Serving Christians Seeking to Live a Holy Life

Science and Christianity

Leon L. Combs, Ph.D. (Chemical Physics)
October 2001

Compartmentalization is the concept that a person can have many different internal attributes to his total being such as religious, political, sexual, scientific, professional, etc. and that none of them overlap. Such a situation is illustrated below.

The above is a depiction of a totally nonintegrated person, a person without integrity. An integrated person, or a person of integrity, would have all areas overlapping, or with connectivity lines indicated as in the figure below.

We hear people say that someone's personal life is his/her business and should not affect his/her political life. Does anyone really believe that compartmentalization is a practical reality? Can a person's worldview, which is shaped by all of the different aspects of his/her personality, really not affect job function? Does character really not matter in the job performance of a person? I presume that it is perfectly obvious that I don't believe that compartmentalization is a viable choice for living in the real world. What affects my moral choices also affects my daily performance in whatever task that I am doing. Character really does matter!!!!

Most of what follows has to do with some scientific thinking, but please understand that the same type of comments apply to any area of anyone's life. It is hypocritical for anyone in any work to think that he/she can compartmentalize his/her life. Please think carefully about your own daily life and the daily life of people in important positions in our country. Please reject the concept of compartmentalization and work to make your own life as integrated as possible.

So what does all of this discussion have to do with science and Christianity? Since I don't believe that compartmentalization is a viable choice, that decision also affects the interaction of my science and my religion. My science can be described as molecular physics and my religion is Christianity. If one is a practicing compartmentalist and says that he/she is a Christian, there is a fundamental problem with that person, for Christianity is about one's personal life in all of its activities. The Bible speaks to all of our lives: our work, relationships, finances, health, what we say, where we go, what we do, etc. So a scientist who says that he/she is a Christian must be concerned about how science and religion interact. The basis for Christianity is the absolute truth about the Bible, the entire Bible. So to be a Christian I have to accept the Bible as absolute truth. As a scientist I search for absolute truth on the molecular level. The two truths must coincide, or one or both is/are not the truth! Since, as a Christian I accept the Bible as the absolute truth, any result from science that contradicts Scripture must be incorrect. This gives the scientist a paradigm for approaching all of his/her studies.

Not all areas of scientific investigation run into possible conflicts with Biblical truth on a regular basis. I spent many years with no conflicts as I did quantum mechanical and statistical calculations on molecular systems. It is certainly possible to study such systems with those techniques without being concerned about possible conflicts with Biblical truth, and I chose to do that. However, for a scientist who is a Christian, the moments of discovery about the molecular world become a time of worship. Before the discovery, only God knew what was about to be discovered. At the moment of discovery, God has revealed suddenly another aspect of the molecular world and we see more of His work in the marvelous creation into which He has placed us. A time of awe and wonder as we see another aspect of the creation turns to this wonderful moment of worship.

However if one starts thinking about the fundamental postulates of quantum mechanics and the philosophical implications of them, one can quickly get into a conflict situation. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle informs us that we cannot know simultaneously both the energy and the position of an atomic or subatomic particle. With the advent of quantum mechanics, the concept of absolute certainty disappeared. We solve the Schroedinger equation for a system and we arrive at the energy and the wave function. Since we know the energy exactly, we can only know many other characteristics of the system probabilistically. With no absolute certainty, we can then not even determine what is real. To the scientist who is a Christian, the disappearance of deterministic reality is no problem for the Bible actually defines reality in 2 Cor 4:18:

"while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." From this Scripture verse we see that for something to be real it must have an infinite lifetime, otherwise it is of temporary existence and thus not real in the long-term sense. The non-Christian scientist is left in a quandary about what is real.

Since we cannot know everything about a particle simultaneously, can God? Or is God limited in His knowledge as we are by the science with which we work. Well, God is the creator of the universe (Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth") and thus the author of all the scientific principles with which we now work in our investigations. If God is omniscient, as Scripture states, then to know everything He must work outside of the discovered scientific principles with which we work. The Scripture itself states in Deut 29:29:

"The secret things belong to the \Lord\ our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law."

So the secret things belong to God. The Scripture states that indeed all is not revealed for us. It therefore is of no problem to us that God can know things that we can't because of the limitations of the revealed science with which we work.

What about some conflicts? Well, was Jesus really born of a virgin? The concept seems totally ridiculous to us utilizing only the scientist compartment. But if God is really the creator of the universe and the One who founded the physics and chemistry upon which we depend for our rudimentary investigations, then He can certainly work outside of the revealed science with which we work. Also remember that the Scripture states that Jesus is God. The Bible teaches that the one God is a triune being: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That concept also is really beyond our grasp. However, we believe it is so and so it was God the Father and the Holy Spirit who were involved with the virgin birth of Jesus in a human form. Therefore we scientists who are Christians have no problem with God being born of a virgin as Jesus of Nazareth. He did this seemingly impossible event using unrevealed science.

What about the resurrection of Jesus? He was killed on a cross. He actually died, and three days later he was resurrected. Again, we apply the same principles as above and we scientists who are Christians have no problem with God as Jesus being resurrected from the dead. God the Father and God the Holy Spirit were involved in raising the body of Jesus from a physically dead state using unrevealed science. We Christians only have a problem with the resurrection of Jesus if we utilize only the scientist compartment.

