Can You Believe In Both God and Science?

Albert Einstein once told Cardinal von Faulhaber of Munich that he respects religion but believes in mathematics. The Cardinal said, “To me, both are merely different expressions of the same divine exactness.” Einstein asked, “But Your Eminence, what would you say if mathematical science should someday come to a conclusion directly contrary to your religious beliefs?” The Cardinal replied benignly, “Oh, I have the highest regard for the competence of mathematicians – I am sure they would never rest until they discovered their mistake.” The conflict of science and religion has been randomly mutating since God knows when. When Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, it created a controversy that has evolved through the ages. Its resilience in the survival of the fittest theories seem like the handiwork of an intelligent designer. What makes Darwin’s idea so adaptable to changing conditions? “Evolution by natural selection is a brilliant answer to the riddle of complexity because it is not a theory of chance,” says biologist Richard Dawkins, professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford and author of The Ancestor’s Tale. Furthermore, “It is the only solution that has ever been proposed.” In theory, Darwin’s weakest link is the missing link between primates and humans. But transitional fossils between different species have surfaced. The Archaeopteryx found in Germany in 1861 and believed to be the link between birds and reptiles 150 million years ago, had velociraptor-like claws, a long bony tail, a full set of teeth, and bird-like wings and feathers. The Pakicetus found in Pakistan in 1981 and believed to be the link between whales and four-legged mammals 50 million years ago, can walk on land, hear underwater, and had paddle-like forelimbs and nostrils which recede like a blowhole. The Tiktaalik roseae found in Canada in 2006 and believed to be the link between fish and amphibians 375 million years ago, had pectoral fins with arm bones, shoulder, elbow and wrist. One way to scientifically discredit the theory is to discover fossils at least 540 years old, from an era when the planet was believed to be inhabited chiefly by bacteria and algae. “If there was a single hippo or rabbit in the Precambrian, that would completely blow evolution out of the water,” says Dawkins. “None have ever been found.” The steady march of scientific progress may ultimately disprove Darwin’s ideas. “Darwin made bold assumptions about heritable variation, the age of earth and relationships among organisms,” write Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine in Biology. “New data from genetics, physics and biochemistry could have proved him wrong on many counts. They never did.” If not science, how about math? The mathematics of probability was used by William Dembski of the Southern Baptist Seminary, and he showed that natural selection and random mutation do not account for the astounding variety in nature. But evolutionists “can prove mathematically that it is capable of producing adaptive life forms and track it in computer simulations, lab experiments and real ecosystems,” according to Steven Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard. Opponents and advocates of evolution rarely see eye to eye but their conflicting viewpoints come sharply into focus on the origin of the human eye. The eye, with its pinhole, lens, light-sensitive surface and other exquisitely delicate mechanisms, is so “irreducibly complex” that it is self-evident that an intelligent designer was actively involved, writes Michael Behe, a biologist at Lehigh University, in his book Darwin’s Black Box. Other biologists postulate that light-sensitive skin cells evolved to distinguish night from day, and the ability to tell the directions of lights and shadows evolved to help avoid predators. The simple ability to follow a light source eventually became the capacity to see. As for the other unknown pieces of the evolution jigsaw puzzle, it must be kept in mind that there are also gaps in the theories of quantum, relativity and plate tectonics, says John West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. The theory of punctuated equilibrium was also devised to help explain the curious phenomenon that some species don’t seem to evolve – then suddenly do. The latest flashpoint is the teaching of the “Intelligent Design” concept, or I.D., in American high schools. “Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact,” explain Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon in their book Of Pandas and People. According to Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., “You have to hand it to the creationists – they have evolved.” But is it possible to believe in both God and evolution? “Like St. Augustine in A.D. 400, I do not find the wording of Genesis 1 and 2 to suggest a scientific textbook but a powerful and poetic description of God’s intentions in creating the universe. The mechanism of creation is left unspecified,” says Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and co-mapper (with J. Craig Venter) of the human genome. He affirms, “I lead the Human Genome Project, which has now revealed all of the 3 billion letters of our DNA instruction book. I am also a Christian. For me, scientific discovery is also an occasion of worship.”
Sources: Time, Newsweek. This feature originally appeared in Philippine Panorama, March 1, 2009. Charles Darwin photo courtesy of