The Language of Science and Faith

“Science and theology have things to say to each other since both are concerned with the search for truth attained through motivated belief.” – John Polkinghorne

I have never been comfortable with the tension that was evident in my developing years between modern Science and Faith. My church taught a literal interpretation of the Bible starting in Genesis 1:1. My Christian school taught “Creation Science” and used books and videos by the likes of Ken Ham to lend a sense of credibility and God’s Biblical authority to their instruction.

Even in College, the professors by-and-large subscribed to a literal Creationist understanding with the occasional teacher holding to the “gap theory” or a “day-age theory.”

Continuing today, an overwhelming majority of American Evangelicals believe that the earth was created as it is today in 6 literal, 24-hour days, and that its age is less than 10,000 years old. In Australia, this number is far less, but the influence of the U.S. is creeping in, especially in independent and Pentecostal circles.

As I stated earlier, something about this ongoing debate didn’t sit well within me. I had a nagging feeling that something was not quite right on the young-earth creationist (YEC) side of the fence. It didn’t help that organisations that promoted this view openly ridiculed and name-called those who believed otherwise. Surely, those with such a rock-solid proof needn’t resort to these schoolyard tactics. (This certainly didn’t help gain any credibility in scientific circles either.)

I started reading the writings of Hugh Ross (Reasons to Believe) and a lot of what he said made sense (though, I’m afraid, some of his arguments are not as credible as others). Then, a few weeks ago, I came cross the book The Language of Science and Faith:Straight Answers to Genuine Questions by Karl Giberson and Francis Collins (IVP).

I such a straightforward way, the authors of this book presented logical answers to many of my questions–pieces of the Creation/Evolution debate that still puzzled me.

Their language was non-Scientific, and they were fairly comprehensive in their analysis and explanations. Quite simply, they brought me through all the objections to evolutionary theory giving insight into the way scientific data had been manipulated by young-earth creationists to “prove” their point.

Quite unexpectedly, they showed how that through the course of history the earth has been seen as being far older than the 10,000+ years YEC proponents believe. In fact, it was only since 1961 that American Evangelicals started to see things differently (as the result of the Whitcomb/Morris book The Genesis Flood).

I cannot begin to detail the content of the book. Patheos Resources has started and, perhaps, has realised it is a huge task. The authors address such a wide range of questions and supposed evidences that it would be too many to list in this limited environment. Their review detailing the first part of the book can be found here.

Read this book for yourself. Just to whet your appetite, here is a short excerpt from Chapter 2:

Those who believe the earth is young raise two objections. First, there is a concern about inconsistencies in the dates determined by different systems; the radioactive clocks based on different isotopes do give slightly different results. But these differences are not significant. Even a huge error resulting in a number 10 percent too low would make the earth 4 billion years old instead of 4.6 billion. This is still a completely different ballpark than claims that the earth is tens of thousands of years old made by those who try to date the earth using a literalist reading of the Bible. Second, some suggest that radioactive decay rates were much faster in the past, making things look older than they really are. This claim simply has no evidence of any sort to back it up. In fact, there is strong counterevidence that the rates have never changed; radioactive decay is a nuclear event and all but impervious to change. Even at temperatures and pressures that rip the electrons off the atom, absolutely no changes to the nuclear decay rates have been observed. Additionally, all decay rates would have to undergo gigantic and tightly coordinated changes in order for a relatively young earth to appear several billion years old.

Once again we caution against supposing that God created some grand deception by coordinating a long roster of changes so that everything would point toward a false age for the earth. Why not simply assume that the age of the earth is exactly what the evidence says it is?

I would say this book is a must-read for anyone who has real questions about how Science and Faith can be reconciled without either side losing credibility. I would also add that this book has strengthened my faith, not undermined it (as many would have had me believe) in that I can believe even more strongly in a God who has “spread out the heavens by his hands” and who has “flung the stars into space.” Truly Science, rather than pointing us in a direction other than God, is continuing to show us, we live in the midst of an awesome display of the grandeur of a wonderful, powerful and creative God.

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4 thoughts on “The Language of Science and Faith

  1. Pingback: Original Good and the Environment 062611 « Mennonite Preacher

  2. Jon, there are a couple of factual errors in this piece:

    1. “they showed how that through the course of history the earth has been seen as being far older than the 10,000+ years YEC proponents believe. In fact, it was only since 1961 that American Evangelicals started to see things differently (as the result of the Whitcomb/Morris book The Genesis Flood)”

    I have shown from primary sources that this oft-repeated claim is simply not true–not even close. See:
    http://hermeneutics.kulikovskyonline.net/hermeneutics/Genesis_Historical_Survey.pdf

    2. “there is a concern about inconsistencies in the dates determined by different systems; the radioactive clocks based on different isotopes do give slightly different results. But these differences are not significant.”

    Selective. There are many many contradictions which are way outside the margin of error. A few examples:
    http://creation.com/dating-in-conflict
    http://creation.com/diamonds-a-creationists-best-friend
    http://creation.com/radioactive-dating-failure
    http://creation.com/radio-dating-in-rubble

    3. “some suggest that radioactive decay rates were much faster in the past, making things look older than they really are. This claim simply has no evidence of any sort to back it up. In fact, there is strong counterevidence that the rates have never changed”

    Not true. See below:
    http://creation.com/billion-fold-acceleration-of-radioactivity-demonstrated-in-laboratory
    http://creation.com/radioactive-decay-rate-depends-on-chemical-environment
    http://www.icr.org/article/helium-diffusion-nuclear-decay/

    I wonder if Tabor Adelaide is prepared to invite someone from Creation Ministries International to present their view and defend the traditional historic straightforward reading of a supernatural creation in 6 literal days?

    • Thanks for your reply Andrew. I wonder if you could provide any references apart from creation.com. I’m afraid, based on my past experiences with them, including a long-time subscription to Creation magazine, I see a lack of respect for non-creationist believers, let alone non-believers. I truly would like to see a totally unbiased response to anything related to the creation-evolution or old earth/young earth debate, but I know that is virtually impossible since people from both viewpoints naturally bring their bias into their research and thus into the conversation. Then there is the issue of a literalist Biblical understanding vs what I would consider to be a more contextual or poetic understanding of Genesis. . . .

      I can’t say anything about the seminar promoted by Tabor except to say that organisations such as Tabor are quite within their right to invite only people who they believe will bring light to their understanding of the issues. I’m sure they have good reason for not inviting CMI speakers.

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