Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Startling Irony

Irony is defined as a state of affairs or an event that seems contrary to what one would expect. Our focus on the proliferation of data and the resultant increase in knowledge resulting from the recent Digital Revolution triggers a question concerning beliefs of professional scientists: With the exponential increase in scientific understanding of our world and their ability to rapidly expand the use of technology, how has belief in God as the Creator of all things and the fount of knowledge been affected?

Statistics point to a startling irony. In a 1998 survey of American Academy of Science members, only 7% possessed a personal belief in God. Other organizations report a smaller percentage of scientists possess a personal belief in God. Science professionals demonstrate far less belief in God as creator and sustainer than non-scientists. Scientists are familiar with fine tuned physical constants governing our universe as well as characteristics of matter and the laws of nature. They did not invent the constants, characteristics, and laws. Rather, they discovered and applied them. God created the matter, as well as the constants, characteristics, and laws. In effect, the Creator of all things instructs scientists, “Now, go to work. I have supplied the raw materials and your tool kit for discovery and application.”

Science is not an invention of men. It is God’s gift to men. Humanity is no more intelligent now than he was in the days when the Old Testament Book of Job was written, but we are currently awash in technological advances. The Scientific Revolution beginning in the 16th century was supported by the collective discovery of many gifted giants of scientific intellect. The Digital Revolution or Digital Age, often called the Information Age from mid-20th century to the present, was coincident with the population explosion of the last two centuries. It is a startling irony that belief in God has generally decreased among science professionals. 

We do not diminish the wondrous achievements of gifted human scientists including those who possess faith in God and those who do not. But we are troubled by the tendency of the vast majority to favor self-recognition and self-empowerment over a creative entity beyond themselves. If there is justifiable pride in their accomplishments, we commend them. We are saddened, however, by unbelief which prevents acknowledgement of the Creator governing and sustaining “all things.” Increased knowledge of science need not undermine belief in God. Instead, it should enhance belief.

A similar irony relates to the popular conception reported by Christianity Today that “Overall, people with high IQs and test scores are less likely to be religious.” CT cautioned against placing too much weight on these findings. There may be an implicit bias in their reporting. Sociologist Frank Furedi correctly questions the value of such a project where “science research turns into advocacy research.” Many argue that smart folks including scientists reject religion, but scripture disputes that statement: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” (Psalm 111:10 NIV) 

The disbelief of the majority of secular scientists is troubling. In contrast, a famous Psalm 19 passage addresses an observable theological truth: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4 NIV)