by Mike Pyatt
Recent recrudescent remarks by “Curious Streamer” British theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, that religion guides airplanes into buildings, but science sends rockets to the outer limits of the universe, is reminiscent of the historic rift between religion and science. It hasn’t attracted national attention like the1925, Scopes trial. Is the tension primarily intellectual or philosophical? Even the chief apostle of evolution, Charles Darwin, in 1829, entered Cambridge to study divinity.
Was Hawking’s observation valid? There’s a flaw in his overly simplistic logic. Was it normative or descriptive? For it to be normative, since the advent of flight, any plane that crashed into any structure must’ve been flown by a religious figure. Using Hawking’s logic, it must be a religious person at the controls. However, if it’s a rare, or one time event, then one must label it as descriptive.
Hawking conveniently omitted that the religious realm has delivered redeeming contributors to society for centuries: William Blackstone, C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, William Holmes McGuffey, Origen, J.C. Ryle, Mother Theresa, William Tyndale, William Wilberforce, John Wesley, and countless hospitals and charities run by religious orders, and denominational agencies worldwide, as a force for good. Conversely, science delivered mustard and sarin gas. Launched rockets that exploded in mid-flight, accidentally killing innocent astronauts. What about dynamite? And who developed the atomic bomb? Science or religion?
Our 44th President obsequiously maligned Christianity for its hand in the Crusades, in his knee-jerk defense of Muslim criticism. The Crusades were a blight on history. However, that was a millennia ago. Christianity has never been perfect. However, to this day, nearly two billion souls worldwide claim it as their spiritual haven of choice. Jesus never commanded us to conquer the world at the edge of a sword.To Hawking’s point of flying planes into a building. It wasn’t Christians.
Neither would it be normative to opine that science discovers only that which is deadly. The Wright brothers, IBM, and the revolutionary integrated circuit. In medicine, Madame Curie, and her husband Pierre, Alexander Fleming, Louis Pasteur and Jonas Salk, by conspectus, were God’s gift to our world of epidemiological challenges. In 1962, Nobel Prize winners Francis Crick and James Watson broke the DNA code. In1967, the cardiovascular field was transformed by Dr. Christian Barnard, pioneering heart transplant surgery.
Dynamite, in the wrong, or untrained hands, kills and maims innocent victims. However, Alfred Nobel’s discovery in 1867, a powerful explosive of nitroglycerin in some absorbent, revolutionized the world for good and ill to this day. He established the Nobel Peace Prize in an attempt to atone for the abuses of his invention. That award has fostered scientific and humanitarian progress since. Explosives are used to blast mountain passes worldwide to build roads, bridges, damns and railroads to advance civilization’s reach.
Religious hucksters, too, have been in around since antiquity, peddling it for ill-gotten gain, and abuse of power in the name of religion, the equivalent of Tinsel Town’s Elmer Gantry. However, Samaritan’s Purse, a respected Evangelical ministry, has a world-wide reach to feed and relieve burdens, offering the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the barren soul, welcomed by stable and rouge governments.
The rise of modern science didn’t conflict with Christianity. At a crucial juncture, early scientific revolution rested upon Biblical principles. Both Alfred North Whitehead, and J.Robert Oppenheimer, nuclear physicist, father of the structure of the atom, who led the Los Alamos project developing the Atomic bomb, stressed that modern science was born out of the Christian world-view. Whitehead was a highly respected mathematician and philosopher. Neither claimed to be Christians, yet both were straightforward in acknowledging that modern science was indebted to the idea of the reasonableness of the created order, by a reasonable God, and it could be explored and understood. Whitehead said that Christianity was the “mother of science” because of the “medieval insistence on the rationality of God.”
The late Carl Sagan, astrophysicist, and PBS darling, guru of the “Cosmos” series, decided at an early age, there was no sign of creative design. His “clone” Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist and cosmologist, decided at age nine, there’s no sign of of creation in the universe. A case study of unchallenged precocious presuppositions. Many early scientists were personally Christians, such as Michael Faraday, whose crowning discovery was the induction of electricity, and Blaise Pascal, maker of the first successful barometer. The theoretical existence of “black holes” in space, pioneered by British physicist, John G. Taylor, is based on the concept of an orderly universe and calculations resting on that premise.
The Christian world-view that there’s something to study objectively, expecting to find out something true about the universe. Many atheist scientists, hostile to the notion of creative design, cite Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity as nullifying the notion of an orderly universe. Einstein stood implacably against such applications of his concepts. And he was quoted, “I cannot believe God plays dice with the cosmos.” God made a cause-and-effect universe, therefore, we can discover something about the causes from the effects. Modern science is as much about faith as the most ardent Evangelical. Sagan’s statement was an expression of that faith. Hungarian born, Dr. Wernher VonBraun, U.S. rocket pioneer, was a Christian, and staunch creationist.
Science and religion have their domain. Hawking once said if one could understand time, we’d “know the mind of God.” Later writings reveal open hostility to religion. Solipsistic thinkers of every generation believe themselves to be at the apex of knowledge. Evolution is presented as fact, with complex charts and illustrations portraying life’s progress over millions of years on a theory. Current science is nearly messianic, as priests and prophets of this current mythology. A Biblical cosmology is an anathema in public schools. Evangelicals understand that true science and historic Christianity needn’t be a incompatible. When either exceeds God’s ordained boundaries, enmity persists. We’re all fettered by epistemological limits. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org