Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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In the News: Faith vs. Fact?

FactsI recently read at the Washington Post online, a review of the book, Faith vs. Fact (Why Science and Religion are Incompatible) by Jerry A. Coyne. The review itself was written by Jeffrey Schloss, a biologist at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. The book apparently consists of a series of logical arguments designed to pit religion against science, with the author’s assertion that ultimately, religion’s methods “are useless for understanding reality.”

The review is largely complimentary of the book, but Schloss argues that Coyne falls short in some areas in his treatment of the topic. Consider the following quote by Schloss from the article:

“The preface [of Coyne’s book, SC] begins with a quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson: ‘The good thing about science is that it’s true, whether or not you believe in it.’ But this is simply wrong. Facts are true whether or not one believes in them. Science is an impressively reliable but fallible means for ascertaining facts. Indeed, facts are true whether or not science itself believes in them.”

This point is one I have maintained on many occasions. It is one reason why I find it so absurd that the majority of scientists and educators are opposed to any reference to the Divine as a possible explanation for the origin of the universe and man himself. The objection is made that a reference to God as Creator is unscientific, and so can’t be taught in a science class. However, if it is a fact, scientific or not, to censor it is to deny to the student the correct explanation of the origin of the universe. Further, if it is a fact, then it is scientific… in fact, it is the basis of all science, whether “science itself believes” it.

The logical fallacy of contentions made by books like this is that faith and fact are mutually exclusive. I can understand why some would hold this to be true. Many of the convictions religious people hold to contradict fact! While it might be said that, “Science and religion contradict one another”, it is another thing entirely to say that “True science, and true religion contradict one another.” Such can not be, because both are based on fact. For example, the Christian faith is founded upon the fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). It is not always the type of fact that can be ascertained by the scientific method, but it is fact nevertheless.

An important thing to note here. There is a corollary to the statement that “facts are true whether or not science itself believes in them.” It is that “facts are true whether or not religion itself believes in them.” We as Christians have done a disservice to God and truth if we advocate for positions that arise from our own beliefs, without the benefit of fact, whether derived from scripture or science.

In the past “religion” has denied that the earth revolves around the sun, though such is not taught in the word of God. I have heard preachers make “scientific” arguments in defense of God as Creator that are inaccurate and wrong. Too, I must confess that I am concerned about such things as the current brouhaha about vaccinations, the use of essential oils, homeopathic remedies, etc., that are so strongly advocated by religious people. I am not denying that there may be benefits to these things, but as I note the nature of the proofs supplied (largely anecdotal), the nature of the opposition to the contentions (numerous scientific studies), and the nature of the defenses (sometimes taking Bible scripture out of context to bolster claims of efficacy), it seems that some are influenced greatly by a personal viewpoint rather than what is actually so.

The secular world will always ridicule the faith of the Christian as blind. May we not be guilty of lending credence to that claim because we are guilty of naïveté and excessive credulity in accepting at face value “facts” that are, rather, merely assertions we wish to be so!

Examine God’s word, and hold to it. It is true, it is factual, it is the foundation of our faith. Beyond that, take care, that you not be guilty of doing harm to the influence of God in the world.