There are two primary fronts in the conflict or apparent conflict between science and Christian faith: (1) Are the scientific claims intrinsically atheistic? and (2) How do we reconcile Scripture with the scientific data? Neither of these are new problems, but they play a significant role in Western society today. In his book Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes Denis Lamoureux seeks to demonstrate that scientific claims are not intrinsically atheistic, rather that it requires faith to move from science to any metaphysical claim about the existence or non-existence of God. Nothing in our scientific understanding of the universe either requires or eliminates God from the picture. We can endeavor to predict the weather based on physics and chemistry and still view it as under God’s control. Our understanding of embryology and fetus development does not require us to dismiss the Psalmist’s wonder and awe of God who “formed my inward parts” and “knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”(Ps 139:13)
Although the story of Galileo’s run-in with the Catholic Church is often cast as a paradigm for the unavoidable conflict between science and Christian faith, it is a story from which we can learn much. We can draw insights concerning the most effective way that scientists can introduce findings to the church, the manner in which the church can productively engage with science, and the approach we should take to apparent scientific claims in Scripture.
Very few today doubt that the earth and other planets orbit the sun, or that the earth is in one of many solar systems in the galaxy, one of many galaxies in the universe. For most of church history, however, there was no belief but that the earth was the center of the universe and that the Holy Scriptures clearly taught this truth. Augustine wasn’t even convinced that the earth was spherical, although he was convinced that it was ridiculous to imagine antipodians (individuals with their feet pointing towards his) on the other side of the earth if the earth was spherical. Among other things, God could not be in the heavens above both Rome and the antipodians and this was contrary to Scripture (so Augustine thought).