Faith And Science: Enemies Or Friends

Jun 16th, 2018 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

I was recently reviewing some old articles I had stored and found, in the 13 November 2006 issue of Time magazine, a debate between Richard Dawkins, an avowed atheist, and Francis Collins, a Christian who converted from atheism.  It is an insightful debate, well worth reading.  Dawkins is an Emeritus Fellow of New College at Oxford University in England.  His 2006 book, The God Delusion, attacks faith philosophically and historically, using the Darwinian hypothesis for its intellectual support.  Collins is Director of the National Institutes of Health.  At age 27, he converted from atheism to Christianity.  His book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, was a bestseller.  Several thoughts:


  • First, a summary of their debate.  Collins believes that science and faith are compatible, while Dawkins believes they are not.  Collins states that “God’s existence is either true or not.  But calling it a scientific question implies that the tools of science can provide the answer.  From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God’s existence is outside of science’s ability to really weigh in.”  He also states that to study science is to “observe the majesty, the elegance, the intricacy of God’s creation.”  Dawkins brings up the standard arguments used since Bertrand Russell  in the early 20th century about God’s existence and its incompatibility with science.  But, Collins responds by stating that “I don’t think that it is God’s purpose to make his intention absolutely obvious to us.  If it suits him to be a deity that we must seek without being forced to, would it not have been sensible for him to use the mechanism of evolution without posting obvious road sings to reveal his role in creation?  [Collins is a theistic evolutionist, who believes God used the basic pattern of evolution for the origin and development of life].  The essence of the debate centered on whether God, who is transcendent and outside of space and time, has the authority and power to accomplish His purposes without being answerable to humans.  In other words, science can give us some answers to the major worldview questions of life, but it cannot give us all the answers.  Dawkins believes that he cannot accept any answer to any question that is not scientifically verifiable.  For Dawkins the box is closed and there is nothing beyond the physical world.  For Collins, the box is open and there is something beyond the physical—and that is God.


  • Second, I believe the case can be made that theology is essential for science.  Indeed, assumptions sourced in biblical Christianity provided the framework for the emergence of modern science in the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century.  Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton argue in their book, The Soul of Science:


“Christian teachings have served as presuppositions for the scientific enterprise (e.g., the conviction that nature is lawful was inferred from its creation by a rational God).  Second, Christian teachings have sanctioned science (e.g., science was justified as a means of alleviating toil and suffering).  Third, Christian teachings supplied motives for pursuing science (e.g., the show the glory and wisdom of the Creator).  And fourth, Christianity played a role in regulating scientific methodology (e.g., voluntarist theology was invoked to justify an empirical approach to science).  Among professional historians the image of warfare between faith and science has shattered.  Replacing it is a widespread recognition of Christianity’s positive contributions to modern science” (pp. 36-37).  They demonstrate in their book that all the major scientists associated with the Scientific Revolution were operating within the framework of Christianity.


The real conflict is not between faith and science but between science and naturalism, the belief that there is no God, and that matter is the only thing eternal.   Life and all of its complexities are the result of randomness, guided by the impersonal force of natural selection.  Earth, life, humanity and everything else is a product of, as Carl Sagan once stated,  a “cosmic accident.”


  • Finally, I believe it is helpful to appeal to the book of Ecclesiastes for a biblical perspective on this debate.  The author, Solomon, wrote the book about 3,000 years ago.  He posits a thesis of what the world would be like if the box were closed and there were no God.  His conclusion is “vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”  If the box is closed and there is no God, then nothing ultimately makes sense.  Some of Solomon’s conclusions, peppered throughout the book:


  1. Why do I seek to be wise, if there is no God?
  2. He compares the fool and the wise man.  Intuitively, it seems far better to be wise and not foolish.  But both have the same fate—death.  So, why be wise?
  3. Also, he suggests that working hard to save and invest makes no sense, if there is no God.  Why have I been so wise with my wealth, for, when I die, my children will get my wealth and they are foolish, he suggests.  Would it not be better to simply eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die?
  4. Solomon probes the whole matter of physical work in a closed box universe.  It makes no sense if there is no God.  Why have a work ethic that includes sincerity, consistency and frugality?
  5. He concludes in 12:13-14 that the “conclusion of the matter [is] fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of every human being.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”  In short, the box is not closed; it is open.  There is a transcendent God who exists and He has revealed himself.  That revelation is sufficient for life and for salvation.  To worship God and to obey God brings meaning and purpose to life.  Further, He holds everyone accountable.  In short, there is an eternal significance to all things.


