One writer’s perspective on the age-old debate.
Moving to university is one of the biggest single events in most students’ lives. It is a time for discovering new ideas and learning about yourself and how your value system operates. With an estimated 66% of practising Christians leaving their faith for a year or more between the ages of 18-22, this exciting and tumultuous time appears to encourage students to start their value system afresh.
Alongside studying science, I am also a practising Christian. As stated above, however, perhaps I am in the minority of those my age to practise whilst at university. Particularly in my subject area, but across a variety of subject disciplines, and by people of all faiths, I so frequently hear comments about how faith is superseded by fact. Reflecting upon this made me want to write about how science and religion – in my case, Christianity – can co-exist within my worldview, in the hope that any Freshers struggling with their own stance with their faith can see things through an alternative perspective.
The co-existence of science and Christianity occurs, I believe, when we put our faith in the unknown. Like with the Covid vaccine, or climate change, I believe that for the many of us that have been vaccinated, or have started making eco-friendly alterations to our lives, there has been an element of trust involved, without us fully knowing or understanding all the facts. It is this trust that I regard as being akin to the faith a follower has in God. Let me explain…
“The co-existence of science and Christianity occurs, I believe, when we put our faith in the unknown.”
The notion that science disproves God seems, to me, fundamentally unscientific. Firstly, as I understand it, science is the process of describing the implications of observed evidence. Let’s take the concept of the universe: with no evidence to observe that “something” can come from “nothing”, we still cannot describe how the universe came to be (though by knowing its rate of expansion, we know how old it is and hence that it isn’t infinite; see the Hubble factor). This may imply that our universe came to be by means of a power larger than our own understanding – and an omniscient being certainly fits this description. In any case, I would argue that this conclusion shows that as we cannot prove how the universe was created, we can neither prove nor disprove God through science.
“The notion that science disproves God seems, to me, fundamentally unscientific.”
If “seeing is believing”, I would argue that it could be very easy to simply reject the notion of climate change on the premise that our homes are not currently underwater, and so our present perception shows no logical evidence for climate change. Similar could be said for the rejection of the Covid vaccine by those who proclaim that microchips are contained within the vials, from their position of lacking understanding; a position that the vast majority look upon as crazy. However, most of us have faith that scientists know more than we do about their areas of expertise and though we may not all understand the science, we have trust in their recorded data and the conclusions they have drawn from that.
We may not understand all the science, but we accept that it has records and data to back it up. Back to Christianity, then: there are texts that date back centuries before the alleged birth of Jesus that document biblical events. From every corner of Judea, as proven online, there exists recorded evidence of the life, teachings, and execution of a man more extraordinary than perhaps any other. A man referred to as Jesus of Nazareth is recorded as preaching that he was the son of God. This is documented; as much as we may not understand the story of Jesus’ life or indeed the resurrection, it is believed that the many that knew him died for their beliefs, rather than reject them.
“Curiosity, not understanding, is the great luxury of the modern world…”
Christianity relies upon a trust in the recorded evidence, and in biblical scriptures. Science relies upon a trust in recorded data, and in journal papers. Looking at that evidence, and compiling it with the values that Christianity teaches, of honouring a loving forgiveness in the hope that it will lead to an eternal life, I have faith in my belief. Equally, in looking at scientific data, and considering the good that science brings to the world, I have a trust in scientists, regardless of my understanding of their niche. I may be wrong, of course, but the risk I take being out of faith is not unlike avoiding beef, air travel, and risking ingesting microchips to the benefit of the world, one could say. To freshers entering university (and the veterans coming back), my point is that every belief system requires some degree of uncertainty and faith, whether earthly or otherwise. The above is my personal view, from a Christian standpoint, and I would emphasise that there is obviously a myriad of belief systems across the world, and all are worth exploring. As a community, I think we would do well to live consciously of the environment, get vaccinated, and refrain from judgment of anyone else’s ideals. Curiosity, not understanding, is the great luxury of the modern world, and university is an incredible place to be curious.