Science and faith aren’t exclusive

The debate between faith and science is no longer black and white.

That notion became clear last Thursday when USC hosted John Lennox, a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, as part of a Veritas Forum discussion. These discussions, which are a series of events that bring together students and faculty, discuss questions of faith and its relevance to our daily lives.

Jovanna Tosello | Daily Trojan

Though many believe faith and science are incompatible, Lennox said he believes God created the universe, not despite the evidence, but because of the evidence.

Scientific evidence has led many to conclude there is no God. Yet, the same evidence has also led scientists to conclude there has to be a God, or more specifically, some sort of rational mind behind the creation of the universe.

In a debate with former Oxford professor Peter Atkins, a prominent chemist and self-proclaimed atheist, Lennox said, “God is an agent who causes the universe to exist. Science explains mechanisms, and the existence of mechanisms certainly doesn’t provide an argument — to my mind — for the absence of an agent who designed the mechanisms.”

Peter Atkins has said before a scientist who believes in God is “only half a scientist.”

But for Lennox, there is no dichotomy between science and God. The two, he insists, can coexist without sacrificing the objectivity of the scientific method or forcing scientists to abandon their belief that water once turned into wine.

Still, the false dilemma — faith in religion or faith in science — continues to circulate.

The battle isn’t between religion and science; it’s between two interpretations of the same scientific evidence.

Peter Atkins has said before that a scientist who believes in God is “only half a scientist,” and academia generally shares this disdain.

Rhetoric like this has overshadowed the arguments scientists like Lennox present, which are grounded in evidence, not blind ideology.

Look at how academia has stonewalled the intelligent design theory, which holds that the origin of man is best explained by intelligent cause, as opposed to  natural selection.

It’s not because those who propagate intelligent design lack scientific evidence. On the contrary, scientists like Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute base the intelligent design theory on cutting-edge biological science, looking at the digital code and other properties of DNA and RNA.

Scientists say this evidence fundamentally challenges materialistic theories of life’s origin.

In one such article, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,”  Meyer argues no current materialistic theory of evolution can explain the origin of the information necessary to create humans.

Meyer, therefore, offers intelligent design as an alternative explanation for the origin of biological information.

Meyer’s conclusion is based on objective evidence, not on religious motivation, although religious implications logically follow.

The intelligent design theory is propagated by men and women who are not in any way sub-par scientists or small-minded. Yet academia still refuses to credit their work.

Science has been glorified as an objective way to examine the universe.

The aggression and vigilance with which academia tries to discredit those who incorporate God into science or epistemology is not based on objective consideration of the evidence.

Instead, scientists with no religious background might often jump to conclusions without considering the contributions faith can make in the fields of science and technology.

Before condemning scientists that incorporate religion into their field of study, perhaps leading academia can make an effort to understand the connection between faith and science — a continuously  intertwined relationship in today’s age.


Jordan Lee is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and Chinese.

18 replies
  1. ponyta
    ponyta says:

    This article should have been written two weeks ago on April Fool’s Day. Surely a USC student can’t be so ignorant as to think that intelligent design actually happened.

  2. Brad Canelo
    Brad Canelo says:

    I personally don’t believe in religion but I do believe in a higher power for the reason of our existence… as for the reason we were put here, can only be answered by science and NOT by believing in [a] superstitious being(s)!

  3. Ras
    Ras says:

    Articles like this religious fluff piece is just an updated, modernized version of dissertations hundreds of years ago that claimed the existence of witches, moral obligation of virgin sacrifices and insistence the sun revolves around the earth. Over time the religious merely has to update their positions in the face of overwhelming scientific facts or else even they would have to admit they have become irrelevant. The article starts out by stating “The debate between faith and science is no longer black and white.” Really? If that one event has now convinced you that we live in a universe where the supernatural exists then your credulity is shameful.

    BTW, does the religious not find it amazing how there are so many “brands” of religion that are incompatible with each other. Often times you will witness more fierce opposition from self proclaimed religious people with other self proclaimed religious people. The debate is they believe THEIR God is the “real” god. Are we really still such superstitious natives? Isn’t it also amazing that these brands of Gods also happen to fall along boundaries on a map that often times are man made? Sort of makes you wonder if the creation of God is man made as well.

    Because Science time and time again in history has made past religious beliefs simply look foolish, the best religion can do now is claim a draw or say the discussion between religion and science is not black and white. The best they can hope for is inserting some fuzzy logic into the discourse. BTW, for every John McCain and Sarah Palin who sees the hand of god in the majestic Grand Canyon, do they also admit they see the hand of God in Hurricane Katrina or tsunamis in Japan? Or is this part of god tempered by the platitude of his “mysterious ways”? Yeah, mysterious as in seems like he doesn’t exist.

