Science and Faith

Science and faith.

For many, the two terms are mutually exclusive. And by definition, it would appear that this was justified. Science relies on demonstrable, reproducible, objective proof and faith relies on...well, faith. Scientific theory, if evidence proves it wrong, changes (although not always without a fight) to fit the new evidence. At least it does if it's "good science". Faith, on the other hand, remains the same despite "evidence" to the contrary. The vast majority of the world may believe that the earth is more than 4 billion years old. That dinosaurs never lived side by side with man. There may be scientific "proof" from carbon dating, studying the changes in the Dopler signature of stars (which tells us how fast they're moving and in what general direction), the study of geology and the study of genetics. But that doesn't change the faith of those who believe that the earth is 6000 years old based on their belief in the literal word of the Bible. And how, really, can we prove them wrong? Quite simply, we can't. If God did indeed create this world in six literal days, then surely he could have created it with the appearance of age. Why he would have done so could be something as simply as "Will you trust my word in the Bible or will you trust your human perceptions and your human understanding?" A test of faith, so to speak. So while many may laugh at those who hold to such a belief, they may be the ones who end up having the last laugh.

To some with a deep faith, science is a tool of evil, used only to try to prove that their faith is wrong. They build their faith on an eternal, unchanging God because the science of man is too changeable. Relying on man is building your house on sand. To many in the scientific community, faith, ironically, is like building your house house on sand. They see it as "foolish" because you have no proof for the strength of your foundation. I'm of the belief that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and that no one should seek to convert another to their faith if they wouldn't want someone else doing it to them. Of course, I also realize that for some, the very faith they believe dictates that they DO seek to convert and to be true to their faith, they must follow such a mandate. But science has no such mandate, and yet there are those who have placed their faith in science (or made science their faith) who spend much time seeking "converts" by trying to prove that existing faiths are wrong. In one online forum where I post regularly, one participant is always posting controversial topics, such as postulating that Jesus is not really divine and offering his/her version of "proof"— which is often quotes from scholarly authors who are experts in the study of ancient Israel or in comparative religions or in some other relative field along with his/her personal slant on why these quotes prove his/her point. (I'm just gonna switch to "his" here as this his/her bit will get old really fast.) I once questioned him regarding his motive for making such posts because while he claimed to want discussion, unless one agreed with him, one was dismissed virtually out of hand as being irrational or illogical or plain ignorant. There was rarely an acknowledgement of "I see your point, I just don't agree with it." If any acknowledgment was made of your differing point of view, it usually was attached to a much longer "But here's why you're wrong" argument. To go into all the particulars of the debate would take up too much of your valuable time. Suffice it to say that my point to him has always been, and will continue to be, that science will NEVER disprove faith, therefore it is futile to try or to demand that those of faith prove their faith by scientific standards. It simply can't be done.

But yesterday, he said something that really set me to thinking because it was, in my mind, completely foreign to my beliefs or my intent in participating in forums on spirituality. He said my line of thinking— that everyone needed religion— was very limiting to people and allowed them to be controlled and manipulated. It took me a long time pondering why that statement bothered me so much. I finally realized that there were two things that bothered me. One is that I make a distinction between faith and religion. For some, and I'd include myself among them, faith and religion are one and the same. (I define religion as the principles, actions and emotions that constitute one's interaction with the forces of the universe.) For others, the two are very different. Someone who claims to be Catholic and yet uses birth control has a Catholic religion and a personal faith. Someone who is a Baptist— the tenet of their religion being that matters of faith are between the individual and God— and yet tells another that their beliefs are wrong has a Baptist religion but a personal faith. In the end, I believe all of our faiths are personal, we simply identify with one religion more than another.

I don't believe everyone needs religion, but I do believe everyone needs faith. Contrary to what this person thought, faith is not limiting but freeing because faith allows us to believe in that which cannot be proven. It allows us to experience that which is not "real" by scientific standards. It allows us to see, hear, touch, feel, experience things beyond the normal range of our five senses. Relying on science is what limits us in matters of faith because science demands proof. If Columbus had waited to attain proof that the world did not simply end before sailing to the Americas, he'd have never arrived because his return to Spain was the proof.

I believe we're all co-creators and therefore divine in our own right. That is our birthright that Esau symbolically sold or that the prodigal son wasted while the father was still alive. I don't believe people need anything other than faith, but some are unable to discern the difference between faith and religion. And when that is the case, attempts to "disprove" one's religion can do damage to one's faith too. I don't believe we have the right to damage another's faith, which in essence is telling them that their faith is wrong. IMHO, it can't be wrong because it's personal.

This personal faith includes allowing a deity whose existence can't be proven scientifically to make those moral choices for you or to dictate the truth to you. You can't find truth without doing your own work. But someone CAN give it to you. What they can't give you is faith. It is the FAITH that makes the truths you've found or been given THE Truth— at least for you.

I thought that was the end of what was bothering me about his comments, but then as I lay half between sleep and waking, another thought occurred to me. By insisting, as he appears to be, that Christians justify their faith according to scientific standards or stop proclaiming their faith, he is the one doing the limiting of the spirit by saying "You can't have faith until you have proof." In fact, this flies in the face of the very scientific method he so supports, which proposes theories based on faith(belief) and then sets out to seek proof. Einstein's theory of relativity and Hawking's theories on black holes were nothing more than beliefs when proposed. But by holding that belief, it gave others something to aim for. A direction to head and to seek new information and new proof. And as that new information and new proof came in, it reinforced the beliefs, which made them stronger, and suggested even newer avenues of knowledge or study.

So it is with faith. The difference is that faith is a PERSONAL and SUBJECTIVE matter (even if the personal choice of "god" is objective science), whereas science is objective. To say that one has no faith until one can determine which of the various religions has the greatest chance of being true is pointless because then following that religion is not based on faith. It's NOT religion one needs, but FAITH. And FAITH has no proof other than personal experience.

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