When I was growing up in a little town in South Dakota I fell in love with two things: Science and God. It was the 1960s and America, still spooked by the possibility of Russian scientific superiority in the nuclear age, was at the same time still far away from a revival of religious fundamentalism. So I grew up seeing no conflict between science and faith, and to this day I don’t see why there should be.
Maybe the spiritual landscape of the prairie, the endless sky above and the endless horizon below, served me as a sort of metaphor for science and faith, forever meeting at the point of infinity, inseparable but always separate. I have always felt lucky to know, unlike so much of human history before me, that all those countless stars above are distant suns whose light has taken countless years to reach my eyes, and at the same time to know that the God of Christians, Muslims and Jews, the Creator of it all, transcends that unimaginably immense time and space. Those two things, heaven and earth, held in perfect balance, each complementing the other.
How much smaller would that God be in an earth-centered universe, the stars merely a sphere revolving beyond the sun, as the whole world saw it for millennia, until science proved otherwise? How much less transcendent of time and space would God be in a cosmos barely 6000 years old?
Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live your life: as though everything is a miracle or as though nothing is.” I think Einstein and I have this in common: what science shows us both is how great and countless those miracles are, and thus how much greater their Creator is – heaven and earth, each complementing the other.
I believe it is just another example of the generosity and kindness of God that he has given every human being the right to chose whether or not to believe that God exists. And I believe that God has carefully constructed the universe in such a way as to make belief in the existence of God entirely optional. “Surely you are a God,” as Job complains,” who hides himself!” What pleasure could God take, after all, in people who are obligated to believe in God’s existence because science proves it?
I believe there’s nothing inherently wrong with science or religion. Both have been used for great good and for terrible evil. The problem isn’t with science or religion, the problem is with people. It’s what people choose to do with them that matters. And it seems to me that forcing science and faith into conflict serves neither.
So while the world seems intent on polarizing I continue to live quite happily with my head in the sky and my feet on the ground.
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