With the progression of science God plays a smaller part. This is logical because in the past when something was not understood it would be chalked down to the working of God. Today we have scientific reasons for why certain things happen. For example the manna that fell from the sky sent by God to the Israelis who were hungry in the desert during the exodus. Today we know that it was a secretion made by insects who suck tree sap and then exude drops of a sweet, resinous secretion, varying in size from a pinhead to a pea. These stick on the ground and evaporate into white, frost-like particles before turning yellowish brown. They taste like solidified honey. Various explanations such as these do not however negate the existence of god. One must not look at the scientific reason as to why the “bread fell from the sky” but look at the fact that it came just when the people were hungry and despairing and walking through wasteland.
One will not find a definite answer to this question even from the most influential of physicists. Isaac Newton, considered the father of physics for his ground-breaking discoveries in mechanics, gravity and optics also wrote various books on theology. For all his scientific explanations never deterred him from his religious beliefs.
In contrast however, the French physicist Laplace proposed the system of the planets with orbits, he did this using ellipses. When he presented his hypothesis to Napoleon, he was asked where God featured in it. Laplace famously answered “I do not need God in my hypothesis”.
So now the question presents itself; how can God act in the scientific world of today?
At first glance the notion of faith or religion would be viewed as an entirely separate entity when compared to the subject of science or logic. In truth, however, the two are easily muddled together and this could bring about confusion and misconception.
Religion does not depend on reason or logic; it is the pure and simple acceptance of a belief. In complete contrast science is based on proof supplied by empirical facts and data. Proof supplied by experiments and tangible objects. The idea of how these two relate to one another is a notion struggled with by many.
Traditionally, faith and reason have been considered to be justification for religious belief, this is because they allegedly both perform the same function. Over the centuries the matter has been of much interest to philosopher and theologians. Some have held that there is no conflict between the two, that properly employed logic and well understood faith can never contradict one another. On the other hand, others have maintained can quite easily, and even logically must be, in contention with one another over certain propositions and methodologies.
For example Kierkegaard who was a famous Danish philosopher, theologian and religious author, prioritised faith to the point that it became irrational. Contrarily Locke who was an English philosopher and physician emphasised the reasonableness of faith to such an extent that it became positively unsound. So where can one find the middle ground? The point where science and faith relate to each other in a balanced manner?
Recent research into scientists’ self reported belief in God found that scientist-believers generally considered themselves “religious liberals” (not fundamentalists), and that their religion did not change the way they did science, but rather the way they reflected on its implications. There is also a stigma against belief in God in the professional science community, which may have contributed to underrepresentation of religious voices in the field. (1)
While these are fairly insightful statistics, they show nothing more than the life choices of certain individuals. Looking at things logically I personally feel that one must conclude with that faith can never conflict with reason and vice versa.
Many studies have been conducted in the United States and have generally found that scientists are less likely to believe in God than the rest of the population. Precise definitions and statistics vary, but generally about 1/3 are atheists, 1/3 are agnostic, and 1/3 believe in God. Belief also varies by field: psychologists, physicists and engineers are less likely to believe in God than mathematicians, biologists and chemists. Doctors in the United States are much more likely to believe in God (76%).
Other philosophical thinkers have reached the conclusion that fait and reason each govern their separate domains that deal with their own separate conflicts according into which domain they are deemed to fall. This seems to be a fairly sterile and unsatisfactory explanation however.
Plato and Aristotle both found a principle of intellectual organization in religious thinking. Plato did this through the Forms, particularly the Form of Good. This is the way by which all things gain their intelligibility. The form of the Good is the ultimate object of knowledge, although it is not knowledge itself, and from the Good, things that are just and fair gain their usefulness and value. Both thinkers showed how religious beliefs emerge from deep and intellectual thinking. They believe that religion and faith stemmed from intellectual thought. Aristotle’s Physics demonstrated the existence of an unmoved mover as a timeless self-thinker from the evidence of motion in the world. (2)
Essentially when dealing with a topic such as this each individual must draw his own personal conclusions. There is no right or wrong answer due to the ambiguity of the subject.
In my personal opinion when dealing with such an enigmatic topic the first thing to bear in mind is that it is not a matter of which is better or more plausible. The two can coexist quite peaceably, as they have done for centuries before our time. Aside from the fact that they do in fact coexist I feel that it is also very necessary that they do so. Both are vital for the mental well being of the human mind, as intellectual creations we crave their existence, this is probably why we spend so much time trying to find a clarifying balance between them. Religion and faith satisfies our basic need to believe in a higher power of knowing that there is life after death. We need to believe this because it gives our lives hope and purpose, because of religion we are safe in the knowledge that there is a greater plan for us to be part of something glorious, there is a deeper meaning to our existence. On the other hand science quenches our basic need for information and answers, to satisfy our curiosity and questions. We were created with the power of thought and understanding, it is in our nature to seek explanations. The unintelligibility of certain things challenges us to seek for greater things, make discoveries and generally challenge our intelligence.
One gives us purpose while the other provides explanation. I feel it to be slightly foolhardy to attempt to scientifically prove or disprove the existence of god or the creation of the universe. It is impossible to prove by logic or science that god does not exist just as it impossible to prove that he does exist.
If you say “God makes thunder”, many will argue that it is clear that in actual fact it is vapor and friction which make thunder. Then the only following arguments are that either that god does not exist (which is a highly supercilious statement to make), or that God is static electricity.
Maths and science only apply to the matter and energy of the universe, and by definition it is who God created the universe and is outside of their laws.
To paraphrase the Christian theologian St. Augustine; “The purpose of the Bible is not to teach us how the heavens were made but how to go to heaven. We must loom for the religious truth.”
Science is the truth only in matters that can be objectified and laid out clearly before the physical eye. Science has very little control or say over the spiritual world, here It is values, morals and general life purpose which play the important roles. We would lead a truly empty and sterile life if all we believed was that which could be encompassed by the scientific standard of truth. In this world you and I would be nothing but a collection of atoms without meaning or purpose. This being said I believe that the study of science should be encourage and widely thought, from my personal experience I have found that the more one learns of science and experiments and empirical truths, the more one appreciates those things which are truly unexplainable. If science were the be all end all then there would be no more confusion and all should be explained. This however is not the case, much of the wonders remain unexplained and herein lies the true realisation of god. It is through science that one comes about this realisation however.
Moses’ “burning bush” spoken about in the Bible in Exodus 3 is now deemed to have a scientific explanation. Scientists have said that it was most probably a “gas-plant” or “Froxinella” which has oil glands that burst into flames. We would be shallow to be satisfied with this explanation alone however because it does not satisfy us with answer to the question as to how this plant came into existence in the first place.
(1)Ref: Professor Elaine Howard Ecklunnd
(2)Ref: Alston, William. “History of Philosophy of Religion.” The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 8. Ed. E. Craig. New York: Routledge, 1998. Pp. 238-248.