I had an interesting conversation the other day with a wonderful man, who happens to be Baptist minister. We couldn’t be more different, yet we get along well. He is an intelligent man with degrees in Divinity – a gifted and articulate biblical scholar and preacher. Every once in a while we get into conversations about religion. He is an enigma to me in the sense that he is a well read and educated man who is a literalist – he believes that everything in the bible literally. He doesn’t believe in the Big Bang, evolution or any science that contradicts the literal contents of the Bible. For example, he believes in talking serpents and that the universe was created in 6 days.
This past week the big news in science was that the first direct evidence of dark matter was revealed. Positrons, the result of dark matter collisions had been discovered by an instrument in space, consistent with the theory as proposed by physicists and mathematicians. We live in a time of unprecedented scientific breakthrough. For example, scientists have identified the Boson Particle (the “God particle”) which is a key building block to all matter. We almost routinely are discovering planets outside of our solar system that could support life similar to Earth’s. Our lives have been revolutionized by the application of scientific principles to information processesing. In fact, we are on the verge of building the first cellular computer – a living computer built by living cells and far more powerful than any computer currently existing.
Yet, in the midst of all this scientific progress we have people, like my friend, who deny scientific discoveries such as the Big Bang, or laboratory techniques that determine the age of artifacts – in fact all of the science that is routinely encountered in every day life! Now many of these people can simply be dismissed as ignorant or uneducated (or simply Republican). Yet how do we explain someone like my friend who has a faith incompatible with reality? Some say that religious faith is inconsistent with intelligent, educated people. Certainly there are a large number of Americans that fit that description – otherwise known as the religious right.
Getting back to my friend, the Baptist minister, I felt bad for him in the sense that his faith seemed so fragile that he had to deny science and the practical applications of science in his everyday life. I was left shaking my head when he went on and on about talking snakes, Adam and Eve, etc., etc. etc.
All I could tell him was that I was glad that my faith did not depend on denying reality. There is nothing inconsistent about faith and science. But there is something destructive about a faith that denied science.