Does Science Invalidate Religious Faith?

There’s been a lot of Christian discussion since the Beyond Belief conference in November held by a number of atheist scientists and thinkers. How dare these scientists think that science is opposed to religion, especially the Christian faith, which purportedly gave rise to science? How dare scientists think that science invalidates religious beliefs? How dare they think that science invalidates miracles?

In the first place, when it comes to the origin of a self-sustaining science, I have read the relevant literature. I have read nearly everything Jaki wrote, plus Torrance, Polanyi, Barbour, Moreland, Bube, Peacoke, and several others on the origin of science.

The claim is that Christianity provided the foundational assumptions that gave rise to a self-sustaining science. Richard Carrier helps to answer that question.

Secondly, Christianity has hindered almost every scientific advancement we've ever had, which we can see right now in stem cell research. While Christians can tout Galileo's faith, what about those who condemned him? And what about Rene Descartes who had written a book called "The World" but decided not to publish it after he heard of Galileo's fate? Instead, Descartes wrote his "Meditations" with the express purpose of making it possible to discuss the questions of science apart from the same kind of Christian censorship. He argued that there were two worlds, the world of material objects subject to the laws of math, and the world of the spirit subject to the scrutiny of the church. And into this climate he later published his former book agreeing with Galileo.

Just prove your point here. How many original scientific advances can you name that haven't been opposed by the church? How many?

Third, when I speak about science undercutting the believability in miracles and prayer, Christians will usually claim that science isn't so great. It cannot understand everything. Why do they have to do this? It may not be able to explain everything, but it has explained so much that a 15 century church person would probably lose his faith by merely being brought into our era. So many of his beliefs would be overturned at once.

Science is invalidating miracles one by one. We no longer think demon possession accounts for epilepsy, nor do we believe nature is such that God sends hurricanes on people for their sins, nor do (educated people) go to faith healers instead of doctors for healing, nor do people pray for the sun to stand still, or for axe heads to float, or for people to be raised up from the dead. We know better. Christians no longer cast lots to decide important issues, and certainly would object if our politicians did this, especially if they lost the issue. Educated Christians no longer see dreams as if God was communicating to them, since science has shown that dreams are the result of the rational parts of our brain being asleep. Christians no longer believe that curses and blessings actually change the nature of people and events, and they no longer believe they are irreversible. Science sets the limits for what Christians will pray for. This is no different than science setting the limits for where aliens purportedly come from. That’s right. As soon as science showed us that any present life on planet Mars was impossible, people stopped claiming that aliens came from there! Science has shown so many beliefs to be false that it's fair to say theologians have always been wrong. Why should it be any different in the future?

Fourth, why is it that the God Christians believe in will not allow a scientific test that will show he exists, or that Jesus arose, or that prayer works, or that miracles can occur, or that there is a heaven, or that there is a hell? Why not? I can conceive of such tests. For instance, if everyone who ever died and was brought back to life in a hospital told the exact same story about what they saw, it would be considered strong evidence about the nature of the afterlife, heaven and hell, and they could tell the same story about meeting Jesus or the devil too. But instead they tell stories based upon what they already believe. If God would do miracles today like he did in the past it would be considered strong evidence that the past miracles really could've occurred. If God would "allow" tests about prayer to succeed, that would be considered strong evidence that prayer works.

Take prayer as just one example. The American Heart Journal (April 2006) reported on a scientific study of patients who had heart by-pass surgery who were separated into three groups. Group 1 received prayers and didn’t know it. Group 2 received no prayers and didn’t know it (the control group). Group 3 received prayers and did know it. Groups 1 and 3 were prayed for by different congregations throughout America. The results were very clear. There was no difference between the patients who were prayed for and those who were not prayed for. Moreover, the patients who knew they were being prayed for suffered significantly more complications than those who did not know they were being prayed for.

It's very interesting that Christians must downplay science. They always have. They always will. Sad, really.