Curiously, there is a resurgence of atheism in the West right now, called the New Atheism.  Many atheists see the religious wars of jihad Islam as proof that evil stems often from religious convictions and we would all be better off if there were no religions.  We are on our own and there is no God.  So, let’s all band together and hope and work for the best.  But if there is a God, then there is a whole new set of questions and therefore answers.  Perhaps one of the major reasons religions often produce so much violence is due to sin and the evil of human heart, which manipulates all things, even religious convictions, for selfish ends.  Many years ago Blaise Pascal, offered his “Wager,” which applies so appropriately to the Dawkins-Collins debate.  Pascal stated that to believe or not believe in God’s existence is actually to wager that He exists or does not exist.  If we believe He exists and He does, the reward is eternal happiness.  If we believe and He does not exist, nothing is really lost.  However, if we reject God’s existence and He does exist, we are damned for eternity.  Thus we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by wagering that God exists.  Although clever and subtle, Pascal’s wager is one Richard Dawkins should seriously consider, for his eternal destiny rides on its consideration.


See the 13 November 2006 issue of Time.

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2 Comments to “Faith And Science: Enemies Or Friends”

  1. Richard Pendell says:

    I have read, watched, and listened to the Creation vs. Naturalism debate my entire life, encompassing every conceivable logical construct, justification and conclusion. I have noted that most of the time, these are not simply academic debates. Most often, the Naturalism defenders will, sooner or later, exhibit a strong, negative emotional component toward Creation arguments. One often senses an underlying passion in even the most self-controlled of Naturalists; ‘ This CANNOT be. I WON’T stand for it! If anyone believes it, they are being IDIOTIC, and unworthy of anyone’s time an respect. Such people CANNOT be allowed to participate in the educational, scientific community.
    At times, Creation defenders can become a little emotional, but rarely negative, heated and insulting toward their opponent. Why is there such a strong emotional component in Naturalism and not in Creation advocates? My theory is that most arguments about origins are coming from the Soul and not only the mind. Somehow, they are linked to the very core identity of persons, hence they must be defended, as it were, ‘

    • Richard Pendell says:

      Continuation…… ‘to the death’ especially if your Soul knows your argument is indefensible. Raise the decibel level, use expletives, throw the chalk at the opponent, throw up your arms and get very personal. These are all indications of an argument’s inherent weakness and the threat level of those defending error to the bitter end.
      As a teen in public school, I often encountered Science and Biology teachers with this highly emotional approach to their atheistic view of their subjects. I remember thinking at the time that the worst way to win over your opponent is to treat him with disgust and utter contempt. Why would anyone change their opinion to please such a person? Also, if your position is so obviously ‘right,’ why are you wasting your emotion on such dense and ignorant students? Why don’t you just present your case and let us think it over, ask questions and decide for ourselves? Why do you have to ‘come after us with a switch’ for asking simple questions?
      In my adult life, I have met many professional scientists with stratospheric IQ’s, working for federal agencies at the cutting edge of classified research, who are, in fact, highly committed Christians, not evolutionists, and widely recognized among their peers as great contributors to their disciplines. They never berate their Naturalist colleagues or berate their positions. Of course, they are happy to have a civil debate when the opportunity presents. Yet, not surprisingly, they rarely have chance because they are not ‘beatable’ in a fair and open venue.
      If you’re really ‘good enough,’ they’ll tolerate your belief. That’s the real world of science.