Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Fear of Science

A few days ago I caught part of this programme on Channel 4: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/genius-of-britain/episode-guide/series-1/episode-5

Near the end they showed a two-way interview between Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking.  During the interview, Hawking asked Dawkins why he was “so obsessed with God”, which I found quite amusing! I was also interested though, to hear Dawkins’ response. Dawkins said (paraphrased – I can’t remember his exact words) that science was all about asking questions and trying to understand things and he felt that belief in God got in the way of this because it encouraged people to use God as an explanation for anything they couldn’t understand.

To be honest I think this is a bit weak as many Christians are also scientists and this doesn’t appear to stop them from doing what they do.  In fact, the belief in an ordered world, which stemmed from a belief in a God of order, underpinned much early scientific research.  I do often wonder though, whether for many people, religious belief does sometimes present a barrier to honest scientific enquiry. I certainly think this is the case for many Creationists (in the narrowest sense of that word). It seems to me that hard-line Creationists have a very strong pre-defined view of what the world should be like, so that any “science” they employ is bent entirely towards proving this picture, rather than towards investigating what’s actually out there with an open mind.

On the flip side however, I think Dawkins actually does something very similar with his hard-line approach towards natural selection. He’s been quoted many times for saying that Darwin made it possible for him to be an “intellectually fulfilled atheist”. Dawkins doesn’t like mystery – he doesn’t like the unexplainable – and he believes that natural selection is able to explain everything about how the biological world – including humans – came to be the way that it is. But although most scientists (excluding Creationists) now accept that evolution has happened, there is no universal agreement on whether natural selection is the sole cause. Many (if not most) scientists would be happy to accept that there is still a significant amount of “mystery” around our understanding of what exactly has taken place.

For some Christians though, there can be a significant amount of fear involved in uncovering this mystery. What if we do manage to understand everything? Where would this leave God? If God is in the gaps in our understanding, where does He go if the gaps disappear? What if the things we discover disprove everything we thought we knew about the world?

First of all I think it’s extremely arrogant to assume that we will ever know or understand everything. For every answer we find there are - and always will be - a lot more questions. And if God is real, as Christians believe, then the mind of God will always be beyond ordinary human investigation.

Secondly though, what if the things that we discover disprove what we thought we knew? Well then, we should take it like men (or women)! Christians should have nothing to fear from the truth – it’s the foundation of our religion! If the truth we discover isn’t quite what we thought it was then obviously we have some learning to do! If God is real then we have nothing to fear from discovering His Universe. We should always be prepared to be surprised by God – and also by the truth!


  1. Hey Dan, good post.

    Get an RSS on your posts please!


  2. I strongly believe (as many others of the past do) that science is there to prove the existence of God. The more and more that you look into science, particularly in the field of asronomy and biology, the more you have to come to the conclusion that life on Earth cannot be an accidental.

    For example, the composition of the sun, the dimensions of the earth, the composition of the earth, radiation, gravity and may other factors beyond my non-scientific comprehension. If we know that there are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy and the number of those which could allow organic life to develop, they rapidly dwindle to almost 1 very quickly. I also recognise that not all models for viable life follow ours.

    I'm not saying that God did not create other worlds, it's just that it seems so unlikely we could have appeared naturally. One of the most famous scientists in the world was Albert Einstein. He he recognized the impossibility of a non-created universe - http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencefaith.html.

  3. >> science is there to prove the existence of God

    This isn't the way I would put it - I think science is there to help us understand the physical universe, care for it and make the most of its resources - but I do believe that the universe displays God's glory and that science helps us to uncover this glory and appreciate it in more depth.

    I doubt if science will ever irrefutably prove the existence of God - I don't think this is what it's for - but I do think the universe is full of signposts and is itself one big signpost towards God and I'm sure we'll continue to discover more of these "clues" as our knowledge increases.

  4. I saw a documentary on Galileo and it talked about the purposes of science in those days. The objective of science was to 'prove the existence of God' and I rather liked that. Galileo's findings were interpreted by the church as going against this (science in fact was controlled by the church at that time).

    If the church had looked at his work, they would have seen it was indeed 'one big signpost'. Maybe this would make an interesting blog entry in itself Dan?


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