This is a pretty hot question through the ages. The issue could be how data is interpreted; often conflict comes from trying to make the Bible say things it was not meant to answer. Do scientists and some Christians disagree? Yes, like Galileo, the Scopes trial of 1925 or Wilburforce and Huxley.
Well meaning Christians:
Some try to make the Bible say what it does not say. For instance James Bishop Ussher (1581-1656) calculated the genealogy back to Adam and claimed the earth was created in 4004 BC. Ussher’s notes are not part of the original text so the Bible does not really say that the earth was created in 4004 BC. Statements can be philosophic interpretations of data which do not carry the same weight of authority as the data.
When a scientist speaks:
When a scientist speaks on any subject, he is likely to be believed. He may be speaking outside of his field but gets the same respect that should be given from within his field. Carl Sagan (professor of astronomy at Cornell) speaks on the subject of science and religion. Science is his field; religion is certainly not. He makes bold statements like the universe is all there ever was or ever will be. If we must worship a power greater than ourselves, would it not make sense to worship the sun or stars? But it makes no sense to worship the product of blind chance in a pointless process.
If we stick to what the Bible actually says and what the scientific facts are, the area of controversy is much smaller. There are times of honest differences among Christians: like the meaning of the word “day” in Genesis 1. We cannot condemn someone with a differing view.
Faith is suspect:
Can something that cannot be verified scientifically be dismissed as invalid or unreal? If a statement cannot be proved in a lab or confirmed by science, it cannot be accepted as reliable. There are other ways to acquire knowledge, than just in a laboratory. Consider falling in love. It cannot be confirmed in a lab yet no one would say it is unreal. The scientific method is only reliable on topics whose realities are measured in physical terms.
Faith is no detriment to reality. Science itself rest on presuppositions which must be accepted by faith before the research is possible. The universe is orderly, operates on a pattern, and we can predict it’s behavior.
The scientific method we know of today began in the sixteenth century, among Christians. They broke from the Greek polytheistic concepts that looked at the universe as in chaos and irregular. The alternative was a universe of order and there must have been an intelligent designer behind the patterns. Another improvable presupposition that must be accepted by faith is the reliability of our sense perception. One must believe that our senses are trustworthy enough to get a true picture of the universe and enable us to understand its orderliness.
Science is the only way to truth:
A Christian exercises faith and sees no incompatibility in using reason or intelligence. A scientist who is a Christian sees himself following the steps of the founders of modern science.
Science is incapable of making value judgments about the things is measures. There is nothing inherent in science that guides them in the application of the discoveries they make. Science can tell us how something works but it cannot answer why it works; whether there is any purpose for it in the universe. The Bible often tells us how, but rarely tells us why!
Is God Necessary?
Some have thought God was necessary to explain some things that could not otherwise be explained. Scientist will say that given enough time they can explain anything in the universe.
God is not only creator but the sustainer of the universe (Colossians 1:17). The universe would fall apart if it were not for God. You still need God even if you understand everything. Knowing how the universe is sustained is not the same as things as sustaining it.
Consider DNA. Is God going to be thrown from the throne since DNA can be produced in a laboratory? These advances in science only emphasize that life did not come from blind chance, but from an intelligent mind! Science does not create ex nihilo!
Three views of evolution:
Evolutionism: that the universe has been evolving forever on the basis of a natural processes, mutation and natural selection.
Microevolution: describes a continued process or development within a species. A bear is still a bear, and dog is still a dog. A species is one of seven classifications (according to the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus) 1) Kingdom, 2) Phylum, 3) Class, 4) Order, 5) family, 6) Genus, and 7) species. Kingdom is the largest group and species is the smallest. Members of a species have a high degree of similarity and will generally interbreed only with themselves. Microevolution will allow for the creation of a new species but not the development of one species into a higher classification.
In Genesis 1:24-25, is kind the same as species? Likely not. It basically means that each kind produces offspring like itself.
Macroevolution: requires the transfer of genetic information from one species to a higher more complex classification. Factors along with chance cannot provide the information necessary to build legs on a fish. There are no missing links in paleontology; from whales to land mammals for instance.
Christians hold to two non-negotiable facts: God supernaturally created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1), and God supernaturally created the first man and woman (Genesis 1:27). The Bible rules out the possibility of mankind evolving from a lower life form. The NT refers to Adam and Eve as historic figures (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45, 2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:13-14, 1 John 3:12, Jude 1:11). Genesis was not an allegory!
The age of the earth?
Was it 4004 BC or millions of years ago? Look at the Hebrew word for day. Can it mean a period or are rather than just a 24-hour period? The first humans were created on the sixth day (Genesis 2:7-22, 5:2) and he named the animals and had a wife all on a single 24-period? God’s use of the word day is not so confined (Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8). Other theologians state that God created a grown up universe, Adam at 20, trees with rings, a rock with the appearance of age, mountain ranges in place. It’s not an argument for the Christian to push since the Bible is silent on the matter. We should be agnostic as to the age of the earth.
Commentary: The same word day is used in the Ten Commandments, a 24-hour period (Exodus 20:11). Adam did not start out as an embryo. There was vegetation on day three, yet now sun until day four, so photosynthesis would not have worked if day three was more than 24 hours.
A constantly moving train:
We are always learning, yesterday’s generalization is tomorrow’s discarded hypothesis. What is to say that evolution is the last assault on our origin? If the Bible becomes embedded in today’s scientific theories, what happens when the theories change 20 years form now? In 1861 the French Academy of Science published 51 scientific facts that controverted the Word of God. Today, not one scientist would support one of these 51 facts.
Many scientists ignore these evolutionary assumptions and consider only the seventh.
- Non-living things gave rise to living material; spontaneous generation.
- Spontaneous generation happened only once.
- Viruses, bacteria, plants and animals are interrelated.
- Protozoa gave rise to metazoa.
- Various invertebrate phyla are interrelated.
- Invertebrates gave rise to vertebrates.
- Vertebrates and fish gave rise to amphibia, to reptiles, to birds and mammals.
These assumptions by their nature are not capable of experimental verification. They assume a certain set of variables occurred in the past.
Does one assume there is a God or not? It either happened by chance or there is an intelligent design behind it all. If God, where does one stand on Christ?
Extremes to avoid:
That evolution has been proven and anyone with a brain should accept it.
That evolution is only a theory with little evidence for it.
The issue is interpretation of the facts; we choose to believe what we do based on our interpretation of the facts. The presuppositions one brings to the facts, rather than the facts themselves, determine one’s conclusion.