Science and Religion

"... since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular explanation only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it be proved with certainty to be false, lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing."
-- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (1273)

"It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation."
--St. Augustine (354-430 CE), De Genesi ad literam 1:19.20, Chapt. 19 [408]

"I've done everything the Bible says - even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! What more could I do?"
-- Ned Flanders (from the Simpsons)


Is it possible to debunk an object, like a coffee cup?

Is it possible to debunk a story, like Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

Is it possible to debunk the story of Noah and the Flood?

Is it possible to debunk the CLAIMS of a minority that the Flood (and everything else in the Bible including the Creation) is literally true?

Lest you think this last point is a straw man argument, see the Institute for Creation Research Tenets of Creationism

The Bible can not be literally true

  • It is impossible to hear or read ANYTHING literally, without interpretation. Every language contains idioms.
  • The Old Testament began as Aramaic oral tradition. It was written in Hebrew, translated into Greek, then into Latin, then into English. Every translator brings an interpretation to the text.
  • There is no such thing as "THE" Bible. Even in English, there are several translations.
  • There are twice as many books left out of the Roman Catholic Canon as there are books included. Were some authors inspired by God while others were not? Who decided which books to include? When?
  • The Bible is incomplete. The Book of Jasher is no longer extant. It is mentioned in Joshua and 2 Samuel.
  • The recently digitized and reassembled Codex Sinaiticus shows that Mark originally ended at Chapter 16, Verse 8, with the discovery that Christ's tomb was empty. Everything after that was added by another author. How many other books of the Bible have been edited?
  • Not only do some parts of the Bible conflict with scientific evidence, but the Bible often is in conflict with itself. It is not self-consistent.
    • The famous Creation story is in Genesis Chapter 1. There is a different account of Creation in Genesis Chapter 2. They can't both be literally true.
    • Whom did Cain marry?
    • "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Exodus 22:18
    • Giants are mentioned 21 times in 19 verses
    • The Earth does not move. "The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved." Psalms 93:1 While the Sun and Moon move around the Earth. "Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
      And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day." Joshua 10:12-13
    • There are two genealogies of Jesus descending from David, one in the Gospel of Matthew 1:6-16 and the other in Luke 3:21-31. They disagree in names and number.
    • "According to Luke Jesus was born on or before 4 BCE, during the reign of Herod the Great. But Luke also said Joseph and the pregnant Mary had to go to Bethlehem for a census by Quirinius. This is reliably dated to 6 CE. Or ten years after the death of Herod." More at: Rejection of Pascal's Wager:On Herod and Quirinius
    • "It's pretty clear from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that Jesus ate the actual Passover meal (Matthew 26:2, 17-19; Mark 14:1, 12, 14, 16; Luke 22:1, 7-8, 13, 15) with his disciples on Thursday night. But John's Gospel seems to indicate that Jesus was crucified right before the Jews would partake of Passover (John 13:28; 19:14)." More at: The Chronology of Jesus' Crucifixion
    • etc., etc., etc. Find your own contradiction; it's easy.
  • There is no historical, archaeological, or geological evidence to support the existence of Moses (or Israelites in Egypt), Noah, or Jesus.

  • Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman
  • Professor Ehrman's courses available from the Teaching Company
  • Bart D. Ehrman v. William Lane Craig
  • The Contemporary Relevance of Augustine's View of Creation
  • The Literal Meaning of Genesis St. Augustine, translated by John Hammond Taylor

Why is science opposed to religion?

Science is NOT opposed to religion.

Science deals with the testable; religion deals with matters of faith.

Conflict arises only when each intrudes on the other's territory.

The idea that it is "Science vs. Religion" is due to religious folks who lack an understanding of the scientific method. (Cf. SMU campus discussions.)

Scientists seek natural (as opposed to supernatural) explanations for phenomena not because they are anti-God, but because a supernatural cause is the position of last resort -- it is a "game-ender".

E.g. Why do the planets wander? Because angels push them according to God's plan. OK, that problem is solved. Now what shall we do?

In contrast, Kepler's, Newton's, and later Einstein's explanations for planetary motion tell us much more about the Universe than just why the planets move as they do.

Pierre Simon Laplace wrote Celestial Mechanics, an enormous, five volume tome, describing the motion of the planets. When presented with a copy of some of the initial volumes, Napoleon is said to have remarked, "I see no mention of God in this work". Laplace is said to have replied, "Sir, I had no need of that hypothesis."

Creationism is not Science

Why not? Creationism is not disprovable.

This sounds like an advantage, but it makes a "theory" useless.

Creationism makes no testable predictions.

Should Creationism be taught in highschools?

Should Judeo-Christian-Muslim Creationism be taught in highschools?


... in a class on comparative religion.

NOT in science class.

And other creation myths should be taught as well: Native American, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.

Along with Scalise's theory of creation, which is not disprovable either.

A way to end the shouting matches

Don't ask "What really happened?" No one knows. No one was there.

Instead ask "What does the evidence suggest?" and "What do you believe?"

These are distinct questions. The evidence suggests that the Universe originated in a Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, and that humans evolved from simpler life forms. To deny this is irrational.

You can, however, BELIEVE that the world was created 9:00am 23 October 4004 BCE, and that dinosaur fossils were created in the ground, and that trees were created with growth rings already present, ...

You can also BELIEVE that the world was created two minutes ago, in spite of the evidence. Why would a deity do this?

Miracles? Altering Physical Law?

Analogy of two clocks.

"Intervention is imperfection."

Are scientists arrogant?

Are people with no background in science whatsoever, who do not know what evidence exists, but still claim that over one million scientists worldwide are wrong, arrogant?

Video: Cosmos - Episode 13 - Who Speaks for Earth?, by Carl Sagan (0:37:20)

Reason, Unfettered by Faith by Lawrence M. Krauss