PARADIGM

definition: par•a•digm (pār'ə-dīm', -dĭm')

3. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.


The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paradigm

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this blog is four-fold:
(1)
to recognize that every person functions within a basic paradigm, which affects how all information is processed;
(2) to understand the paradigms of others;
(3) to discuss, in particular, paradigms which are related to science, religion, and philosophy.

(4) to reveal the paradigm shifts in my own life, a process that has completely changed the direction and purpose of my existence.

The purpose of this blog is NOT to convince anyone that their paradigms or beliefs are correct or incorrect. I am hoping for an honest dialog, but the discussions must remain respectful of others, even if there is profound disagreement. If any comments are not respectful, they will be removed.
(Revised 1/13/09)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Are Christianity and Science Mutually Exclusive?

Recently, someone asked me if I didn't think Christianity and science were mutually exclusive because of where one puts one's faith. The reason for this is that the scientific method starts from doubt (although it yields measurable results), whereas complete faith is the absence of doubt. There is also the question of whether God Himself affects the results of scientific inquiry. (See http://www.blogcatalog.com/user.conversation.php?user1=soulandsubstance&user2=TomUsher). I replied that I did not agree that Christianity and science were mutually exclusive, and that I would expound upon the topic on a blog post. [Editing note- 1/20/09: Please see the "comments section" for clarification of what Tom Usher actually meant. He meant "in terms of where one puts one's faith"--not "because of where one puts one's faith." This important distinction is explained in Tom Usher's response.]

First, I think one has to establish how one views science itself and what it can and cannot do. I do not agree with an "either-or" approach to science and faith--that one seeks to explain things by using the scientific method OR by consulting God or the Bible. I think one can do both. I grew up in a scientific household. My father, mother, sister, and aunt all have advanced degrees in scientific fields. I majored in chemistry in college and then went to veterinary school. I am now a practicing veterinarian. All I am trying to show by this, is that everyone around me was immersed in the "Scientific Method." It is very easy, as a scientist, to think that all mysteries are inherently "solvable" with the "scientific method." I certainly used to think that. That was before I realized that there are many things in the universe that are not measurable.

I think that it was about 15 - 20 years ago that I got interested in something called Quantum Mechanics. To make a long story short, what I learned completely changed my attitude toward science. I learned that there are inherent uncertainties about matter on the sub-atomic level. For example, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that it is not possible to measure both the momentum and exact position of a subatomic particle simultaneously. It has also been shown that light (which the average person thinks of as pure energy) has both wave-like and matter-like characteristics. Essentially, I began to realize, that things are not always what they seem. This upended my concept of reality. It was a few years later that I became interested in the things of God. That part of the story is for another day, but suffice it to say that the more I studied science and God from this new perspective, the more science began to look like God and God began to look like science. Hmmmm....

Anyway, here is why I think science and the scientific method are compatible with a deep faith in God (and in both His power and character). As God created the universe and the life within it, He set up all the systems to be compatible, down to the subatomic level. This would include all the laws of physics and mathematics, as we know them. Now, if God had done all this creating and then took the hands-off approach, I would certainly expect that science would eventually be able to solve most things in the measurable universe. However, because I believe that God is intimately involved with the day-to-day affairs of our lives, there are times that the "laws of nature" might have to be influenced, as it were. I believe that God wants us to see His power without scaring us or overwhelming us. We humans like things to be predictable. That is why God's influences are generally very subtle, and in keeping with the natural laws that He set up.

Science can answer only so much, however. It cannot explain the beginning of time or the concept of infinity; nor can it prove or disprove spiritual beings like angels. The fact that something may not make sense in the scientific realm, however, does not mean that it cannot be true. When something does not make sense to me, I assume that either I don't have enough personal knowledge to explain it or that God will eventually reveal the answer to me (even if it is after I leave this life).

I think that it is important to keep our eyes, ears, and spirits open to the natural realm AND to the spiritual realm. Only then will we be truly wise.

Note: I am including some scriptural passages that illustrate and support what I said above. Following these are some references for what I wrote about quantum mechanics.

1-On Faith: Hebrews 11:1,3 (NKJV)
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.... By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

2-On Faith & Doubt & Wisdom: James 1:5-7 (NKJV)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.

3-On Obtaining Complete Knowledge in Eternity: 1 Corinthians 13:8b-12 (NKJV)
...Whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then [when that which is perfect has come, we will see] face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know [completely] just as I also am known.


-------------

For an introduction to Quantum Mechanics, see: http://www3.hi.is/~hj/QuantumMechanics/quantum.html
For more on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, see: http://www3.hi.is/~hj/QuantumMechanics/quantum.html#Heisenberg and http://zebu.uoregon.edu/~imamura/208/jan27/hup.html
For more on the wave-particle duality of light, see: http://www3.hi.is/~hj/QuantumMechanics/quantum.html#Duality

5 comments:

Thoughts said...

I agree that science and religion are not mutually exclusive. I wonder whether the Platonic approach, where we work out the nature of the universe from elementary forms, will provide the answers. If there is a spiritual aspect to life it should really be visible all around us, now. I think this is the case but would lean towards empiricism for the evidence. See The nature of the soul.

S.S. said...

I think that the spiritual aspect to life IS visible all around us. However, in the days before I had developed my faith in God, I did not see it. I think one has to believe that the spiritual aspect does exist before one can see empirical evidence.

There is a biblical scripture passage that supports the belief that the spiritual realm should be visible to all--
...because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead. (Romans 1:18-19a NKJV)

For further information about Plato, here are 2 useful links:
1) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato/#PlaCenDoc
2) http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/PLATO.HTM

Tom Usher said...

Hi Lucy and All,

What I wrote, specifically, is as follows:

Discussing Christianity and science is a matter of semantics. They are mutually exclusive in terms of where one puts what faith. The scientific method starts from doubt. God limits what it yields. Scientific testing cannot bring forth all that faith can. It can though measure results. Do you agree?

What I didn't write is "mutually exclusive because of where one puts one's faith." [emphasis added] I raise the distinction, because most casual readers would assume by "because" and especially by "one's faith" that I meant all faith in God to the total exclusion of any faith in science. You see, I didn't put forth an either/or only position. I have faith in science to produce scientific results up to the point that spirit takes over and alters the routine. The scientific method and faith in God beyond it become mutually exclusive at that point. One is in error to place all faith in the scientific method; however, one is never in error in putting all faith in God. This is a subset and set situation. I hope you follow.

The most salient aspect of my position concerns testing. Testing does not yield more than God is willing to reveal to doubters. Testing and experiments cannot force God's hand. They never will. God is a real, living, spiritual being who makes conscious decisions/choices. I don't say God won't react to human scientific testing. I will say that God can react one way one day and another way another day.

Anyway, I understand your points and qualify them.

Bless You All,

Tom Usher

LucyS said...

Tom--I'm very glad you clarified your points. I agree with your distinctions. The faith placement is what makes them mutually exclusive. Thank you so much for explaining what you meant.

LucyS said...

Tom--I have put an editing note in the original post. I hope this adequately explains what you meant.