Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 11, 1961

The Bible And Science

Gordon Wilson, Sacramento, California

When Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published in 1859, a wide-spread wave of infidelity swept through the ranks of religion, touching off a conflagration that was to rage well into the 20th century, and which has been entirely quenched at this late date. So novel and so intriguing was Darwin's particular theory of evolution that the majority of the men of science immediately accepted it without serious question. Of course now, after a cooling off period, scientists have examined Darwinism more considerately and most of them have been forced to reject it as an unreasonable philosophy. Nevertheless, the cry of "science versus the Bible" has not completely died down, but continues to echo and reverberate from certain schools and colleges in our own time.

Darwin sharpened the world's thinking about the relation between science and the Bible. Many seemed to see an unresolvable conflict here, while scores of others went to great lengths to "harmonize" the two. Some of these efforts have perhaps been worthy and commendable; others have been ridiculous. I have no intention in this paper of attempting a new harmony between science and religion, as I believe firmly that there is actually no conflict between true science and real religion. I just want to present a few observations on the subject.

What is true science? It involves absolute knowledge. There are three tests to be passed before a thing can be a scientific fact. Of course a thing may be a fact without being scientific, for science involves knowledge, and no doubt many things are true without our knowing them. But to be a scientific fact there must be first, hypothesis; second, experiment; third, demonstration. Hypothesis means theory, and no scientist calls an undemonstrated theory science. Neither does a theory become science just because certain laboratory experiments seem to give cause to the hypothesis. From the experiment must come the demonstration which can prove the theory irrefutably. For example, from the time of Copernicus many men believed the earth to be round; this was a theory, or hypothesis. Observation and experiment (even such as noting how a ship disappears over the horizon) served to confirm the theory. Then Magellan's crew sailed around the world, demonstrating that the hypothesis was correct. No scientist could ever after doubt the rotundity of the earth — in spite of the fact that a few religious teachers had committed the Bible to the idea that the earth was flat. Actually, of course, the Bible does concur that the earth is round, and was even prescientific in affirming this truth before it was known by man. As a matter of fact nothing in the Bible contradicts any fact of science; that which man can prove he knows.

There are some positions concerning the relation between science and the Bible which I regard as harmful. I shall mention first of all the position which attempts to explain the Bible on the basis of science. This position tries to find a naturalistic explanation for every event in scripture, disregarding the miraculous altogether. The parting of the Red Sea is said to have occurred because of a great wind storm, the miracles of healing were psychological, etc. The main thing wrong with this position is that it makes the Bible a book of science instead of a book of faith. The veracity of the scriptural authors is well established, so that it seems to me, we can accept their testimony regarding the miraculous without demanding a scientific explanation of something which is not in, but above, the natural realm. The Bible miracles do not contradict science because they are not in the realm of nature. If they cannot be demonstrated to modern day senses to be true, at least they cannot be demonstrated to be false. There is, therefore, no scientific reason for rejecting the testimony of eyewitnesses, and no justification for trying to scientifically explain the miraculous.

Another hurtful and extreme position is that which allies science with infidelity, under the mistaken impression that if one is a scientist he cannot believe the Bible. The truth is that, as a class, men of science feel more deeply the force of religious conviction, and are more keenly conscious of the need, innate in man, for Divine revelation, than most any other segment of society. True scientists must believe in God and His revelation; true believers in the Bible must credit the achievement of science.

When we discard all false positions, we recognize that science 'is a species of truth, as the religion of the Bible is a species of truth. Both are of progress, and both are against superstition. There is no conflict; it is not necessary to try to harmonize the word of God with science, but only to show and believe in their natural harmony.