    What is wrong with simply saying there are things in the world that we do know or understand yet? Isn’t that the beauty of science? If we admit what we don’t know and not pretend to know things we can NOT yet know – that is the first step in the pursuit of discovery. The religious is starting off by saying they know how it all started so therefore no need for more answers – their bible explains it all in Genesis. If we left the world up to the religious, we would still be dying of polio and clasping our hands in prayer as a valid medical remedy.

    I would love to know WHO’s god Lennox thinks “is an agent who causes the universe to exist…” Seems when it comes to religion there are numerous Almighties to choose from. Imagine building a skyscraper, bridge or airplane based on one’s own personal theory of physics and engineering. And imagine the only rationale offered is that – well this is what I truly believe. And also imagine if challenging that “personal” methodology of building airplanes and structures was met with horrified, deeply offended people looking for protection under our stupefying, politically over-correct society? When stuff really matters, we fall back on science – when we have the luxury of make-believe unicorn dust that just makes us feel better, we have religion.

  4. Science Grad Student
    Science Grad Student says:

    While I have a decided opinion about this topic that I could discuss at length, I would rather point out some of the issues I have with the structure of this article. If you are writing an opinion piece, especially one aimed at a scientific audience, there are certain things that need to be considered and addressed. They are as follows, in no particular order:

    1. Strong evidence.
    2. Multiple credible sources.
    3. Persuasive writing.

    As for 1 and 2, this article is sadly lacking. The only evidence cited is one article written by a person who would not be considered credible to scientists. Stating that an article (like the one written by Mr. Meyer) is an objective look at scientific evidence when it is written by someone employed by a political think-tank is just not correct. Political think-tanks have agendas; that is their reason for existing–to further an agenda. That means they approach things from an inherently biased standpoint. When Mr. Meyer looked at the body of evidence, he did so through intelligent design goggles. Obviously, he would see what he wanted to see. Furthermore, for a source to be credible, I would expect them to be an expert in their field. However, Mr. Meyer has a degree in the history of science, and has done research in geology. As such, I would not consider his commentary on biological sciences to be of high quality.

    When it comes to 3 (which would be a result of 1 and 2), I’m really disappointed. I’m personally fascinated with this kind of debate, but statements made by proponents of faith tend to lack any convincing support. Just stating that there are real scientists out there who have found support for intelligent design does nothing to convince anyone of anything. What are their names? Who are they working for? Where can I read their published articles?

    Finally, I am really bothered by the statement about the “aggression” and “vigilance” of scientists. The goal of science is to discover the truth, whatever that may be. That means that new ideas are subjected to scrutiny from the scientific community. If these ideas are found lacking in sufficient evidence or logic, they are rejected. This provides for a system where the body of information that survives this process can be considered to be taken as fact (which distinctly separates scientific theories from things taken on faith). This doesn’t mean that all ideas that are initially rejected are wrong; it just means that scientists need to keep working, get better data, and resubmit their theories. So this vigilance, that is portrayed in a negative light in this article, is really a reflection of the passion of scientists to know how the natural world actually works. If scientists find enough evidence that supports intelligent design, then it will be adopted as fact by the scientific community. Until then, it will be criticized with the same rigor as any other theory that lacks sufficient proof.

    I guess that’s it. Keep up the debate!

  5. ARL
    ARL says:

    The point is scientists who believe in God or gods, like Francis Ayala, MUST leave God or gods out of their science.

    Science is all about the natural world. The supernatural world is, by definition, not measurable by science. Science can have no opinion on that which it cannot submit to the scientific method. (ID invokes supernatural phenomena, hence, it is not science and is rightly regarded as out-of-bounds in science, despite the ID supporters persistent denial that this is what they are invoking. It was also thoroughly vetted by scientists in the 19th century and determined to be unscientific. For a respectful discussion of ID among scientists, see letters between Charles Darwin and Asa Gray.)

    When it comes to science, scientists who maintain a religious faith must reason and publish as scientists, completely leaving God or gods out.

    What they do in their personal lives, on Saturday or Sunday or Friday nights or during the festival of Holi, is up to them.

  6. Slightly Put-Out Hatter
    Slightly Put-Out Hatter says:

    This is a wonderfully written piece about an often overlooked and ridiculed part of the debate.
    While this author is quite clearly biased, he is neither demeaning nor unnecessarily condescending, choosing rather to submit his opinion with a few reasons he holds to such. Sadly, as representation of the opposing view, we have condescending arrogance which is supposed to somehow cow and embarrass the other side into silence, exactly what was being pointed out in this article (as if the author needed more proof of this dogmatic attitude). How sad that such juvenile, playground-esque bullying and moronic name-calling is sometimes effective. It is possible, I have seen in the past, to think someone’s ideas are without merit without being dismissive of their ability to reason, however that would require that facts are employed and thought is required. Is it truly too much to request? Have Darwinists truly evolved so little from their ape-ish ancestors that such things are an impossibility and they must resort to the verbal equivalent of throwing feces?

