Veritas Forum Discusses Compatibility of Religion and Science

Harvey Mudd Assistant Professor of Chemistry David Vosburg spoke at the Veritas forum, hosted by the Pomona-Pitzer Christian Fellowship in Rose Hills Theatre on Tuesday.As both an organic chemist and a Christian, Vosburg aimed to dispel the notion that faith and science are incompatible.“Many times I have felt alienated by fellow scientists, fellow Christians, or sometimes both at the same time,” Vosburg said. “I am unwilling to abandon these friends, but I do hope that there is more room in the middle for those in the future who consider themselves both scientists and Christians.”He also pointed out that he was not the only Christian member of the 5-C faculty, but that he was representing a number of people by giving this talk.Speaking to a nearly filled Rose Hills, Vosburg argued that science and faith offer two complementary perspectives coming from the same truth—God’s truth.Faith, Vosburg argued, strives to understand God’s existence beyond the realm of science.According to him, science answered questions such as “how?,” while faith was more concerned with questions such as “why?” He compared this to a boiling kettle—“how” the water boils is a scientific question, while “why” the kettle boils is a philosophical or theological question.He said science relies on faith to a certain extent, and that one needed some degree of both faith and reason.Addressing the popular topic of evolution and its possible incompatibility with religion and God’s existence, Vosburg said, “If evolution is true, is there any room for God?”His answer was a resounding “yes.” He discussed the implications of the first chapter of Genesis, where most of this controversy originates.“As truth-seeking readers of the Bible, we need to be cognizant not only of the original language and genre of the text, but also of the intention of the author interpreted through the conceptual framework of the culture of that time,” Vosburg said.He also pointed out that the Bible pre-dated modern scientific accounts by hundreds of years, recognizing that human interpretation on both a scientific and theological level will inevitably be prone to error.“In my view, nature and the Bible do not lie, but human attempts to interpret them—that is, science and theology, are subject to human error,” Vosburg said. “We must be careful not to extend science past its natural bounds, and also not to use the Bible [to answer questions] that it does not intend to answer.”Vosburg instead agreed with the theory of intelligent design in that evolutionary theory does not necessarily exclude a creator, although he noted that he disagreed with other elements of this theory.“[Intelligent design] states that we can find evidence for an intelligent designer when there are gaps … in [what] science or evolution can explain,” Vosburg said. “I don’t believe that God attempts for us to rigorously prove or disprove his existence, and I think it is a mistake to insert God into our gap of knowledge, because then the room for God narrows as our scientific knowledge expands. And I don’t think that’s healthy theology at all.”One point Vosburg made—that the scientific processes do not reflect the whole truth of the experience—was aptly illustrated when he called his wife up front to exchange a kiss.“Do you think all that was going on there a puckering of the lips, a transfer perhaps of bacteria, saliva, and carbon dioxide?” Vosburg said. “Perhaps not.”

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