This has me conflicted about the conflict between science and religion. How do we extract it from our churches, especially those that witness the ways science works alongside the Christian faith? Will it go away if we focus on the cooperation and don’t give voice to the opposition? Or must we acknowledge the conflict and work to reframe it?
Evolution is the primary example of the conflict thesis between religion and science. But The Clergy Letter Project has over 15,500 (as of August 2021) signatures of clergy on a statement that suggests “evolutionary theory [is] a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith.”
What do scientists actually think about religion? And what do religious people actually think about science? The stereotypical answers to these questions will come up short once you’ve looked at sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund’s books.
You have heard of the White and Draper “conflict thesis” about the historical relationship between religion and science, right? It is a myth historians have debunked, but recent scholarship suggests that in debunking it they have missed some fascinating complexity.
Does history show a conflict between religion and science? According to Peter Harrison, a careful study of history finds a very different narrative.
Philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s 2011 book, Where the Conflict Really Lies, makes a case for the reasonableness of religious belief. As the publisher summary says, “The theme of this short book is that the conflict between science and theistic religion is actually superficial, and that at a deeper level they are in concord.”
Of course, history reminds us that for every abolitionist like cousin Emily, there is at least one story of a slave owner who was also motivated by faith. The history of Christianity, like any family history, is terribly complex with examples that make us proud and others that remind us of the need for confession and forgiveness. This, of course, is also true of the history of Christianity and science.
Disciple Science is an organization dedicated to creating quality videos that would “reach those who feel forced to choose between science and Christianity and invite them to follow Jesus, know creation, and grow in faith.”
While faith and science debates—such as the Intelligent Design paradigm, an old vs. young Earth, or a literal Adam and Eve—seem peripheral to our political division, the experience of having those conversations offer us tools that translate to our current predicament.
The narrative of science and faith in conflict has become embedded in our culture. But is the story true? Have science and faith always been viewed as conflicting?