Monkey Business

You may have read this past week about the recent scientific discovery of the oldest known fossil skeleton of a human ancestor. If not, you can read about it here.

This news is considered extremely important within the disciplines of anthropology and paleontology. However, I would like to know what a discovery like this means to you personally? How do you react to news like this?

If my observations are true to the norm, you will either consider this news to be a mixture of falsities and propaganda or dismiss it entirely as irrelevant to your life. I would like to suggest both of these responses are counterproductive. Reactions such as this fuel a contentious and growing minority within the scientific community to dismiss Christianity as absurd and those who hold to its tenets as out of touch with reality.

My educational background is in biology and chemistry. I have spent most of my life around people in the scientific community and I can tell you that these people are smart and they have an ardent passion for uncovering the truth. I have no doubt there are those within the scientific community who would love nothing more than use science to expose religion as a psycho-social fabrication of the primitive mind. However, we cannot accuse the entire discipline as evil and full of malice towards all things spiritual.

Most people I know who are in scientific fields are just like you and me. They are full of wonder and awe about the world we live in. Why do we, as Christians, anxiously pounce on every crumb that falls from the table of research? When we denounce the very existence of someone who would question “our” version of events, we simply look silly. It is akin to the annoying guy behind you at the football game who (having never played past pee wee football) is calling on the coach to get a clue. So, to those who seek to accuse all science as fraud, I would recommend letting the good scientists determine good science. The next obvious question is; “where are the good scientists?” That brings me to the next likely response.

It appears the Christian community is only too willing to allow a separation between the sacred and the secular where science rules the secular. For years we have failed to include science under the umbrella of God’s truth. Quite frankly, I think it is because we are scared what we may find. Science is only too willing to return the favor. Most intellectually honest scientists will admit science will never disprove, nor prove, God. We frequently see researchers propose a “truce” between science and religion. An all too common plea in the literature is “don’t bother us and we won’t bother you.”

This proposal is a dangerous one for Christianity. How will the next generation of scientists approach their discipline if Christians are comfortable excusing ourselves from the scientific realm? I am afraid a shortage of good scientists, those whose worldview submits to mutuality between institutions, will only widen the credibility gap. Science is by definition the study of natural processes and God is clearly supernatural. However, our confidence as Christians is in the one true God and His word. His word tells us that He maintains authority over His creation. When religion is divided from other disciplines, we are only one step removed from full blown relativism.

Let’s take, for example, a naturalist who claims nothing supernatural can exist because it cannot be shown to exist through the scientific method. We then have a Christian who argues that all one has to do is look at creation and see the handiwork of a creator God. Obviously, they cannot both be right. However, a postmodern thinker would say they are both indeed right in their own way. The naturalist is arguing science and the Christian is arguing religion. This appears to be a clear contradiction to me, but that is how the debate is now framed. It is as if religion is only real if it applies to the personal and science is only real if it applies to the universal. This dichotomy filters down to us on the sidelines, permeating everything from educating our kids to politics. Just last month, the editor of our own local newspaper based a complete editorial on that very relativistic presupposition. You can read that here.

We have taken a look at two of the common reactions Christians have to scientific discoveries. So, how then should Christians respond to advances in science and technology? My hope is that we embolden ourselves with the same confidence I see Christians currently expressing in culture, arts, philosophy, and sociology. Do you believe God’s word as revealed in nature will always align with His word revealed in scripture? Won’t God’s word remain true regardless how many humanoid bones are found along the southern tip of Africa? I hope we can replace anxiety with anticipation as new science uncovers more about God in all His creative majesty and His incredible plan for His people. I want my kids to know that our God is the same God that created that creature in the jungle and I want them to know that everything created from then to now is His too. Who knows? Our children may become the next good scientists, allowing us to get even yet a clearer image of God reflected in the design of His creation.

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