialogues found in this book will help Christians better identify the best approach to understanding the relationship between science and faith. Contributors not affiliated with Discovery Institute include Richard F. Carlson, Wayne Frair, Gary D. Patterson, Jean Pond, and Howard J. Van Till.

Stephen C. Meyer

Director, Center for Science and Culture
Dr. Stephen C. Meyer received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science. A former geophysicist and college professor, he now directs the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. He is author of the New York Times-bestseller Darwin’s Doubt (2013) as well as the book Signature in the Cell (2009) and Return of the God Hypothesis (2021). In 2004, Meyer ignited a firestorm of media and scientific controversy when a biology journal at the Smithsonian Institution published his peer-reviewed scientific article advancing intelligent design. Meyer has been featured on national television and radio programs, including The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CBS's Sunday Morning, NBC's Nightly News, ABC's World News, Good Morning America, Nightline, FOX News Live, and the Tavis Smiley show on PBS. He has also been featured in two New York Times front-page stories and has garnered attention in other top-national media.