"To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today."

- Isaac Asimov

"The chief characteristic of the religion of science is that it works."

- Isaac Asimov

"Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat."

- Julian Huxley



How do science and the Bible compare?
1) an alternative to religion?


"I have a foundational belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily." 1

- Sir Isaac Newton

"No, our science is no illusion. But an illusion it would be to suppose that what science cannot give us we can get elsewhere."

- Sigmund Freud

5.1 Is science an alternative to religion?

Christians believe the universe to be a product of divine origin. This belief proceeds primarily from the resurrection of Jesus and the historical testimony of the Bible. Atheism, by contrast, denies the certainty of any supernatural origin or divine influence in the world. Atheistic belief is based upon the premise that God has not been proven to exist, and upon a purely empirical interpretation of the natural world. However, both Christians and atheists employ science in support of their case.

So does science support the Bible or refute it? This is not a simple question and it will take many sections to address it fairly.

In brief, science is not an alternative to a Christian worldview, but merely a method of gathering information. Science is a method which is not in conflict with the Bible and can effectively and legitimately affirm the believability of the Bible. Science is often portrayed by secular thinking as a more rational alternative than belief in God. As such, science in this respect has actually become the dominant religion of modern American culture. Many scientists themselves held similarly lofty views of their profession one hundred years ago, but the scientific perspective has changed since then.

Beginning shortly after the advent of the twentieth-century, a paradigm shift in scientific thinking occurred. New observations about the universe were radically different from the comparatively simplistic beliefs previously held. These new perspectives on the nature of the universe were so different that much of the general populace then, and now, still viewed science and the universe through obsolete concepts.

To ensure that today's readers understand the position of science, the nature of science, and how those relate to the Bible, we will examine a brief history of the modern scientific perspective, a discourse on what exactly science is and is not, the track record of the accuracy and trustworthiness of the scientific method, and the scientific accuracy of the Bible.

5.2 The history of the modern scientific perspective.

-- FROM THE 1600'S

Between the late seventeenth-century and early nineteenth-century, history and historical precedent began to be viewed as less relevant to learning than reasoning and empiricism (the view that sensory experience is the only source of knowledge). One cause of this was the tremendous success of Isaac Newton's laws in predicting the behavior of objects in motion. The measurable efficiency of these laws gave great confidence to the concept of equivocating theories and formulae with actual facts and evidences. The effect this had on science graduated into completely new perspectives on the universe.

One major new perspective was called the philosophy of mechanism, or determinism. Determinism was the belief that the nature of the universe was like that of a giant machine. The universe was thought to be an enormous but fundamentally simple mechanism about which all events and characteristics could be determined with mathematics. The belief that everything could be so determined, and the belief that the universe was both unchanging and eternal, was sufficient confirmation for many skeptics that God did not exist. Their reasoning was as follows.


In the past, things or events in the universe that were unexplainable had often been attributed to be mysterious workings of God. If God is spirit and spirit is invisible, then God's workings must be equally invisible. Understanding them was his privilege alone.

The planets, for example, were restrained from flying out of their orbits by nothing other than his sheer will. But now, Newton's theories of mechanics explained the planets' motion and therefore, presumably, the universe. Charles Darwin's book Origin of Species, itself part cause/part effect of this new worldview, provided what some considered the first tangible basis for an alternative to the divine creation of life. Thus, belief in God was losing out among scientists, not by being disproved, but by a diminishing need to use divine intervention as an explanation of that which had previously been thought unexplainable.

Scientists such as Darwin had not set out to disprove God, but to simply escape the necessity of having to use "mysterious workings" as a fallback whenever faced with an unknown. Unknowns typically ended up being the result of some pattern within nature that had not yet been discovered. With this in mind, deterministic interpretation of the natural world, limiting itself to empirical observation, saw nothing beyond those patterns. This ignored God as a first-cause. That, consequently, eliminated the importance of his existence, and eliminated any purposes behind those things which he had supposedly created.

Determinism may have been an alternative chosen predominantly by those who had never accepted Christianity in the first place, but it won its share of converts.


The idea that determinism rivaled God as an explanation to the universe seemed to signal that science had arrived. The universe did not need God as part of its explanation, therefore God must have never existed to begin with. But this idea, along with determinism's other thought-to-be-eternal-truths, began to fall apart in light of the dawn of twentieth-century science.

Albert Einstein's theories of relativity superseded Newtonian mechanics and totally refuted Newton's absolutes of motion and rest. Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which said only the speed or location of an electron can be known at any given time - never both - proved the impossibility of determining any atomic and, hence, any subsequent event with certainty. A living cell, which in Darwin's time was thought to be an elementary building block of life, proved to contain a myriad of complexities, sub-components, and vast information chains of which no one had even dreamed.

The new truths of science now said that the universe was not static, not eternal, and just about everything concerning mechanics was more complex than thought 100 years ago. The simplistic illusion called determinism had come to an end.

Scientists have since distanced themselves from deterministic philosophy thanks to Einstein's and Heisenberg's work. Although determinism is as good as dead to science, its simplistic form of reasoning continues to live on in certain other systems of belief which it had influenced; most notably scientific materialism and evolution.

Deterministic thought persists partially due to the high level of understanding required to appreciate the more avant-garde nature and profound implications of Einstein's and Heisenberg's work. Together, their discoveries are proof that determinism was a product of scientific errors and not an accurate portrayal of reality. Until this truth is more widely realized, the fallacy that science is any kind of alternative to religion will continue to be believed and people will continue to erroneously reason, "God doesn't exist because I don't think he has to."


Now that scientists have humbly returned to admitting there are still unknowns in the universe, does science again require God to fill in the blanks? Even if so, should God be used to fill in the blanks?

Here is an opportunity to avoid the same misconception that got God thrown out of the picture the first time. Just as it is presumptuous for a high school student to answer an algebra question with the words "God only knows", it is just as presumptuous for the scientist to substitute his or her own ignorance with concluding miraculous intervention. Ignorance of the universe is not proof that God exists and should not be invoked as such. Logically speaking, if God exists, he exists regardless of whether or not we need him to exist, whether or not we want him to exist, and whether or not we perceive him to exist.

Not unlike their theistic counterparts of medieval times, modern non-theistic scientists now invoke their own deities of time and chance to fill in for what they cannot prove and cannot explain. Since there are no transitional forms to prove macro evolution, for example, evolution is still a certainty for this simple assumption: "Given enough time and chance, anything (!) can happen." Fish turn into men, monkeys type out Shakespeare, tornadoes assemble mobile homes, and evidence-vacant theories turn into never-to-be-questioned facts.

As for the nineteenth-century theists who invoked God to answer unanswerable questions, they were not necessarily displaying any relationship with the God of the Bible. They more than likely had faith merely in the idea of a god. Their faith may have been based on lack of information instead of knowledge of the truth.

What determinists should have accepted is that the only reason to believe anything is by that which is known, not by that which is unknown. Similarly, our belief in God should not be based on what we don't know, rather it should be based on what we do know. Belief in God should be based on the knowledge of the revelation of Jesus Christ and the evidence in and of the Bible.



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NEXT: part two - Is science an alternative to religion?

See also:

The war of philosophies

The Bible and scientific accuracy

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The idea that science is an alternative to religion is very popular. Believing that to be so merely indicates how little one knows about science or religion.

This is the history of the science vs. religion debate.