    (For ARL, since you were more reasonable than your peers: for the record, a theistic scientist must, as a rule, begin at a God, therefore said person must believe in a sort of intelligent design, whether or not it would be called such. Anyone who does not yet still claims the title of theistic scientist or even the belief in God is clearly lying to the world and possibly himself.)

  7. Monica
    Monica says:

    First of all, I want to echo Anon and applaud you Jonathan for being courageous enough to write this article. I love that this country values the importance of free speech, and the importance of agreeing to disagree.

    Let me say this first, I have no intention to bash either sides. Alhough the arguments made by the Intelligent Design “theory” are reasonable, in my opinion, it’s very difficult to count it as a scientific theory–especially since it cannot be tested or observed directly. On the same note, this is also true for the theory of macroevolution, so your argument is kind of valid, the majority of the scientific academia is, ironically, not impartial on faith-related issues.

    I am a science major at USC, and I’m one of the people who believe science and faith are not exclusive. But with that said, faith is not, and never will be, science. And it shouldn’t be, because faith is exactly that: believing without seeing. And science is about using observations and tests to explain how things work they way they do, not who made them work. I personally believe that science is a gift from God and a tool he gave us to understand our surroundings and appreciate his creations. I love studying and using these tools but I would never try to prove his existence with them.

    So in short, while it’s a tragedy that atheistic and theistic scientists can’t come around to respect and understand each other, it’s just doesn’t make sense, in my opinion, to try to prove faith with science.

    • seriously??
      seriously?? says:

      Could not agree more. Thanks! Nice to see not all scientists are out to bash those with faith. One cannot explain the other by mere definition, but that doesn’t mean one person cannot “believe” in both science and religion. I’ve met too many atheists who are quick to denounce what they don’t understand, and I wish there were more open-minded people like you out there, Monica!

  8. Anon
    Anon says:

    I’m glad someone was courageous enough to write this article. Thank you Jordan Lee for giving credence to those who are continually silenced in today’s schizophrenically atheistic academia.

  9. Diane
    Diane says:

    The very virulence with which anyone is attacked when they posit the existence of a Designer does seem to indicate at least a modicum of fear on the part of those who refuse to consider said existence. How very narrow-minded.

  10. Human Ape
    Human Ape says:

    “Before condemning scientists that incorporate religion into their field of study, perhaps leading academia can make an effort to understand the connection between faith and science — a continuously intertwined relationship in today’s age.”

    Wow mister. Scientists don’t incorporate religion into anything.

    “Jordan Lee is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and Chinese.”

    Mr. Lee, why do you think your worthless journalism and chinese make you qualified to say anything about science? You don’t even know what science is. Learn how to shut up what you know nothing about, unless you enjoy being ridiculed.

    • seriously??
      seriously?? says:

      Personal attacks really give you an edge there, ape.

      Clearly you know nothing about THE WORLD if you think a journalism degree is worthless. Lee and anyone else with a degree in journalism is probably more well-versed in a much wider range of topics than you’ll ever be, including politics, crime, economics, history, philanthropy, sociology, and yes, even math and science. That’s the magic of journalism: you learn about everything.

      And this article is very well-thought out and uses amazingly credible sources, so Lee isn’t just pulling this stuff out of his arse. Thank you Jordan for saying what so many of us were already thinking and for doing it so eloquently!

      As for you ape, “Scientists don’t incorporate religion into anything.” Seriously? DID YOU NOT READ THE ARTICLE? Unless you don’t consider an Oxford science professor and atheist a scientist. Get your head out of your own arse and learn to read. The whole point of this article was to show that science can take religion into account, and as an educated Catholic, I can say a lot of religion takes science into account. We’re not living in Biblic times anymore. Welcome to the 21st century.

    • Freedom
      Freedom says:

      Firstly, the name Jordan can either refer to a male or female. Secondly, a person shouldn’t criticize someone who they know hardly anything about. That would be judging… though I suppose everyone does that. Is it good? No.

  11. Human Ape
    Human Ape says:

    “theistic scientist”

    There are no theistic scientists. There is no theism in science. If some tard invokes theism he’s a Bible thumper, not a scientist.

  12. ARL
    ARL says:

    You sounded like perfectly reasonable theistic scientist until you got to so-called “intelligent design.”

    A theistic scientist believes in God or gods, but does not reject evidence that disagrees with dogma. Such a scientist recognizes that you cannot put God or gods in a test tube.

    Although a religious scientist might intuit a designer as a matter of personal belief, he or she would never suggest that such a position has scientific validity or support.

    There is no evidence that any disinterested observer would agree proves a designer.

    ID It’s not science, period.

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