Re: Science and Faith

Gene Godbold (
Fri, 19 Apr 96 4:30:03 EDT

David Cashmore quotes Henri Blocher:

> "It is perhaps salutary for us thus to end on an inconclusive note,
> which in certain respects illustrates the attitude of faith. For faith
> does not have all the answers straight away. Nor does it claim that
> contemporary science gives it complete support. If certain factors in
> today's scientific picture appear contrary to the Word of God, faith is
> not shaken. It has such confidence in that Word that it can be quite
> open about its hesitations and wait patiently for the clouds to clear."

In commenting, I would like to connect this idea with science as I have
seen and heard it practiced and a comment that Glenn Morton made (and
Dennis Sweitzer (sp?) has been gently teasing him about) about being known
forever as (paraphrasing) the idiot who connected the Medit. flood with Noah.

Practice of Science: In my relatively short tenure (6 years) in the
biological sciences I see have seen models of cellular architecture and
function proposed and then revised with no complaints from anyone (at
least published!) in competing laboratories. One very successful
professor of my aquaintance has presented six different models for how
human DNA is repaired. The first differed substantially from the last.
It is granted that a lot of the first model was speculation, but it was
speculation that fit the data he had at the time...or at least most of it.
That caveat is where scientific judgement comes in. Perhaps some of the
information that this scientist had at the time actually pointed toward
the second model that he would propose, but it might have looked shaky
(just one or two expts to back it up) or seemed to conflict with other
data that he trusted more (for whatever reason) or even conflicted with
his idea of "the way things worked" In any case, this scientist counted
upon two things:

1) He had faith that further experiments would clear up any difficulties

2) He knew his peers wouldn't hang him out to dry for proposing an
imperfect or incomplete model or even one that was completely wrong in
some of its particulars

In believing (1) he wasn't much different from a Christian's confidence in
the word of God as expressed in the above passage. And (2) illustrates
why it would be hypocritical for scientists to condemn Glenn Morton for
proposing a model "in principle verifiable" to explain how events in
history might have occurred that does justice to both scripture and
science. Of course, I realize that he was probably being
self-depreciating and poking fun at himself. Provisional models that
accord with *most* of what is known and contradict the *least* amount of
what is known are just a necessary part of doing science.

I hope this doesn't strike anyone as presumptous or as "bringing coals to
Newcastle". I know many if not most of you know all this and have had
considerably more distinguished careers in an area of inquiry in which I
am just wetting my feet.

Gene Godbold
Dept. of Biochemistry and Biophysics
University of NC-Chapel Hill