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The question of whether Christianity and science can peacefully coexists has been welcomed with differentiated pattern of opinions among scholars and others as such. Science has traditionally been used to refer to particular branches of study with the examples of social and natural sciences. Both natural and experimental sciences are characterized by systematic observations, the making and testing of formulated hypotheses through experiments and the attempt to explain results from observations based on a clear theoretical framework. Christianity on the other hand is founded on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Despite the popular view that Christianity and religion cannot peacefully co-exist, there are research findings which have indicated that they can co-exist.
Arguably, religion and science have existed ever since man came into existence. In reference to Dow, the war between Christianity and science began when science was classified as a natural philosophy. Historical records indicate that Christianity fought against enlightenment in Europe, precisely against biologically informed medicine and evolutionary origins of all things. Since the birth of Christianity, many discussions and debates on the relationship between Christianity and science have taken place. With the rapid development in science and the gradual rise of scientific ideas that Christianity considers to be ethically questionable, the rift between the two seems to be widening. It is factual that Christianity and science have been in conflict for many centuries. However, Dow argues that religion, especially Christianity comes in conflict with science only when they coexist in the same cultural system.
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According to Dow, the four prominent positions taken on the relationship between religions, which Christianity is part, and science among western cultures are: firstly is that science and religion are parallel and opposed to each other. This position stipulates contradicting ideas between the two and as a result, both make contradictory claims about reality. The second position indicates that science and religion are separate; that there is no conflict between the two because their areas of experience are fundamentally different. The third position states that there is an overlap and interaction between religion and science. The fourth position given indicates that science and religion can be integrated, but they are kept apart artificially. These four positions often manifest themselves in the society depending on the issues that shape society and whether those issues are considered to be controversial or unacceptable by one of the parties or not. Apparently, more often than not, it is Christianity that opposes new scientific discoveries in a quest to protect its doctrine.
One of the most controversial theories, the theory evolution, proposed by Charles Darwin seems to have sounded a death knell on the belief in God. The theory supports the first position that Christianity and science are in conflict. Most Christians across the world do not agree with or believe the scientific proven theory of evolution. According to teleological argument, every natural object has a designer. Darwin argued that all biological features evolved through natural selection. It is argued that this perspective alleviates the need for a designer and hence the designer perspective is invalidated. This conclusion points to an atheistic belief.
Pokinghorne argues that the central purpose for science and Christianity is the same: the search for truth. He argues that Christianity, like science, is an indispensable item in on the agenda for the exploration of reality. He acknowledges that the process of determining ‘truth’ in religion has many similarities with that in science, entailing a rhetorical process he calls ‘critical realism’. He argues that science is not the search for truth but for what has the quality of having the appearance of truth or reality, since neither Christians nor theologians can know absolute truth.
Different from others, Polkinghorne has a conviction that the Christian revelation is superior to conflicting variety of the world faith religions and science. In addition, he argues that one must believe in order to understand. Contrary to Science, Christianity cannot offer evidence for a miracle of any shape or form. Modern science on the other hand, depends on technology and requires instruments in order for it to allow for objective measuring of phenomena. As well, scientific ideas are factual and can be tested by different people under similar environmental conditions with results corresponding with the results of those from whom the idea originated. Different from Christian truth, scientific truths, irrespective of how well established they are, cannot be sacred, because the sacred is beyond refutation. As far as modern dialogue between Christianity and science is concerned, Polkinghorne argues that biologists are still intellectually inebriated by their success in unearthing the basis of molecular genetics, which compares to the discovery of the laws of motion and gravity.
Polkinghorne indicates that the mapping of the human genome has renewed speculations about the directions that modern science is taking humanity. Profoundly, the ethical questions involved in modern genetics are more significant than the technological and commercial aspects. These are the potential areas of conflict in the present and in the future. Other suggestions clearly point out that the conflict between Christians and science is inevitable considering their varied methods and belief systems. Polkinghorne rejected the notion that we live in a purely natural and purposeless universe; the claim of atheist that science is all, and that beauty and the rest are merely human constructs arising from the conceptions in our brains.
