This August, I begin a new chapter in my career. After many years of working in the secular school system, I will be joining a faith-based school as a science/ math curriculum coordinator. This position will be a new challenge for me. I have wrestled with reconciling my university education in science and my conversion to Christianity afterward. Nevertheless, I have learned to harmonize the two.
Many years ago, when I told my non-believer father I was getting baptized, he questioned my science undergrad study as wasted. You see, my father regarded religion as foolish. Even though he never studied science, he believed dinosaur fossils proved evolution. So there was no creator of the world. And science seems to be at odds with the stories in the bible. God’s miraculous work seems too incredible with our knowledge of the natural sciences. Like my father, many people today put their trust in science. They consider science and religion opposites that cannot coexist. But I beg to differ.
Science and faith are two ways to look at reality or truth. Science is the study of methods through hypothesizing, experimenting, and gathering empirical data to form plausible arguments. And this rigorous process of determining the truth is central to all sciences. It reminds me of the old saying, “seeing is believing.”
On the other hand, faith is believing the absolute truth comes from the Word of God. Faith is also about accepting what we cannot see (2 Cor 5:7; Hebrews 11:1). In this way, the method of discovering truth comes from not what we witness but from studying the bible. Therefore, truth is the crux of both science and faith. A Christian will not refute observable, testable evidence from science. At the same time, that person can accept the certainty of God’s Word without observation.
Where the grey area comes between the two is the interpretation of scientific evidence contradicting the truth revealed in the bible. For some people, the default is science beats faith. However, the Christians will maintain their faith which sometimes can be challenging. I consider two things in science that have helped me accept these grey areas of interpretation.
First, science is not always constant. Science has been proven wrong over time in light of new evidence and data. Early scientists believed the earth was the center of the universe, made up of only four elements. Today we know the earth revolves around the sun and has 118 elements. More recently, we’ve seen errors in vaccine efficacy rates due to new variations of COVID. Therefore, we can see historically and today that the “truth” in science is changeable.
Secondly, science always has a margin of error. Even when an experiment is under controlled situations, possibilities of human error and unpredictable factors can occur. In statistics, there is always a chance that an alternative hypothesis is a reality. Therefore scientific research data is consistently reported with a certain percentage of confidence. The scientific community requires a high confidence level in the research data for publication. Even if the research establishes the likelihood to be 99% possible, there is a 1% chance for a different explanation.
You may wonder why anyone would accept that 1% as reality. As one grows in faith, one realizes that 1% reflects our world more accurately. Over the years, I have witnessed, and heard answered prayers, miraculous healings, and events that cannot be coincidental. As we grow to know the application of God’s precepts in life, we see that spiritual laws are very trustworthy.
So I would say that even though both science and faith pursue truth, science is limited by the tools it employs. And faith is grounded in an assurance that has not and will not be proven wrong.