CONCORD BETWEEN SCIENCE AND FAITH (C. 1958)

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Excerpted from The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, edited by John Clover Monsma. New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1958

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CONCORD BETWEEN SCIENCE AND FAITH

By Wayne U. Ault, Geochemist

B.A., Wheaton College, M.Sc, Ph.D., Columbia University, New York. Formerly Research Fellow, Geochemical Lab­oratory, Palisades, N.Y., connected with Columbia Univer­sity; presently with Geological Survey, Department of the Interior, U.S. Government. Member of American Geophysical Union and Geological Society of America. Specialist in geo­chemical projects.

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Man cannot believe in the existence of God without doing something about it. Belief in a personal God will affect one’s behavior toward his fellowmen, his attitude toward life, and his concepts of the motivation and purposes behind the material universe.

Scientific reasons for belief would imply that the scientific method of hypothesis, testing and conclusion was the method followed in arriving at or confirming belief in God. Now, the scope of scientific studies is increasing; more fields of learn­ing are being put on a scientific basis. Yet, belief in the existence of a personal God is not directly on a scientific basis since God is not matter-energy as we know it. Neither is He finite, so that finite mind and experiment can determine Him. On the contrary, one’s belief in God is largely a matter of faith, although this faith derives scientific support from indirect evidences of a “First Cause,” and quite probably of a “Continuous Motivating Cause.”

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A beam of light is depicted traveling between the Earth and the Moon in the time it takes a light pulse to move between them: 1.255 seconds at their mean orbital (surface-to-surface) distance. The relative sizes and separation of the Earth–Moon system are shown to scale.

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Faith is not something foreign to one in any field of human knowledge, but must be exercised especially by the physical scientists. Life is neither long enough nor does one have the facilities to perform every experiment for and by himself. One generally performs a certain variety of simple experiments, enough to give him an understanding of basic phenomena and faith in the work of the many scientists that preceded him. Subsequently, most of our knowledge is acquired by written history of past experience. For example, very few have actually measured the speed of light, but it is universally accepted as a known constant. Likewise, scientists accept the validity of working hypotheses; models of things they have not seen. No one has seen a proton or an electron, but only their effects ¹. The Bohr model of the atom is one such useful simplified picture which permits the approximation of atomic behavior. Again, our knowledge of the composition of distant stars and the space between galaxies is based on indirect evidence and experiments. It is clear that much of such knowledge for the individual must be accepted by faith. This is not blind faith but faith which allows itself to be tested at various points and thus strengthened.

A similar exercise of faith may lead to a belief in the existence of God. God has given through men of former ages a written record or progressive revelation to mankind. This record reveals God and man’s relation to God. It describes man’s condition, need, and the means of redemption. It is set in a  framework of time and space, i.e., history and geography. The Bible is a unique book in many respects and permits testing at many points. It is truly remarkable with respect to predictive prophecy which in minute detail has been fulfilled centuries later. It has not, to my knowledge, been proved wrong in any detail of history or geography, although there are areas where our understanding is not complete. It has been the subject of much destructive criticism, but not out of proportion to the greatness of its claims. If one will take the time to analyze these criticisms objectively he will find that history and our growing body of information from archaeology have already proved many of these critical objections to be in error and to have arisen solely from lack of knowledge or understanding of the situation. These three areas (prophecy, history, geography) are comparable to the volumes of scientific literature in being subject to verifica­tion.

Just as faith is a necessary and normal part of one’s exist­ence, so the concept of God is essential to the completeness of man’s being and philosophy. Some of the important areas of man’s experience, though intangible, are nevertheless real and of great consequence. Many thousands of rational, repu­table and well-adjusted men have attested to a conscious personal relationship to God and to the power of prayer (communion with God). Man’s psychological, emotional and spiritual needs are thus met by this faith beyond himself and beyond all men.

It is largely accepted as logical to assume a purpose behind all of physical Nature. The concept of God as Designer and Creator of all things gives a coherent and complete picture for origin, design and purpose, and allows for any process which is known to have occurred. Mechanistic views do not consider the ultimate origin and attribute subse­quent events to chance. Chance is called upon as a substitute for God to complete one’s philosophy. But even from a non-Christian or non-religious viewpoint the concept of God is far more satisfactory than chance, and the marvelous order of the universe definitely indicates a God of order rather than random, uncontrolled chance.

The concept of the supernatural has met with unbelief in many scientific minds. Yet at the same time many of the same individuals talk freely of phenomena which are called “natu­ral” but of whose processes they have no clear understanding at all. Obviously, to call them “natural” only indicates that they are repetitive, but that does not explain the phenomena. Thus acceptance of specific phenomena at any one point in time, whether natural or supernatural, may be purely a matter of faith.

Falling back on one’s scientific experience, the question might be asked: Is it design or chance which is responsible for the invention and construction of a radar set of very limited automation? Is it design or chance which is respon­sible for a bat—yes, a bat!—with intricate, miniature and effective radar, which needs neither attention nor repair, and which can reproduce itself ad infinitum? Scientific man’s experience has been one of design and causation, and he should logically be the first to hypothesize a Master Mind, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and constantly inter­ested in the whole of creation and every infinitesimal part of it.

There are many phenomena other than those already mentioned which seemingly have meaning only by belief in God. Such are the possibly limitless space with its numberless stars and galaxies, and the divisibleness of matter into its ultimate fundamental particles, whatever these turn out to be; the similarities of all living matter as we know it, and yet the uniqueness of every fingerprint, every maple leaf, and every snowflake. There is also the vast extent by which man is greater in mind and in dexterity than all other earthly creatures.

We have indicated that belief in the existence of God is largely of faith; that faith is not foreign to any man; that nearly all categories of faith are not blind faith but intelli­gent faith; and that the testimony of many is of a personal relationship to God. This has been illustrated by a few natural phenomena from material science.

The quest for knowledge and the inquisitiveness which asks the why and the how of Nature are part of the endowed traits of mind. Once the scientist has exercised faith in the Creator of the universe this faith can only grow as a result of studies in any direction.

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¹ This article was written in 1958; however the claim is still true as of this writing (2017): One still cannot ‘see’ subatomic particles (in the literal sense of the word) such as electrons, protons, etc.

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