The Hatfields and McCoys have been a part of American folklore since the turn of the twentieth century. These two families began a dispute in 1865 and continued fighting for over thirty five years. That should amaze you. It did me. These two families fought with each other longer than America fought in the Revolutionary War, The Civil War, World War I, World War II, The Vietnam War, and the current Afghan War combined. Those people really hated each other. The fighting started after one family served the Union Army and the other served the Confederate Army in the Civil War; for the next thirty years, anything was fodder for a fight. At one point the fighting escalated over a pig. Both families claimed the pig as their own and neither would relent. This is how I view the divide between science and religion.
Science and religion both make claims about the same pig. This is a metaphorical pig, so stay with me. Both clans are looking at the pig and explaining all of the different ways that they can prove the pig is theirs, and there are only a few people who are willing to step in and say that the pig can be shared by both clans. These unfortunate few are a friend to no one and enemy to everyone.
Veritas Radio, for which I am a co-host every Sunday night, worked through this issue last week. We did not resolve it by any means, but I believe we uncovered the root of the divide. I want to share with you what each side said about the other and then talk about the root issue at play between the two sides.
Science and religion both make claims of truth. Not claims of personal preference, but claims of truth applicable to all people. Therefore, science and religion should agree with one another about the ultimate questions in life if both sides are discovering truth. Unfortunately, this is not the case. For instance, one of the biggest and most popular battles is over the ultimate question “where did we come from.” Science has fallen upon evolutionary development driven by natural selection to answer this question, while Christianity holds to creation ex nihilio by God.
Both sides are claiming the pig of truth and neither will relent.
On the Radio Show from September 26 we had Frederick Henry III, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan in the field of neuropsychology, who explained to us the perspective of the majority scientific community. He explained that religion necessarily clouds the issues in scientific inquiry. He defended the necessity for scientists to work according to methodological naturalism.
Methodological naturalism guides scientific inquiry by providing a properly basic belief, what Alvin Plantinga has called a touchstone truth. That basic, unprovable belief says that natural processes are the source of all natural phenomena. Methodological naturalism is a process for doing science. Methodological naturalism differs from philosophical naturalism which says all things – not just observable natural phenomena – are a result of natural, unguided process.
In addressing how the divide between religion and science would be closed, he made the argument that true science must be devoid of the supernatural or else there will be no way to draw a line between fact and new age idiocy.
Dr. Travis Kerns, the professor of Applied Apologetics from the campus of Southern Seminary, provided us with the religious perspective. He said repeatedly that scientists should be open to follow the facts wherever they may lead in spite of the metaphysical implications. He is making the case that if science is proving truth, then it will necessarily point towards God, and Dr. Kerns is hopeful that scientists will put aside their naturalistic presuppositions when they are interpreting the results of their experiments. He said that in order for science and religion to coexist peacefully the scientists will have to abandon philosophical naturalism even if they use methodological naturalism to study the earth and its features. Kerns was asking for scientists to recognize their presuppositions and open the debate to those with whom they disagree.
The root of the problem here is found in the realm of basic presuppositions which are held by each clan. Religious people have some basic belief in the possibility of the supernatural. Scientists must deny the supernatural in order to make sense of the world around them. This is just another example of how our presuppositions make and shape our perception of the world, even what we claim to be true.
The battle between science and religion is not fought with fact against fact. Much like the Hatfields and McCoys fighting over a pig, although the pig is the center of focus, the real issue is much deeper. The Hatfields and McCoys were actually fighting over their honor, not a pig. Science and religion are fighting over something much deeper than just the evolution of man, they are fighting over the properly basic belief of whether God exists. And this fight is being waged in a place where only God can make a difference. The battle field is in the hearts men, and the gospel ushered in by the Spirit is the only weapon that will work for either side.