Community Conversation on faith and science: We all have some faith

March 14, 2014 

Is it faith versus science, or faith and science — each helping us in its own way? Our recent Community Conversation was pleasant and without rancor as we discussed this issue, though we came to no unanimous conclusions. This is my personal take on the subject. The first definition of faith is, in short, a steadfast belief in a supreme being. Specific religions spell out what that means for us. The second definition of faith is an unquestioning belief in something for which there is no proof. An example of this is the belief that our senses, while potentially fooling us at times, do bring us information from a world that exists around us. In other words, we are not dreaming this life, nor are we some fantasy creation of a vast, yet finite, intelligence. I submit that we must at least have the second kind of faith, for if we do not believe our senses, we cannot believe in what others tell us, either from a scientific viewpoint or a religion-based one. But can science and faith coexist? Can they get along? The definitions of science in the dictionary talk about a body of knowledge, gained through experience of the world around us. It is often mentioned that this body of knowledge is gained through the scientific process, that of hypothesis, experimentation and verification. Scientists can be whimsical at times, engaging in flights of fancy that result in wild theories that may not be able to be proved or disproved. But until an experiment can be devised to test such a thought experiment, that is all it is. What happened before the Big Bang? What if black holes are really the beginnings of other universes that are beyond our perceptions? These questions are fun for the scientist to contemplate, but that is all. They hold no substance until they can be tested. Thus it is for the belief in a transcendental God. Science has no test for such a concept. Proper science does not address God’s existence, period. It neither affirms nor denies his majesty. What science does is test theory and establish fact. Sometimes theories will conflict with particular tenets of a religion. Those who hold firmly to a particular set of beliefs in their religion may feel that science is attacking them. And while some scientists are avowed atheists and hostile towards religion, the proper place of science is not as a refutation of faith, only an affirmation of knowledge gained through the scientific method. Whether that knowledge can be accepted alongside a person’s religious beliefs, their faith, can only be answered on an individual basis. For me, that answer is yes. w Stephen Garinger works as a health physics technician for Washington River Protection Solutions.

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