The Conflict Between Science and Religion (Oct, 1927)
This article sounds like it could have been written today, except the authors seem more accepting of evolution.
The Conflict Between Science and Religion
A Discussion by Leaders in American Life, with an Introduction By BRUCE BARTON
Author of “The Man Nobody Knows” and “The Book Nobody Knows”
THE printing of these statements is a public service. It ought to bring us closer to the day when the absurd phrase “the conflict between science and religion” will be permanently in the discard.
When theologians presume to prescribe the boundaries of truth they put themselves in the impossible position of most of their predecessors through the Middle Ages. When scientists presume to announce that man is merely material, coming from nothing and bound nowhere, and that the universe is a meaningless riddle, they are equally out of their depth.
The real scientific spirit was exemplified by Laplace, who, having devoted his life to finding new knowledge, died exclaiming: “What we know is nothing, what we do not know is immense.” And the real religious spirit is Kant’s, who looks at the firmament above, and the moral nature within, and bows his head in reverent awe.
Jesus had no conflict with scientists. His conflict was with theologians who by their usurpation and their formalism shut people off from direct intercourse with God.
The great battles which have divided the church have all been over matters He regarded as unimportant. Jesus did not stand at the door and challenge all comers with the question: “Do you believe in the Virgin birth?” He did challenge those who assumed to know all about God and everything else, and who, in their self-righteous conceit, looked down on God’s sons and daughters.
He represented God as Love and Wisdom. Little by little we are rediscovering Him. And with each step it becomes more apparent that most of the fights that have embittered the world were futile. And that life has possibilities of comradeship and mutual understanding and happiness which He saw more clearly than any one who has ever lived.
Will Durant, Ph.D.
Philosopher; Author, “The Story of Philosophy”; Director, Labor Temple School, New York
GOD, to me, is the creative power operating continuously in all the processes of growth. Religion is reverence for, and cooperation with, all the forces of growth, within ourselves and without. Science, if it takes its lead from physics, is in irreconcilable conflict with religion; but if science takes its lead from biology (as it may in our century) and recognizes that the processes of life reveal the inner nature of the world more nearly than the mechanisms of matter, it may be possible to reconcile science with a sane, natural religion.
As to harmonizing the theory of evolution with the Biblical account of creation I do not believe it can be done, and I do not see why it should. The story of Genesis is beautiful, and profoundly significant as symbolism; but there is no good reason to torture it into conformity with modern theory.
Rt. Rev. William T. Manning, D.D., S.T.D., D.C.L., LL.D.
Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York
GOD is truth, and if we are to be faithful to Him we must place loyalty to the truth first and above all else. We must be ready to accept, and rejoice in, the truth from whatever source it may come. There can be no real conflict between the truth made known to us by science and the truth revealed in Christ, and today it is clear that there is no conflict. The supposed antagonism between religion and science is out of date, and belongs to a day that has passed. We see the greatest scientists accepting, as Lord Kelvin did, the truth of the Christian Religion, and we see the greatest Christian scholars, men who believe the Christian Faith in its fullness, accepting with their whole hearts and minds every fact that science has established.
There is nothing in the Christian Faith which conflicts with the scientific theory of evolution. On the contrary, this hypothesis seems to make clearer the glory and power of God the Creator of all, and it harmonizes with God’s method of revealing Himself to men gradually, through the long course of history, as recorded in the Bible.
For my own part I can say, and I know many scientists will say as I do, that there is no fact of science, there is no discovery of modern knowledge, there is no valid claim of truth or reason, which debars any sincere man or woman from full and humble faith in Jesus Christ as God and Saviour.
Willis R.Whitney, Ph.D.,Ch.D.
Chemist; Director, Research Laboratory, General Electric Company
MAN has apparently only just begun to know and to appreciate. He is so near his origin that the records of his earliest efforts are still visible. If he may judge from his relatively brief past, he will continue indefinitely in a growing understanding, appreciation and utilization of the infinite creation. If anything is clear, it is that evolution, which in man seems but started, cannot conflict with religion, though it may increase wonder and reverence. It would seem a poor religion, indeed, which depended upon our feeble, continually changing, though growing, science, or which made a scientist any more eligible than a child for any blessings it provides.
Vernon Kellogg, M.S., LL.D.,Sc.D.
Zoologist; Author, Permanent Secretary, National Research Council, Washington, D. C.
IT IS asked how the scientific theory of world evolution may be harmonized with the Biblical account of creation. It may well first be asked how the account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis can be harmonized with the account in the second chapter. The answer in both cases is that neither of these Biblical accounts is to be looked on as a literal description of world creation. They are both great poetic pictures and should be so viewed by scientist and religionist alike.
