By Brandon Robbins –
Science and Christianity: can they be reconciled? Paul Kurtz thinks not. In Kurtz’s article, “Are Science and Religion Compatible?” [Skeptical InquirerSkeptical Inquirer 45), he asked the question: “Can we live a full life in the face of the ultimate human extinction?” In the final analysis of religion, Kurtz states that the only thing that science can’t offer that religion does is hope. If we can live with the idea that the human race will one day be extinct, then we have no need for religion.
The hard part about giving a critique of this article is that Kurtz uses a vague term like “religion.” It may very well be that some religions are incompatible with science. The question I would pose, however, is: Is Christianity compatible with science? Not only are science and Christianity compatible, but the truth-claims of science find their full meaning in a Christian worldview. I will examine this in more detail, but first, let’s look
at Paul Kurtz’s main points of contention. He states “There are many areas where religionists and scientists make radically different truth claims.” Some of the examples he gives include:
- Does the soul or consciousness exist as a separate and distinct entity; or is it a function of the brain?
2. Does science provide evidence for “intelligent design,”or does evolutionary biology suffice without it?
3. Is it possible to influence the healing of persons by praying for them at a distance, or are the tests performed completely unreliable?
4. Is there empirical evidence for the claim that near-death experiences enable us to reach “the other side,” or are there alternative physiological and psychological explanations for these experiences?
In support of his view, Kurtz proposes the “how to” of determining truth: “Are coherent theories and testable hypotheses presented?” This of course brings up another question. What does he mean by “testable”? He most likely means: Can the theory be tested empirically? Yet, the nature of many religious truths defy empirical verification by their very nature. God is spirit. That can’t be tested in accordance with the standard the typical skeptic would impose. The criteria Kurtz uses denies the possibility of religious truth claims at the outset. Of course, the use of such an approach would make religious claims doubtful. However, Kurtz gives no justification for said criteria.
Further, Kurtz’s own view does not meet his standards, either. How does one empirically test the thesis that “All truth claims should be tested empirically”? He also fails to build
much of a case against classical Christian claims, and even denies things that are empirically provable. He states that “The disappearance of the Roswell aliens is not unlike the empty tomb of the New Testament.” This statement shows that he is not willing to look at the evidence in a fair manner. He denies the possibility of the truthfulness of religious claims that don’t meet his standards for truth, and the claims that might meet his standards (i.e., Jesus’ resurrection) he laughs off in passing.
Is religion compatible with science? The problem with the question is that it is truly the wrong question. The right question is: Can we have science if there is no God? Part of the problem with the approach of most skeptics is that they throw every religion in together. Science may not be compatible with any and all religions. But, what I contend is that the idea of a sovereign God exercising His Lordship over creation has everything to do with science. Science has no hope for any true meaning without God. For without God we would only expect to find chaos, not the order and regularity that meaningful science presupposes. It is only in a Christian worldview, in which the universe is the purposeful, orderly creation of an intelligent God, that the information that science offers becomes meaningful.
What is moral? Can there be any real moral absolutes without an absolute being that imposes them? Without an absolute standard in areas like ethics, should we expect our understanding in these areas to evolve? Should we expect our ethical standards to increase or decrease over time? If we should expect an increase, then why do we see in our own society a decrease in morality as this same culture becomes increasing secular (and scientific!)? Secularization in culture has proven over the long haul to provide the downfall of all ethical standards. Without God there is no way to define what is moral. And without morality, man becomes his own god and does whatever seems right in his own eyes. These considerations enable us to “test” the belief that God exists.
Science and religion compatible? Most definitely. For true science cannot be done without an understanding of the creator and His purposes for His creation. What does the Christian worldview add to the realm of science? A reason to do science; to find its discoveries meaningful. But there is more. Kurtz ironically stated that the only thing religion has to offer is hope. The Christian scriptures tell us of the redemptive purposes of God in his creation. God is even now restoring and bringing about a new heaven and a new earth. The Bible not only tells us where the world came from but where it is going. Kurtz is right about one thing. Without the Lord you are without hope and your path is set for destruction. As Kurtz stated it “Can we live a full life in the face of the ultimate human extinction?” What is your hope? Kurtz can only offer extinction. Christ offers life!