This is part of a series entitled “Examining Evolution” in which I will look at the evidence for and objections against evolution in an attempt to reconcile the Scientific and Religious spheres.
I have often been so inclined to designate Galileo, perhaps in jest, as my “would-be grandfather” in another life. Regardless of the unforeseeable implications of such a musing, there is nevertheless a foundation of reason upon which it is based. For I do believe that this Italian scientist has provided a strong case for the relationship between religion and science that I often cite to this day.
As many have learned in their years of high school history, Galileo acted as a turning point in both science and society at the start of the Scientific Revolution. Copernicus had before proposed a heliocentric universe; however, he had proposed the new model only as an ex suppositione, a mere mathematical ‘game’ with no claim grounded in reality, and as a result the Church did not take direct action against him. By publishing his Dialogues Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in Italian instead of Latin, however, Galileo made clear his disagreement with the conclusions of the Church’s scientists. He was adamant that his model of the universe was supported not only by abstract mathematical principles but by the concrete make-up of the universe as perceived by his senses.
In the present day we have arrived at a similar dilemma, not with regards to the sun but with regards to the earth- Evolution. Science and Religion have yet again come into conflict over this theory, battle lines are forming, and forts created on each side. Some claim that evolution is irreconcilable with the Genesis account of creation and a duel ensues over who to trust more- the bible or science.
Using Galileo’s “Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany”, the basic principles of biblical exegesis, and the scientific process, I would like to altogether extinguish this faulty premise so that both the science and the religious world may progress despite this colloquial spat.
The fallacy lies in the question: Who to trust more: the bible or science? Galileo certainly did not see this as the question we should be asking. He states,
Pay close attention to what Galileo is proposing. He explains that the people offering up biblical objections to his scientific ideas are merely using the bible as a defense for their preconceived notions. Furthermore, that these people understand neither the science they are trying to disprove nor the passages from Scripture they are pretending to use.
I once heard a man lecture on this very same issue and I heard something that caused me to metaphorically hurl the desk at him; he said that the Bible must be trusted more than science because science involves interpretation whereas the Bible does not. How uneducated of a statement is this? If the Bible is straight forward and never interpreted, why do we have so many different denominations in the Church all claiming to base their mutually exclusive doctrines on the same Scriptures?
Clearly, the Bible may be interpreted in different ways depending on an individual’s context, experience, and their own presuppositions. This is why I have a problem with people claiming various scientific theories to be false merely on biblical authority- because in fact, they are not appealing to biblical authority, but rather to their own authority. Galileo explains that “The holy Bible can never speak untruth” but that “if one were always to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning, one might fall into error”. This is not to say that one should never interpret the Scriptures or use them to support their reasoning, but rather to make clear the logical distinction and to humble oneself because, (and I apologize profusely if this does shock you) you might be wrong.
But what about science? Is science the missing piece of the puzzle, the perfect method for gaining knowledge despite personal bias? Many today would say yes. This, I believe, is very ignorant even if you simply consider the scientific process. Science is not nature. Science is our best understanding of nature. There is much we still do not know and theories that we have now may be destroyed and reassembled when new evidence comes along. Data taken from experiments may easily be misrepresented or misunderstood. Conclusions drawn may have to be removed if they do not follow logically from results.
So what does all this mean? Again, Galileo summarizes well: “the holy Bible and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine Word, the former as the dictate of the Holy Ghost and the latter as the observant executrix of God’s commands”. Not only did Galileo move sense perception to the same level as the Bible, he says he may do this because he believes in a God who reveals through the senses and that he may trust these senses because of the good nature of this God.
This is essential because it suggests that the conflict is not between science and scripture, but between interpretations of the bible and sense perception– both of which may falter and need to be carefully examined.
If (and this is a huge if) you believe the Bible to be true, and something seems to be in conflict between what it says and what science says, the conclusion ought not to automatically be that science has gotten it wrong. For both you and the scientist have a limited understanding of God’s world; if something seems askew, they must be able to be reconciled as different revelations from the same Divine Will.
And this is what it comes down to. God created nature and God revealed his words to us. If there is a contradiction between them it means we have to work harder in both fields to ensure we have an accurate interpretation of Scripture and an accurate interpretation of our sense perception as dictated by the Scientific Process.
Over the course of the next few weeks I shall be attempting to do this very thing with the very controversial theory of evolution. I will be looking at it from a biblical, scientific, and cultural perspectives. I obviously do not claim expert opinion in any of these fields, but rather wish to document my own exploration into them. If you would like to keep up to date, please subscribe to this blog and you will be notified with the publication of new posts.
- Alexandra Kytka