The harmony between the Biblical and the evolutionary account of the creation of universe, world and animate Nature is the harmony between great poetry and great science. If another sort of comparison is made; that is, if the Biblical account is to be looked on as a literal and scientific account, to be compared with the scientific account given by the astronomers, geologists and biologists, then, and then only, is there disharmony. And as between the disharmonious two, the scientific account by the scientific man has all the weight of evidence in its favor.
One can believe in the Bible but not accept it for something it was not intended to be. The Bible contains the greatest basis we know for human philosophy and human behavior. But it is not a scientific manual of astronomy, geology and physics, and it should not be degraded from its high estate by making it pretend to be such a manual. Scientific men are kinder to the Bible than are its literalistic upholders. They accept it as a book greater than any scientific book. They do not want it to be looked on as anything less than that.
James J. Davis
U. S. Secretary of Labor
IN MY opinion, there is no conflict between science and religion. I firmly believe that in the heart of every scientist, the deeper he delves into the mysteries of this world, the more respect and admiration he has for the God who created it.
There is a point in religion and in science beyond which mere man cannot go without meeting the Unknowable, the creative source of all things. Beyond that point man must accept some things on faith, and there are just as many things to be accepted on faith in science as there are in religion. We know that the invention of the microscope alone sent a number of previously accepted scientific theories into the discard.
Many other discoveries and inventions have from time to time compelled the revision of the scientific attitude regarding various phases of the physical world.
The theory of evolution is just another scientific theory, an hypothesis, an attempt to draw a logical conclusion from a careful tabulation of the large mass of data on hand. Science might trace everything down to a single living cell, but where did this cell come from and what gives it this mysterious force we call life? Science has one explanation for the origin of life, religion another, and no man is wise enough to say that one explanation is right and the other wrong. Religion is man’s expression of reverence for the Creator, but science is interested only in observation, experiment, and the discovery of the laws thai govern the universe. The Bible tells things in poetry; science puts them into cold, hard figures and laws. One appeals to the heart, the other to the head; and, according to one of our ablest scientists, religion begins where science leaves off. I repeat, in my judgment, there can be no conflict between the two.
Rev. Stephen S. Wise, Ph.D., LL.D.
Rabbi, Free Synagogue, Sew York
THE Biblical account of creation does not purport to be a scientific statement; for one reason, because there was no such thing as the possibility of scientific statement when the Biblical account of creation was written; in the next place, because the Biblical account of creation, whatever its origin, is a poetic interpretation, not a statement of scientific investigation. I have sometimes put it that evolution deals with beginnings and the Biblical account of creation points to the divine destiny of humankind.
Science no more invalidates religion than religion invalidates science. Religion does not pretend to give a scientific account of the origin of things. Religion is mystic and science is obvious, but the truth of the fact is that much of the spirit of mysticism has come into the farther outreachings of the scientific explorer. One pities those lovers of the Bible who degrade it rather than exalt it by setting up the mytho-poetic tales of three thousand years ago and more in opposition to the hypothesis of the new science of our day. But it is little less pitiable to note the scoffing attitude of some scientists with regard to religion.
Commodore Herbert Hartley
Commander, S. S. Leviathan
THERE is no conflict between science and religion. The trouble, if any, lies at the foundation of hasty conclusions of prejudiced or biased minds.
Evolution as a theory can certainly be harmonized with the Biblical account of creation. They travel in separate and parallel grooves. The creation of life is a single and distinct achievement. The development and evolution of life is another.
I believe it more reasonable to conclude man was created by a slow process of evolution than that he was made instanter. If we accept the theory of evolution we do not by that acceptance reject the Biblical account of creation. No scientist has yet dared to deny the one great account of the origin of life. They only attempt to trace it on through the ages.
M.Heber D. Curtis, Ph.D.
Astronomer; Director, Allegheny Observatory,
THE Book of Genesis omits all explicit reference to radio, popular government, the steam engine, or evolution. I have always regarded attempts to “reconcile” such omissions or differences as not only unscientific but, in a sense, irreligious, nor can I admit any “conflict” between modern science and true religion, in its higher sense.
In poetic form and with oriental imagery, the Hebrew sage told his story of creation; the simplicity of his measured and dignified picture sometimes blinds us to the essential fact that it was he who first clearly saw the one Power behind it all, and that this is the measure of his inspiration, rather than the precision of his picture.
The modern scientist differs from the poet of three millennia ago simply in that he sees more steps of the creative progression. While scientists still differ as to the importance or validity of this or that minor process, there is in this world today no scientist of standing who rejects the essential and larger aspects of that creative method called evolution which has been used in everything from starfish to star-cluster. Scientific study leads us inevitably to a wider, more wonderful and more awe-inspiring comprehension of the universe; nor can such study, if it be rightly regarded, diminish any belief in God or the teachings of the Nazarene.
Could one formulate the creed of a reverent scientist (and their number is legion, despite the assertions of evangelistic “exhorters,”) it would perhaps read: “I believe that God created, and is still creating, the heavens and the earth and all that in them is, by the process of evolution.”
