Science vs. Religion: A Debate That’s Not Worth It — Jaden Schultz

It is a commonly held notion that science is the antithesis of religion. The two are regarded as so inherently contradictory that being religious and simultaneously thinking scientifically is believed to be impossible. Where did this belief come from, and how has it persisted through many generations? Was it the Enlightenment – the great “Age of Reason” – with its fundamentally secular basis that established this opposition between religion and science? Or is it our incessant search for modernity, based on the pillars of capitalism, industrialization, technological innovation, and bureaucratization that has prompted and propelled this profound chasm? Regardless of its origin, the discord is there.

The discourse surrounding this “science vs. religion” debate, in my experience, has often centered around religion – more specifically, Christianity – perceiving itself as the victim. Science, which hinges on its attachment to calculation, rationality, predictability, and control has morphed into an entity that, from the Christian perspective, is domineering, oppressive, and perhaps even threatening. Subsequently, the church, in its efforts to preserve its legitimacy, has done much to further this estrangement.

During my freshman year of high school, I was part of a Bible study entitled, “Evolution vs. Creation.” Each week, our meeting centered around a different creationist argument, and we were tasked with watching videos, filling out corresponding worksheets, and conversing about how we could use this information in the “real world.” Ultimately, the study was supposed to equip us, as students with faith, with facts to defend creationist beliefs in the face of evolutionists.

A member of this study who attended a nearby public school, let’s call him “Dean,” told the group – after a meeting that focused on the flaws of the Big Bang – about his recent experience in biology class. During class, as his science teacher lectured on evolution, Dean, as he retold, stood up and used some of the phrases and facts we were taught the week before to combat what the teacher was saying. Obviously, this did not go over well for Dean, but I remember the group – specifically our leader – was extremely proud of him for using what he learned from the study outside of church. After that, Dean was seen as a martyr of sorts, oppressed by the public school system for stating his beliefs in class. He was, as I loosely recall, referred to as a “solider for creation” by our study’s leader as part of his deeper metaphor of a battle between Christianity and science for reigning truth. The underlying message was there, though: Christians should not side with science.

Unfortunately, this idea that science and public education are the enemies of Christianity is a popular one. I’ve been told by members of my church that my pursuit of higher education is a waste of time and a heretical attempt at “playing God.” I’ve also been told that attending university and believing in science and evolution is not what “good Christians do.” What is a “good Christian,” though? Who gets to define what is “good” and what is “bad”? In my own experience, it’s the seemingly devout members, oftentimes those who have been involved with the congregation for decades, who throw around the labels “good” and “bad” to control the church and further validate and spread their own viewpoints.

The relationship between religion and science is not a simple one, and thus this debate, including the “Evolution vs. Creation” debate, does not have a simple answer. However, I question if an answer is even necessary. If our pursuit for “the truth” ostracizes and hurts individuals – religious or not – is it worth it? If we become hateful and arrogant while attempting to assume our position as superior to the other, is it worth it? If asserting individuals as “good” and “bad” Christians creates division within the church, is it worth it?

Ultimately, there are Christians, like me, who are religious and pro-science and pro-evolution. There are also Christians who are religious, anti-science, and creationist. I question, then, if morality – if one’s character – is contingent on their scientific and educational beliefs, or on something else entirely. At the end of the day, pride and our concern with appearance fuels this debate. If we realize that our virtue and character matter more than proving ourselves as “right,” as on the side of “truth,” we might actually stimulate meaningful discussion, inquiry, and relationship across our differences.