From the work of Polkinghorne, it can be concluded that both scientists and theologians are seeking understanding. What is different however is the manner in which the knowledge is sought, which has turned out to be source of conflict or controversy, at times. Theologians depend on mythical tales and subjective human experiences that arise from point in space time that encloses human history. On the other hand, scientists focus on the inside atomic nuclei, while viewing the universe as more of cosmic and with far more potential for development than has ever been imagined. Christianity and science are also differentiated in the nature of questions that they try to answer. Christianity answers questions that concern right and wrong and has a moral system which science does not have. Scientific knowledge is sought based on the scientific methodology, which involves formulation of hypotheses and testing of hypotheses by experiments and formulation of theories and laws. In science, there is no right or wrong; but everything is subject to finding out using experiments and tests. It is indicated that Christianity, beside bringing about social order and promulgating rules of behavior, it also performs practical social functions.
More often than not, conflict arises when Christianity finds it difficult to incorporate scientific knowledge into its framework. The question that should then be asked is, can science incorporate Christianity? There are many areas in science considered to be taking in the characteristic of morality. Dow argues that science should not be blamed on what people do with it. In addition, he points out that science can be used morally, and in fact can be used to develop better morality in the planet. Some of the questions that science has answered that probably Christianity could not are: how can the problems associated with global warming be rolled back? How can modern medicine make lives better without science? Needless to mention, science has in so many ways revealed causes of human suffering that no other method could have revealed. Additionally, social and behavioral sciences, which study the actions of humans on other humans, formulate solutions that help in the alleviation of human problems.
Gary, Collins and Stanton, point out that it is surprising that some Christians oppose science yet it is Christianity that opened the door for the empirical approach to the natural world which seeks for understanding through research. It is this Christian impetus that gave strength for empirical validity and has eventually resulted in the study of human nature. The use of social science techniques such as psychology in counseling is indicative of the interdependent nature that exists between Christianity and science. Counseling is both a Christian practice scientific. Separation of this relationship means that Christianity will suffer greatly as it requires science for it to work. The ability of science to move to move people into action has been incapacitated; hence, the need for its coexistence with Christianity. According to Dow, ‘no matter how powerful the power of the organized sciences is, they are not enough, because faith is above all a call to action, and science falls short of action.
The complicated nature of science may deny the ordinary people an opportunity to understand it. In line with this, validity of the basic assertions of science cannot be checked by the average person. There are situations where science advocates for actions to be taken; however, responses from average individuals reveal an aspect of a lacking aspect of comprehension due to lack of surety. Issues such as global warming have not been adequately responded to partly because the understanding of the science behind the problem and even the problem itself is dismal. Besides being complicated, science is also not available to the ordinary people compared to Christianity which is well known among the ordinary members of the society. People would like to associate with an idea that they can readily find and understand without much effort and thus, only the well educated public that can be convinced of scientific claims to knowledge. This problem of complexity in scientific subjects will continue to make the coexistence of science and Christianity to be difficult. Nonetheless, the difficulty can be overcome by integrating science and Christianity together.
It is worth noting that although Christianity and science seem to be in conflict, implying difficult coexistence, the clash is only in those narrow areas in which religion tries to qualify an adherence to a particular creed. On the other issues, science and Christianity pursue different goals without opposing each other. Interestingly enough both generate different forms of knowledge and contribute to human culture in varied and appreciable ways. If society appreciates that science and Christianity are two ways of generating knowledge that is beneficial to the society, the foundation of difficult coexistence will be destroyed. That they are two different systems of knowledge with different historical origins is also a contributing factor in their difficulty in coexistence.
In conclusion, most Christians and some scientists tend to side with the idea that Christianity and sciences are mortal enemies and incompatible entities. On the contrary, history suggests that it is possible for the Christian faith to facilitate the progress of science and for science to peacefully coexist with science. The ideal scientific thought that humanity was created and is capable of knowing and exercising dominion over the world forms a foundational evidence of convergent viewpoints. There may be need for tolerance in the present and future. The areas to explore shall be whether Christianity can take us further by being both humble enough to learn what it can from science and also bold enough to hold firm to its own sources of insight and understanding. The real solution lies in a renewed effort to bring Christianity to science. Many Christians should be involved in scientific research while establishing a rational dialogue with scientists. If all the advantages that science has brought were to be withdrawn for a moment, the sufferings that would visit humanity will be of untold magnitude. From a personal standpoint, the best efforts should be made to ensure that the benefits of both Christianity and science are equally enjoyed, since each has its own benefits and costs. Finally, it is crucial to point out that Christianity and Science can co-exist peacefully given that both are willing to integrate each other in their system just as it has been provided in this context.
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