Dr. Frank Crane
Clergyman, Journalist, Author
THERE never has been trouble between the religious feeling and the scientific mind. The difficulty has been between the scientific method and the church. Religion is simply a man’s attitude toward the always present unknown. We continually explore the unknown; but the unknown is infinite, and the farther we go, the farther we find we have still to go.
The Biblical account of creation is not anti-evolutionary. It simply speaks of things that God is supposed to have done. It does not say how He did them. The scientists’ discovery was merely the discovery of the manner in which God works. Science found out that the Creator grows things, but does not make them. God builds a tree by making the oak grow out of the acorn. That is His process. And there is nothing antagonistic in it to the Biblical account.
The Bible is not a scientific book. It was not intended to increase our knowledge. It is to enspirit us. This it does.
John Dewey, LL.D, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University
IN MY judgment the whole enterprise of reconciling science and religion is a mistaken one. It is the business of an intelligent person to have the kind of religion which does not need to be harmonized with science. He should accept the findings of inquiry based on the best evidence available, irrespective of their bearing upon traditional beliefs which have got entangled in creeds and the religious documents connected with ecclesiastical groups. These beliefs represent merely the speculations of persons when there was not the basis for conclusions as to matters of physical, biological and historical facts which now exists. There is no more reason for trying to reconcile them with religion than there is for attempting to harmonize the science of the second Century of our era with the science of today.
Applying this idea to a particular case, I should have no more interest in harmonizing the facts regarding the astronomical and geological history of our globe, including its formation and the origin and the development of living forms, with the poetic legends of early Semitic people than I should in “reconciling” them with the creation-myths of the North American Indians. It is a mistake to think of “science” as something in itself which is a fountainhead of truth. It is only a name for the conclusion substantiated by the most thorough, extensive and impartial methods of inquiry available. There is no rival method of arriving at the facts and truths with which science deals. A man may accept the findings of science and may still be sincerely religions provided he realizes that religion is concerned with moral and spiritual attitudes, with aspirations and ideals, and not with the physical, biological and historical facts which fall within the province of independent and free inquiry.
Daniel C. Beard
Artist; Author; National Scout Commissioner, Boy Scouts of America
I DO not see where there can possibly be a conflict between religion and science â€” I mean the religion of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Manâ€” except where science is blind to spiritual things and where seriously religious people are equally blind to the spiritual meaning of the Scripture.
Many churches have fenced themselves in with high walls of man-made dogmas and creeds, but dogmas and creeds must not be mistaken for Divine institutions; nor must everything that science declares be accepted as infallible, for tomorrow other scientists will no doubt disapprove many things accepted as facts today. Science does and should deal with material things and the churches with spiritual things but they should cut some peepholes in their high walls of dogma and see the awe-inspiring greatness of God’s universe, outside the back yards of the churches.
U. S. Senator from Kansas
THE truths of science and of religion belong to different realms and come through different faculties. The faculty of spiritual experience is disputed by some scientists, but many of the greatest recognize it. Lord Kelvin said: “If you think strongly enough, you will be forced by science to believe in God.” Appreciation of the logical limitations of science induces belief in God.
As to the sketch of creation in Genesis, people who must take it as describing distinct acts of creation for every existing species, cannot reconcile it with evolution. Otherwise there is no conflict. If dogmatists in science tried to prescribe once for all what must be believed and religion did the same, there would be no harmony. Science and religion are not in conflict; science and creeds may be.
Samuel Hopkins Adams
THE scientific and religions positions are irreconcilable. This is the fault not of religion, but of the religionists. They have made the spirit subservient to the letter, the fact to the word.
From the moment the Bible or any other heterogeneous compilation of commentary, observation, and opinion is made final arbiter, reason must resign the debate.
Science says, “In the beginning was the Fact.” The religionists say, “In the beginning was the Word.” There is not even a parting of the ways between them. They have never been together.
George Palmer Putnam
Publisher, Author, Explorer
IT IS my belief that people who cannot reconcile science and religion are too stupid or too uneducated to understand either or both.
Christianity’s conception of God is that of an invisible super-person who created the world. Science is man’s gradual interpretation of the phenomena of Nature. In other words, God created what science is simply doing its best, in a slow faltering way, to understand.
Science is Christianity’s greatest chance to understand God. And every step upward in science accentuates the supreme artisanship of the Almighty.
Royal S. Copeland, M.D., A.M., LL.D.
U. S. Senator from New York
MY YOUNG son said: “Papa, I can’t make up my mind whether to follow science or religion.” I countered with this question: “Why not follow both?”
Assuming the divine origin of the Biblical account of creation, what essential thing is there in it which can be disproved by the scientist? Assuming the correctness of the scientific theory of evolution, what is there in this to shock the religionist?
A scientist can be a true religionist; a clergyman a follower of science.