The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom

Gerald L. Schroeder

Chapter 1: Has Science Replaced the Bible? The Great Debate

What about dinosaurs?

If the Bible is true, why doesn’t it mention dinosaurs? I’ve been asked that question hundreds of times in places as far flung as Jerusalem, Los Angeles, Adelaide, and Capetown It seems to be the most universal ( or more modestly, the global) biblical perplexity.

Dinosaurs, of course, are a foil for a more basic question: Has science replaced the Bible as the ultimate source of truth?

Nietzsche claimed the discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin had laid God and the Bible definitively to rest. In the spring of 1966, Time magazine wondered if hr might have been correct, asking on its cover, Is God Dead?”

Nietzsche’s argument is hardly new. Voltaire thought it humorous that this putative God of the Bible would be interested in the affairs of life within the thin film of biosphere that covers the earth. Voltaire misperceive the biblical concept of an infinite Creator, not to mention the significance of our biosphere. Compared to infinity, are the 1027 grams that make up our Earth significantly smaller than the 1056 of the entire universe? But for him, Copernicus was enough. We aren’t the center of the universe, so the Bible must be misconceived.

Misconceptions are what the great debate is all about.

Today, universities have science classes galore on all phases of the mechanics of the universe, from black holes to bacteria. Unfortunately, scientific investigation stop at an account of how the universe functions. It cannot go further. The attempt to discern if a purpose to existence underlies the how is left as a private exercise, one that is usually neglected.

And so the quest that underlies the question of dinosaurs remains. It is a topic guaranteed to draw a full house.

What keeps this great debate alive is that both sides of the theological aisle have an abundance of facts upon which to draw. Unfortunately, in its zeal to protect imagined biblical turf, the church has often claimed more for God’s assumed interventions in nature and less for God’s laws of nature than the Bible itself claims.

The thought that religion and science must be at odds is ill conceived. Current surveys consistently report that in Western countries most people (in excess of 70 percent) believe in some form of evolution and in a Divine Creator. Yet within this belief there lies the misperception that religion and science form a dichotomy rather than a duality: there is scientific truth and there is spiritual truth. And the two arise from intrinsically distinct sources, knowledge and intellect giving rise to the former; faith providing the basis for the latter.

Despite all the Bible-science confrontations, despite the battles over high-school textbooks and controversies about government codes on how and when to teach evolution, the fact is science and religion are both thriving.

For centuries, the meanings of various passages in the Bible have been disputed. Some interpretations have been hostile to science, others to the text itself. This erosion of biblical understanding is tragic, and we’ve paid a price for it. We don’t need a temple priest or a university philosopher to measure the decay in the fabric of our society. Our 60 per cent divorce rate and the double locks on our doors provide a succinct summary of the effect.

This book accepts neither Bible nor science as being individually sufficient for a hungry mind seeking explanations of and purpose in life. In that sense, it is for skeptics and religious believers alike. These seemingly disparate sources of knowledge are combined as a single date base from which generalized conclusions are drawn. What appear to be diametrically opposed biblical and scientific descriptions of the creation of the universe, of the start of life on Earth, and of our human origins are actually identical realities but viewed from vastly different perspectives. Once these perspectives are identified, they coexist comfortably with all the rigorous science and traditional belief anyone could demand.

The medieval philosopher Moses Maimonides wrote that conflicts between science and the Bible arise from either a lack of scientific knowledge or a defective understanding of the Bible. This is a continuing problem. Acknowledged experts in science may assume that although scientific research requires diligent intellectual effort, biblical wisdom can be attained through a simple reading of the Bible. Conversely, theologians who have devoted decades to plumbing the depths of biblical wisdom often satisfy their scientific curiosity through articles in the popular press and then assume they can evaluate the validity of scientific discoveries. The ‘opposition” is viewed with a level of knowledge frozen at a high school or pre-high school level. No wonder the “other side” seems superficial, even naive. To relate these two fields in a meaningful way requires an in-depth understanding of both. Nobel laureate and high energy physicist Steven Weinberg is unsympathetic to the idea that ancient commentators on the Bible foresaw modern cosmological concepts regarding the origin of our universe. Yet in his recent book, Dreams of a Final Theory, he readily admits, “It should be apparent that in discussing these things....I leave behind any claim to special expertise.”

For the religious believer, it is time to render unto Einstein that which is Einstein’s: science has given us a powerful tradition for the examination of life as we know it. Scientists are not always right, but they are very good about testing their own theories and correcting their mistakes. Their discoveries daily reveal wonders in the workings of our universe. The idea that scientific explanation of nature’s marvels detract from the grandeur of creation is both absurd and ill-conceived. When understood in context, this knowledge can be a source of inspiration

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