Science, Religion, and the Search for Truth
“The fact that many false religions have spread . . . had some weight with me.”—Charles Darwin
DURING the early 19th century, science and religion enjoyed a compatible relationship. “Even in scientific papers,” says the book Darwin: Before and After, “writers felt no hesitation in speaking of God in a manner that was evidently natural and sincere.”
Darwin’s Origin of Species helped to change that. Science and evolution came to form a liaison that left religion—and God—out of the picture. “In the evolutionary pattern of thought,” says Sir Julian Huxley, “there is no longer either need or room for the supernatural.”
Today the evolution theory is claimed to be an indispensable foundation of science. A key reason for the relationship is identified by physicist Fred Hoyle: “Orthodox scientists are more concerned with preventing a return to the religious excesses of the past than in looking forward to the truth.” What kind of excesses have made religion so distasteful to science?
Religion Gives Creation a Bad Name
In a supposed attempt to uphold the Bible, the “creationists”—mostly allied with fundamentalist Protestants—have insisted that the earth and the universe are less than 10,000 years old. This extreme view has invited the ridicule of geologists, astronomers, and physicists, for it contradicts their findings.
But what does the Bible really say? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) The time involved is not specified. The “first day” of creation is not even mentioned until Genesis 1:3-5. “The heavens and the earth” already existed when this first “day” began. Therefore, could the heavens and the earth be billions of years old, as scientists claim? They may very well be. The Bible simply does not specify the time covered.
Another excess of religion is the way some interpret the six ‘days’ of creation. Some fundamentalists insist that these days are literal, restricting earthly creation to a period of 144 hours. This provokes skepticism in scientists, for they feel that this claim conflicts with clear scientific observations.
However, it is the fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible—not the Bible itself—that is at odds with science. The Bible does not say that each creative “day” was 24 hours long; indeed, it includes all these ‘days’ in the much longer “day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven,” showing that not all Biblical ‘days’ contained just 24 hours. (Genesis 2:4) Some could have been many thousands of years in length.*
Thus, the idea of creation has been given a bad name by creationists and fundamentalists. Their teachings on the age of the universe and the length of the creative ‘days’ are in harmony neither with reasonable science nor with the Bible. However, there are also other excesses that have made religion distasteful to scientists.
Abuse of Power
Throughout history, religion has been responsible for much injustice. During the Middle Ages, for example, the creation doctrine was twisted to justify the church’s support of Europe’s autocracy. The implication was that humans were placed in their status, wealthy or poor, by divine decree. The Intelligent Universe explains: “Younger sons of the wealthy were told it was ‘God’s system’ for them to receive little or nothing of the family estate, and the working man was constantly being urged to remain content with ‘the station to which it had pleased God to call him.’”
Little wonder that many fear returning to “the religious excesses of the past”! Rather than fill man’s spiritual need, religion has often preyed upon it. (Ezekiel 34:2) Comments an editorial in the magazine India Today: “With the kind of record it has established through the ages, it is a wonder that religion has retained any credibility at all. . . . In the name of the Supreme Creator, . . . human beings have perpetrated the most abominable atrocities against their fellow creatures.”
The appalling record of false religion had no small influence on Darwin’s thinking. “I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation,” he wrote. “The fact that many false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some weight with me.”
The Triumph of True Religion
Religious hypocrisy is not new to this world. Jesus said to the power-hungry religious leaders of his day: “You appear like good men on the outside—but inside you are a mass of pretence and wickedness.”—Matthew 23:28, Phillips.
Genuine Christianity, however, is “no part of the world.” (John 17:16) Its followers do not participate in corrupt religion and politics; nor are they misled by philosophies that deny the existence of a Creator. “The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God,” wrote the apostle Paul.—1 Corinthians 3:19.
Yet, this does not mean that real Christians are scientifically naive. On the contrary, followers of true religion are intrigued by science. “Raise your eyes high up and see,” the ancient prophet Isaiah was told. “Who has created these things?” (Isaiah 40:26) Similarly, to understand the Creator better, Job was invited to explore the wonders of nature and the universe.—Job, chapters 38-41.
Yes, those who believe in a Creator view the creation with respectful awe. (Psalm 139:14) Furthermore, they trust what the Creator, Jehovah God, says about a wonderful hope for the future. (Revelation 21:1-4) Through a study of the Bible, millions are learning that neither the origin of man nor his future depends on blind chance. Jehovah had a purpose in making man, and that purpose will be realized—to the blessing of all obedient humans. We invite you to investigate the matter for yourself.
See Awake!, November 8, 1982, pages 6-9, and Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, page 545, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. For more information on creationism and its conflicts with science and the Bible, see Awake! issues of March 8, 1983, pages 12-15, and March 22, 1983, pages 12-15.
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IGNORANT OF THE EVIDENCE?
“EVEN Jehovah’s Witnesses have learned a good deal of biology,” wrote lawyer Norman Macbeth in his 1971 book Darwin Retried—An Appeal to Reason. Upon reading an Awake! article on the subject of evolution, Macbeth notes: “I was amazed to find that it contained some shrewd criticism of Darwinism.” Noting the extensive research and judicious quotes from authorities on the subject, the author concluded: “It is no longer correct for Simpson to say: ‘. . . those who do not believe in it [evolution] are, almost to a man, obviously ignorant of the scientific evidence.’”
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The future of mankind has not been left to blind chance