The False Conflict Between Science and Religion

The October, 2011, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published an article, “Making the Climate a Part of the Human World,” by Simon Donner. Dr. Donner is a geographer at the University of British Columbia. The peer-reviewed article contends there is a conflict between religion and the science behind human-caused global warming. In the words of the author, “In these [religious] belief systems, humans may indirectly influence the climate through communication with the divine [i.e., prayer for rain], but they cannot directly influence the climate”[humans cannot intentionally or inadvertently modify the climate, i.e., cannot cause global warming]. [Note: Bracketed comments are mine.]

I encountered that same sentiment as a guest on a radio program this past summer.  To both Dr. Donner and one of the hosts of the program, this supposed religious conflict accounts for unbelief in catastrophic global warming.

I have a one-word reply: Nonsense.

Ever wonder why there are hospitals with names like St. John’s, Beth Israel, or Baptist College of Health Sciences? Or, great universities with names like Notre Dame (Latin for “Our Lady,” the Mother of Jesus)?  It is because Judeo-Christian culture is in fact pro-science.

The Catechism (official beliefs) of the Catholic Church states,

“Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things the of the faith derive from the same God.”

The Baptist Standard (February, 2009) states,
More than 900 congregations in the United States and elsewhere were signed up for Evolution Weekend 2009, an annual event that began with a letter-writing campaign in 2004.

That summer, the school board in Grantsburg, Wis., passed a policy requiring that all theories of origins be taught in the district schools. A Christian minister penned a short response letter saying the dichotomy between science and religion was false.

Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Science at Butler University, worked with about 200 clergy across Wisconsin to prepare a statement in support of teaching evolution.

Both religion and science strive for the same goal: Truth. The difference is in techniques and subjects examined. As stated above in both the Catechism and the Standard, authentic science never conflicts with the faith. For example, this blogger believes the passage in Genesis where God says, “Let there be light” refers to the same event as astronomy’s “Big Bang.” Not only don’t they conflict, did you know that the Big Bang was first proposed by a Catholic priest named Georges Lemaitre at the Catholic University of Louvain?

Just as there is no conflict between creation (“let there be light”) and science (the Big Bang) at the beginning of the universe, there is no intrinsic conflict between evolution and religion as the universe unfolded. God just as easily could have imbued creation with the chemical matter and physical laws that lead to the evolution of the species as He could have created each species individually.

Does man affect the climate? Absolutely. Human effects at a local level are well known and accepted. The global scale is where things get much more difficult: Solar, volcano, aerosols (tiny particles in the atmosphere), cosmic rays, whether changes in cloud cover cause net warming or cooling are all tremendous uncertainties. 

Regardless of what one’s opinion of global warming might be, what does a discussion of religion have to do with it? True science demands concrete proof as defined by the Scientific Method. The catastrophic global warming hypothesis falls short of the level of proof required which, I fear, is why these irrelevant side issues keep coming up. 

My conclusion: Science and society would be better served if atmospheric scientists focused on the science to the exclusion of these side issues. If believers in catastrophic global warming want to convince people of the correctness of their case they should start, for example, by explaining why neither the IPCC’s reports nor their multiple forecast models anticipated the current dozen years without global warming.

Come up with solid, reproducible answers and open-minded skeptics like me are far more likely re-evaluate our positions than by producing and publishing papers of dubious pertinence.

(c) 2011, Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC

7 thoughts on “The False Conflict Between Science and Religion

  1. Hi Mike…this is my favorite post of yours yet.

    I have always believed this myself. (A question rolling around my head for years "Why couldn't God have created evolution? Where's the conflict?")

    Its my contention that the "Global Warming" concept is merely a sham and an excuse for more control via laws, regulations and international carbon taxes, etc. Its never been about the health of the planet at all.

    Have you watched the movie THRIVE yet?

  2. Mike, take a trip to the Creation Museum where they brook no nonsense regarding evolution. The earth is only 6000 years old, men and dinosaurs existed together and any other science is false. Sad to think that in this day and age with all the miracles science has given us that a percentage of this country believes in young earth creation.

    IMHO, we don't know what a day was in the creators' eyes. There is no scale to judge by. He/She/It snapped their fingers and said let there be light. And light came forth. But you can talk till your lips turn blue to some people and they will tell you how wrong you are.

  3. Any claim of a "Conflict Between Science and Religion" is fallacious, and either underlain by ignorance, a desire to denigrate ones opposition as inferior by inference, or both. Science is inherently and fundamentally a religious endeavor. This is clearly so as any scientific endeavor is inevitably rooted within the investigator's view of the world and assumptions as to how what does exist operates, the core of which lie outside the realm of scientific exploration.

    If the author defines Science as scientific exploration under-girded by the philosophy of materialistic naturalism (MN), with any opposing under-girding philosophy being defined as 'unScientific', then he tells us only a partial truth in that he notes that scientific endeavors regarding CAGW under-girded by a Judea-Christian (JC) philosophy will be hindered in accepting man's ability to functionally destroy the earth by severely damaging it's ecosphere via his alterations to the earth's climate. This is only a partial truth however as every aspect I am aware of the within the CAGW discussion is mutually agreed upon by adhearents of MN and JC regrading the present day-to-day functioning of the solar-terrestrial system. Put more bluntly, baring an expectation of a climatically disruptive divine intervention into the functioning of the sun-earth system, of which there has been no invocation that I am aware of, there is nothing regarding the physics of the CAGW discussion that differs between either a MN or JC. As such, all remaining scientific investigation regarding the theory can then be characterized as 'nonreligious' and 'scientific'.

    May Truth Prevail!

    – Jacob

  4. Amulbunny,

    In a way, they could be right. Before jumping to a conclusion, allow me to explain:

    "The Science of God" is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read ( ). He makes a case that, using Einstein's Relativity (i.e., time slows to a crawl at 99.999% of the speed of light) the earth might have been created in six "relativity" days (24hr @ 99% of the speed of light ~= 4 billion years in "earth time"). I'm not enough of a physicist to determine whether Dr. Schroeder is correct or not but it is a fascinating hypothesis.

    What I am pointing out is that the two (science and religion) have no intrinsic conflict. There are far too many stubborn people on both sides. I'm trying to offer some thoughts to bridge the gap.

    And, bringing religion into global warming is nothing but an irrelevant side show.


  5. Great post! You correctly point out that many historical leading scientists and mathematicians come from a Christian background (e.g., see ).

    I happen to be a young earth creationist and a scientist by profession, and I see no contradiction. Why? Because creation wasn't observed and can't be replicated. It therefore can't be completely established in the realm of science and must be attributed to faith. I submit the same is true with macro-evolution (spontaneous development of new species with unique genetic codes due to random processes), which also neither has been observed nor replicated.

    How much is climate change anthropogenic? Well, assuming it isn't at all – would that then condone using fossil fuels exactly as we do now without any exploration into alternate energy sources? The answer to the latter question does not depend on the answer to the former, in my opinion – so why don't we just focus on how to better manage our energy supplies?