June 22, 2004

Science and ReligionAre They at Odds?

Many people today have the impression that there is a war between modern science and religion, and that science has won the day. But is that really the case? Are scientific knowledge and religious ideas incompatible? Has science replaced religion as the means for understanding life and mankind's place in the universe?

Dr. Ian Hutchinson, Professor at MIT, traces much of the blame for the current hostility between these two disciplines to Andrew Dickson White, former president of Cornell University. In 1898, White wrote a book entitled A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. White's preface stated outright that he intended the book to support his battle against the church's control of higher education.

Hutchinson comments, "White contended that all true knowledge was scientific, thereby creating a wall-an artificial one-between scientific knowledge and religious faith. And his book marked a profound change in how we viewed science and Christianity."[1]

Further, according to Hutchinson, White's book was not an attempt at objective analysis but "a tactical maneuver to gain secular independence for universities."[2]

Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton elaborate on the initiation of this modern "war" between science and religion when they write,

In late nineteenth-century England, several small groups of scientists and scholars organized under the leadership of Thomas H. Huxley to overthrow the cultural dominance of Christianity-particularly the intellectual dominance of the Anglican church. Their goal was to secularize society, replacing the Christian worldview with scientific naturalism, a worldview that recognizes the existence of nature alone. Though secularists, they understood very well that they were replacing one religion by another, for they described their goal as the establishment of the "church scientific." Huxley even referred to his scientific lectures as "lay sermons."[3]

Thomas Huxley's grandson, Julian Huxley, continued in the steps of his grandfather. One incident in his life reveals a moment of inspiration:

One day while browsing through a library in Colorado Springs, [Julian] Huxley came across some essays by Lord Morley in which he found these words: "The next great task of science will be to create a religion for humanity." Huxley was challenged by this vision. He wrote, "I was fired by sharing his conviction that science would of necessity play an essential part in framing any religion of the future worthy of the name." Huxley took up Morley's challenge to develop a scientific religion. He called it "Evolutionary Humanism."[4]

The Foundation of Evolution

A worldview perspective allows us to see the larger implications of science. At the popular level, most people today believe science and religion are two separate realms of knowledge, but the studied humanist knows better.

Humanism's worldview begins with atheistic theology and naturalistic philosophy. These "roots" provide nourishment to the branch of biology which produces the fruit of Darwinian evolution. In the humanist worldview, it is almost as if the fruit and root support each other. Without the theory of evolution, the humanist would have to rely on God as the explanation for life, which would undermine and destroy atheism as a viable system of thought and hence, humanism as a whole. Therefore, every Secular Humanist embraces the theory of evolution.

Humanist Manifesto I states, "Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as the result of a continuous process."[5] This belief is echoed in Humanist Manifesto II, which claims "science affirms that the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces."[6]

For humanists, atheistic evolution is not one option among many but rather the only option compatible with their worldview. That is why any form of Creationism is considered an enemy of science, despite the fact that the Christian worldview had far more to do with the founding of modern science than did humanism.

The Education Connection

Worldview analysis shows the fallacy in this approach to education. To use only one example (from numerous that could be cited), consider Carl Sagan's opening statement in his science series, Cosmos: "The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be."[7] Stop and reflect on that statement for a moment. Is this a statement of scientific fact? Clearly, it is not. How can we know through scientific experimentation that nature (the Cosmos) is "all that is," i.e., the only reality? Sagan is not making a scientific statement here but projecting a philosophical assumption regarding the nature of reality-an assumption which is both unproved and unprovable by any known method of science.

Nevertheless, most science teachers allow this kind of rhetoric to go unchallenged in their classes, not realizing they have introduced a religiously held belief of Secular Humanism. Therefore, when children in school are exposed only to the teaching of scientific naturalism in science class, they are being indoctrinated into a basic tenet of Secular Humanism. And as we are witnessing across our land, this religion is a jealous one when it comes to allowing any rivals in the classroom.

And that is why the battle rages today about which view of the origin of life will be taught in public schools. The issue is not over the facts of science. The real issue is over whose philosophical worldview will be the reigning paradigm for teaching biology. It's a worldview issue. It always has been.

  1. Charles Colson, "Wagging the Dog: The Invented War between Science and Christianity" (BreakPoint Radio Commentary, August 30, 2002), accessed 05/11/2004.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Science (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Book, 1994) p. 19.
  4. Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1999), p. 346.
  5. Humanist Manifesto I (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, [1933] 1980), p. 8.
  6. Humanist Manifesto II (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, [1973] 1980), p. 17.
  7. Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Random House, 1980), p. 4.

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