What about some other areas of apparent conflict? The creation story of Genesis and modern evolutionary theories seem to be in conflict. Is theistic evolution a possibility? Personally I don't think that the Bible allows for theistic evolution, but I know a number of scientists who are Christians and who take that view. Are the evolutionary theories actually correct? There is no direct evidence for transitory evolutionary changes and certainly nobody can go collect data of the proposed changes. The age of the universe as determined by an interpretation of Genesis using days, as actual 24-hour periods of time, and the geological dating of the earth certainly appear to be in conflict. Perhaps the 24-hour period of dating is not correct. Perhaps the 24-hour dating only happens after the fourth day when the sun and the moon are stated as being placed into a dating position. Perhaps there is a problem also with some of the geological dating. Certainly dating principles are based upon the zero-time state concentration of the isotopes as being the same as the concentration now and there could be a problem there. What is the truth in these cases and other cases? Well, as a Christian, I have to say the Bible alone has the absolute truth. The conflict has to be an apparent conflict due to several possibilities. There is much room for error all around, and all I can say at this point is that when the absolute truth about the Biblical story of creation and the absolute truth of the worldly view of the origin of all the species are known, there will be no conflict.

What is this unrevealed science that is needed to totally understand our environment? Well, since it is unrevealed we cannot know it! The world calls events that occur in spite of their violation of known scientific principles miracles. Jesus worked many miracles when He was here on earth to prove to the followers that He indeed was God and that He was truly in control of all of the revealed and unrevealed science. If you have a problem with this concept of an unrevealed science, then think about the world prior to 1900, before the development of quantum mechanics. Prior to that time, the scientists thought that they had all of the principles needed to explain the universe. Then some discoveries showed that Newtonian mechanics could not explain many physical observables that people were beginning to make. It took a few years for many scientists to actually believe that a new science was even needed, much less to accept it as a new truth. Then the advent of statistical mechanics with the Boltzmann equation (S = klnw) led to another conflict in science, as scientists would not accept this new science either. This equation is now on Boltzmann's tombstone as it was proven to be correct after his suicide due to not being able to deal with the severe criticisms poured on him by his fellow scientists. Scientists can be very cruel in their defense of their principles upon which all of their life's work is based! So hindsight tells us that there was an undiscovered, or unrevealed, science prior to 1900, so why should we have doubts about there being more unrevealed science? We already know that there is a conflict with relativistic quantum mechanics and relativistic Newtonian mechanics, so we are now in a state of knowing that we still don't have the whole scientific picture of the universe.

What types of medical discoveries would be made if the researchers actually believed that mankind was originally created perfect and that our present state is a perturbation of that state? Rather than thinking that some bimolecular process evolved into a more ordered process, perhaps the process actually started perfectly and has deteriorated to its current state. I think we can see that a mindset can actually determine the direction of a research project and, depending upon one's worldview, a completely opposite direction for discovery might result.

Will God allow further progress to be made in science, so that more unrevealed science will be discovered? Of course, I don't know. All I know is that we must trust God in His infinite wisdom to reveal what He knows that we need at any particular time in the history of the universe.

I do believe that it is only the scientist who is a Christian and who therefore knows that the Bible is the only unchanging source of absolute truth who can make consistent, real progress in scientific investigations. Some examples of successful scientists who were/are Christians are: Sir Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, Robert Boyle, George Washington Carver, Michael Faraday, Louis Pasteur, Wright Brothers, Samuel Morse, Crawford Long (discoverer of anesthesia), Sir Arthur Eddington, Galileo Galilei, John Dalton, Carl Linnaeus, Josiah Willard Gibbs, Sir Humphrey Davy, Blaise Pascal, Lord Kelvin, John Ambrose Fleming, Michael Faraday, Ampere, Jean Henri Fabre (entomology), George Gabriel Stokes, Gregor Mendel, Edward William Morley, Roger Bacon, Professor Fritz Schaefer, and Francis Collins, the current National Institute of Health director of the human genome project. Einstein seems to have been a deist rather than a theist. There is a very interesting quote of Einstein "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." The non-Christian scientist could, of course, come to the same conclusion as the Christian, but such an event would be fortuitous, or God-directed without the knowledge or consent of the scientist. The scientist who refuses some direction in a scientific study because it is in conflict with Biblical truth will be rewarded with a more complete vision of reality.

Some other well-known people who were/are Christians include: Truett Cathy - founder Chick-Fil-A; Sam Walton - founder, Walmart; Dave Thomas - founder, Wendy's; Zig Ziggler - motivational speaker; Cecil Day* - founder Day's Inn; Johnny Cash - country musician; Elizabeth Dole - director, American Red Cross; Clarence Thomas - U.S. Supreme Court Judge; Abraham Lincoln* - U.S. President; Jesse Owens* - professional track athlete; Jackie Joyner-Kersee - professional track athlete; Gail Devers - professional track athlete; John Smoltz - professional baseball player; Pete Maravich* - professional basketball player; Dikembe Mutombo - professional basketball player; Bobby Bowden - college football coach; Tom Landry - former professional football coach; Dan Reeves - professional football coach; Reggie White - former professional football player; Emmitt Smith - professional football player; Chuck Norris - actor, "Walker Texas Ranger"; etc.

Don't utilize compartmentalization in your thinking patterns. A person's religion should be of paramount importance in the development of his/her worldview, so don't be afraid to consciously and openly utilize it. Whatever your profession or field of study, be honest with yourself and be a person of integrity.


Web Author: Dr. Leon L. Combs
Copyright 2001 by Dr. Leon L. Combs - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED