It is okay to use scientific evidence to support Christian beliefs

In “God and science: Considering evolution through the eyes of faith” Dr. Jan F. Dudt, Professor of Biology at Grove City College and fellow for medical ethics with The Center for Vision and Values, provides insight into the manner in which Christians interpret evolution.

In his article, Dr. Dudt presents evolution as a concept that must be reconciled with the belief that everything was created by God. He attempts to do so by stating that Christians must accept that evolution “is nonetheless God’s process.” Throughout the article, Dr. Dudt recommends Christians to recognize that scientific findings “reveal God’s work, even when those discoveries are made by” nonbelievers. He articulates that non-believing scientists are able to understand the natural world, even if they lack the theological understanding of “God’s work.”

Although Dr. Dudt attempts to link scientific concepts with Christian beliefs earlier in his article, he explains that some “truths” are only supposed to be believed, as opposed to tested. He says that these truths are “spiritually discerned” and that scientific data ways in, but does not confirm them. He explicitly declares that “there is truth that does not need scientific confirmation.” Dr. Dudt presents the idea that it is acceptable to use science to the extent that it does not conflict with Christian beliefs.

A portion of the article is dedicated to explaining the point at which science should be disregarded. In his concluding paragraph, Dr. Dudt emphasizes that the use of science to portray a Christian idea presented in the Bible as false or to state that a miracle never happened, would be a misuse of science. This statement contradicts his earlier comment that recommends Christians to recognize scientific findings that “reveal God’s work”. Dr. Dudt is writing under his credentials as a professional biologist, but his article is promoting a Christian interpretation of the natural world.

Why is the use of scientific findings acceptable when they support Christian beliefs, but unacceptable when they contradict them?

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33 Responses to It is okay to use scientific evidence to support Christian beliefs

  1. gatorade15 says:

    The link you posted does not work graduallychanging.

    • graduallychanging says:

      Gatorade15, thank you very much for pointing out the issue with the link. It appears as if WordPress changed what I had written when it was posted. I have fixed the link, tell me if you still cannot access the page.

  2. So is he saying that if a scientific study is conducted that does not agree with Christianity it is not true? If so, how can he trust any of the other work that he has done? That is almost hypocritical of him to hold this belief and call himself both a Scientist.

    • graduallychanging says:

      In his article, Dudt says, “There are certain things we learn from the Bible that we cannot find by studying nature.” It seems that he is not rejecting and ignoring certain scientific findings, but instead, choosing which ideas apply to science and which are solely matters of faith. Picking and choosing, however, could also be seen as preventing the appearance of scientific results that do not support his religious beliefs.

      Also, when you say “how can he trust any of the other work that he has done?” do you mean “how can we trust?”

      • graduallychanging, What I mean is that, how can he decided that work he has done in the past is accurate if he would not believe work he did today if he concluded that it did not agree with his religion. Science does not change. He would be saying that science only works and is true if is abides by biblical guidelines and if I come up with an answer that does not agree with my religion then science has failed to work properly because the conclusion was false.

  3. gwuw2014 says:

    I think that Dudt’s view is fairly common among non-extremist Christians. I had a very close friend who was a fundamentalist Christian who said that “science should help us understand the glory of the world God created for us.” That, I believe, is a much healthier outlook than some extremists who completely denounce science.

    That being said, it makes sense that Dudt would view science that proved false any Biblical account as unacceptable. From his perspective, science is a human attempt to understand the world and is therefore open to error; the Bible is the Word of God and is completely true. It seems that he mostly expresses concern that evolutionary science will disprove the “Adam & Eve” story, which then has an unraveling effect on the entire narrative of the Bible, the book he considers most sacred. I’m not excusing his disbelief in science that doesn’t line up with his religious views, but through his eyes, his religious views are the ultimate truth and science is the thing up to interpretation.

    • graduallychanging says:

      gwuw2014, I appreciate that you were able to read his article from his point of view and separate, to an extent, your own beliefs from your interpretation.
      In regards to your comment, “the Bible is the Word of God and is completely true” I think Dudt believes that everything within the Bible is true, but not if interpreted literally. An example of other interpretations that he mentions is “many Christians, including some ‘young earth’ creationists, argue that God uses evolution to accomplish certain creational ends.”
      In regards to the story of Adam and Eve, Dudt states, “…because there is truth that does not need scientific confirmation, there is much hope.” I think this quote shows how Dudt is able to believe certain ideas independently of the claims made by scientists.

    • thinkbrush says:

      GWUW2014, I agree that using science to complement religion and vice versa is a much more balanced understanding of the world and evolution specifically. I wish Dudt had included more outside information to supplement his opinions and provide more context as illustrated by Harris. As Dudt explains “Hence, it is unnecessary and unwise on the basis of science to recast the nature of the conflict between good and evil, the doctrine of sin and the fall, and salvation through Jesus Christ in order to satisfy the tension created by modern science,” I think he exposes his ultimate weakness in evaluating and applying modern scientific theory to his personal religious beliefs. Although he is willing to apply commonly held scientific ideas to his faith, he is unable to reciprocate.

    • sunny2018 says:

      gwuw2014, I agree with your interpretation of Dudt’s thought process. He’s trying to reconcile his beliefs, but through an understanding of both religion and the scientific theory, rather than completely abandoning the latter. I’ve also had friends who view everything in science as being guided by God; however, their view of the Bible was far less literal. I think that different branches of Christianity see evolution differently depending on if they interpret the Bible literally or not.

  4. collegeblogger19 says:

    Whenever religion and science are involved, the situation always gets complicated. Religion is based on faith, and when evidence comes in from the natural world religions don’t know what to do with it. From the article, Dudt advises religion and science to mix, which would make it easier for religious people to accept theory of evolution. But is he really mixing science with religion if he only accepts some aspects of the evidence. Only the findings that support the religion/Bible does he accept, while findings that discredit the religion he discards. This is a tricky concept to live by. I think evolution and religion could definitely coexist if one takes the evidence and adjusts it to his/her religion–such as that God guided and created the process of evolution.

    • greyelephant1 says:

      collegeblogger19, I like your ideas here. I definitely believe that there could be a way that evolution and religion could coexist. My thoughts were if they met in the middle, such as your idea that God guided and created the process of evolution (which I hadn’t thought of) or that God created the first ancestor of the human. Either way, I agree with you that mixing religion and science can get a little controversial. But, whether one believes in just one or the other, I agree that there could be a way for them to coexist.

  5. glowcloud says:

    Gwu2014 it’s very funny how you described Dudt’s perspective on science as “a human attempt to understand the world and is therefore open to error” because that is exactly how I describe religion! I believe that people created these systems of belief in order to answer questions that they had no way of knowing how to approach. But now that science can provide us with those answers, it can be acknowledged that religion may be false. However, Dudt has the complete opposite perspective and believes that we should disregard science if it contradicts religion. Does this seem backwards to anyone else?

    • collegeblogger19 says:

      I agree glowcloud, that it can seem a little backwards. But religious people are so faithful and devoted to their religions that to them, religion is fact and science is interpretation. To me, I think it would make more sense to accept the scientific findings and then adjust one’s interpretation of religion to the evidence.

      • graduallychanging says:

        Collegeblogger19, I think religious people see scientific findings a bit differently than others. For them, it probably would be easier to accept that God created us instead of evolution because they already believe in the religion. Individual concepts, like our origins, are simply a portion of the concepts that their religion encompasses. Faith entails complete trust. A religious person would not need any evidence, other than the Bible or the words of a preacher, to accept that a premise is true.

      • greyelephant1 says:

        I think this is a very interesting conversation. Personally I think that religion and science are ways of viewing the world and interpreting what we observe. Of course, religion is more, for lack of a better term, ‘creative’ in a sense when science is based off what we observe. But in the end, both are ways of humans rationalizing what we observe/think about the world.

      • collegeblogger19 says:

        Yes, I absolutely agree graduallychanging. Religions are based on faith and complete trust, like you said. There are two very different mindsets between religious beliefs and scientific beliefs, but I still think the two can be compatible if worked together.

    • regan1984 says:

      I agree it seems backwards, but in the eyes of people who are devoted to religion, how easy do you think it would be to conceive of science, something that had only been really around for a few hundred years, to come along and suddenly disprove certain aspects of the bible that they, and people for thousands of years have taken as the “god given truth”?

      • graduallychanging says:

        Regan1984, we have seen science disprove important beliefs many times in the past. It is worth noting that it took around 200 years for the concept of heliocentrism to be accepted by the Catholic Church. Although science is relatively recent, we can physically see, by means of telescopes, that the geocentric view of the solar system is incorrect, even though it lasted for centuries.

  6. punky1218 says:

    It is fair to say that that science contradicts the beliefs of people who take the bible literally. Moses separating the Red Sea is not supported by scientific fact. Adam and Eve has been discounted by the theory of evolution. Moderates, who take the bible less literally can mold there religious views to be able to fit science and evolution. I agree that Dudt’s view is very hypocritical. Christians and all religious people cannot pick and choose what scientific evidence they want to support based on whatever the bible says.

    • graduallychanging says:

      Punky1218, although I agree that Moses parting the Red Sea is not realistic, Dudt would likely completely disregard that it is not based on scientific fact. He states, as I mentioned earlier, that “there are certain things we learn from the Bible that we cannot find by studying nature.” Scientific arguments do not necessary apply when the people on the other side of the argument do not regard scientific information as relevant.

  7. gwu2014, the idea of science as a human attempt to understand the world is very interesting. It reminds me of the debate on whether math is invented or discovered. The same question could be applied to science. Are we discovering how things work or are we creating a language that would allow us to explain to ourselves how things work. If it is a language we are essentially inventing a system that allows us to manipulate the world around us and as long as it works then its ok. I believe that whatever “language” or system of understanding that a person wants to use is ok as long as it allows said person to obtain what they want. Personally I believe that science and evolution is a better system simply because using that science is allowing us to manipulate the world around us much more effectively or obviously than praying or something of that sort. Now that is just my opinion but it is an interesting thought.

  8. I agree with gwuw2014 that Dudt’s view is very common among non-extremist christians and those who want to turn to intellectual design. However, her article shows extreme bias and isn’t accurate in that it denounces certain aspects of the evolution argument. It’s a weak argument if one picks and chooses what aspects of evolution they want to believe. However, acknowledging the validity in the evolutionary argument is a good start to a deeper understanding. Do you think it’s better that Dudt qualified his argument rather than completely deny evolution, despite him sounding choosy?

    • graduallychanging says:

      Slowdownyourmind, I also think that believing in certain aspects of evolution was a good start for Dudt. Many religious people will not budge from the common, literal interpretation of Genesis. Dudt, in my opinion, serves as a realistic example for the reconciliation, although partial, of religion and evolution (or science as a whole).

  9. CuriousGeorge says:

    I suggest that it is important not to become too entangled with the apparent conflict between religion and science. Both, religion and science, are two different methods by which us can acquire knowledge. That is, two different epistemological methods that allow us to study the origin, nature, and limits of our understanding. The religious method is clearly based on faith; meanwhile science is based on the accumulation of empirical (experience, experimental) evidence, through the application of the scientific method.

    Religious beliefs do not required physical evidence to be accepted by the faithful. Also a religious belief cannot be falsified by science (the typical example is that no serious scientist would pretend to design an experiment aimed at providing evidence in favor or against the existence of “a” God).

    Meanwhile, there is nothing that precludes a religious individual to accept and “interpret” any evidence and knowledge – even that acquired through secular methods by biologists, geologists and other scientists dedicated to the study of the natural world and its origins-, as supporting her/his beliefs.

    I know a few colleague scientists who acknowledge their religious beliefs, but they also recognize that when they are doing scientific work they are scientists not believers; meanwhile when they are attending mass they are believers that happen to be scientists.

  10. sunny2018 says:

    I think that Dudt finds using science as a method to contradict Christian beliefs to be unacceptable because it conflicts with his own faith. He is clearly trying to reconcile science and religion in some way by trying to make both the Bible and evolution coexist, which, as has been stated perviously, is common among non-extremists. He is concerned about trying to prove aspects of the Bible false, but rather than rejecting science as a whole and presenting the Bible as science, he tries to make both of his beliefs work together. I think that Dudt’s ideas are definitely a step forward from religious ‘scientists’ presenting intelligent design/creationism as a science.

  11. serrobert says:

    I do not entirely agree with collegeblogger19. I am not a scientist, I have no way of proving the theory of relativity or the speed of light and all that. So don’t I need to take what science tells me as a belief. I need to trust in science to tell me the right answer to what exists in the natural world. It is the same thing in religion. It all just depends on what you trust more, science or faith.

    • graduallychanging says:

      Serrobert, I do not agree with your claim of science being a matter of belief. The scientific method requires that scientists lay out the steps that produced their results along with the conditions in which they were taken. Their work is then reviewed by their peers and judged in what is hopefully an objective manner. A properly presented scientific study, in my opinion, will be transparent enough that trust is not a factor. If you have the resources, you could also carry out the same experiment yourself and verify that the information provided by a scientist is accurate. In science, you can have many pieces of evidence supporting a hypothesis, but if a single, well-designed, experiment contradicts a hypothesis it is enough to reject the hypothesis.
      In the case of religion, on the other hand, your only choice is to accept, as an act of faith, the ideas that are laid out for you.

    • moneytrees3001 says:

      If you asked a scientist to explain the theory of relativity, he could easily take a few hours and give you a thorough overview of the topic, supplemented with data and arguments from peer-reviewed articles. If you asked a clergyman to explain how God created man, he would point you toward the non-peer reviewed, ancient, and morally outdated Bible, or ask you to just believe. Therein lies the difference. Not one person has a deep understanding of every complicated scientific theory in existence, so we must depend on the findings of other, but this is not the faith of the religious, for it is based in science and agreed upon conclusions.

    • regan1984 says:

      To reply to serrobert’s point, and to whomever probably brought up this point before me, science is analogous almost to a modern religion. It has a large set of core beliefs that supposedly give answers to how we came to be. The only specific difference is that science has literal evidence to provide for the majority of its beliefs, and I feel as if this is where the similarity begins to waver. I think Dudt’s attempt to combine the evolutionary theory and religion, despite how biased it might seem, is a giant leap in the issue of science and religion co-existing. I also wouldn’t say that “science contradicts the beliefs of people who take the bible literally”. Science isn’t out to disprove the bible, it’s merely looking for a logical explanation for the world around us. Lastly, I agree that “Christians and all religious people cannot pick and choose what scientific evidence they want to support based on whatever the bible says”, but in terms of the onslaught of religious fervor that was laid out by the men in Kogan Plaza today, I think that picking and choosing what to believe is good enough start in terms of science plays into religion.

  12. moneytrees3001 says:

    Dudt’s writing is underpinned by the classic Christian fear that recognizing inerrancies in God’s work will lead to a general moral decline into “an unhealthy syncretism with naturalism.” This is why most Christians can’t accurately discuss science, because findings that point towards their God’s impotence or non-existence are categorically a bad thing. I think Dudt’s general disposition can easily be compared to one of the sources I’m using in my review of the Freiler v Tangipahoa School Board case. In his defense of requiring a disclaimer to be read before teaching evolution, board member E.F. Bailey spoke passionately about the vast importance of teaching children they are not here by accident.
    “It’s important because there is so much riding on a youngster’s concept of the origin … of life and matter. If it was an accident, life is not important, because, you see, it’s just an accident. Human lives are not important, that means that this thing of abortion is — gives more validity to that, because life is not important, and — and the fact that the crime record — crime rate is sweeping our nation, sweeping our state, you see, it gives credibility there because life is not important because we are just here by accident.”
    Bailey, like Dudt’s, believes that Christian beliefs are simply essential for the next generation of citizens, and are the only things holding the moral strands of the country together. In this presumption, both men are blinded to the truth of evolution. They would rather lie to their children about natural processes and tell them they are the loving work of a Creator, than explain the true, yet often brutal, process of natural selection.

  13. serrobert says:

    To clarify my earlier statement. I was trying to get at the point that as someone who is not extensively educated in the origins of the universe and to use the big bang as an example, I am forced to turn to a scientist who has “evidence” that I am supposed to accept as fact because I have no way to contradict him. If I lived in the 1200’s I would turn to religion to tell me why the black death was happening and how the earth was created. They fill the same role. Science is a modern religion that most people must accept on good faith with the scientists.

  14. pianokid123 says:

    I would like to quote Jeffrey Moran in response to the ongoing disucssion of whether or not science and religion can coexist:

    “…leading Protestant theologians came to argue that religion and science occupied entirely separate spheres. Theology was to give up its former status as arbiter of the natural and supernatural and henceforth confine itself more closely to the arenas of faith and morality. There, beyond the reach of scientific inquiry, religion could survive and … even thrive”(Page 6).

    I love this interpretation because it achknowledges that science and religion cannot coexist as explanations for the natural world, but can complement one another when formulating moral judgements. For example, religion and science do not “reconcile” eachother: religion reconciles science, not the other way around. When a new scientific discovery is made that contradicts “Biblical revelations,” it is religion that must retreat, not science. However, science says nothing about morality, as human societies engendered the concept of morality. Because of this, religion can still propose a set of morals for its followers to prescribe to without contradicting scientific law or theory.

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