Christian Worldview

Keeping the Faith

Eighty years ago, psychologist and researcher James Leuba made a prediction that scandalized America: As people became better educated in science, Leuba predicted, they would eventually stop believing in God. But Leuba’s prediction turned out to be about as accurate as the idea that humans would never travel to the moon. In 1916 Leuba sent a survey to 1,000 randomly selected scientists in biology, mathematics, physics, and astronomy, asking them: "Do you believe in a God to whom one may pray in expectation of an answer?" Only 40 percent answered yes. The survey results were front-page news around the country. "Sixty percent of scientists do not believe in God," one headline shouted. Americans were shocked that scientists were embracing atheism in far greater numbers than the general population at the time. Even worse was Leuba’s confident prediction that everyone would soon follow the scientists into atheism or agnosticism. The great thing about predictions is that eventually we can check their accuracy. Last year historian Edward Larson and religion journalist Larry Witham used exactly the same format to survey 1,000 contemporary scientists. To the vast surprise of everyone, the new survey found that the percentage of scientists who believe in God has stayed exactly the same: 40 percent—just as it was in 1916. The only difference is that today, that number doesn’t seem low, it seems high. Many Americans are surprised to learn that almost half our nation’s scientists profess a belief in a personal God and an afterlife. But why are we so surprised? Because many of us have a skewed definition of science. Science is often defined as little more than applied atheism—an explanation of the world in terms of purely natural causes. Any reference to God creating and sustaining the world is ruled out of bounds as "unscientific." No wonder many people have come to believe that you can’t be both a scientist and a Christian. The very definition of science smuggles in a philosophy—the philosophy of complete naturalism. But the results of the new survey show that for many scientists, there’s no inherent contradiction between science and faith. Their beliefs echo those of the founders of modern science. Copernicus, Kepler, Boyle, and Newton all studied creation in order to glorify the Creator. In fact, historians today agree that the Christian faith provided many of the foundational intellectual assumptions that made modern science possible. For example, that the universe has a rational structure because it was created by a rational God; that nature is not divine, contrary to what many pagan religions believe, so we don’t have to be afraid of studying it. Far from being hostile to faith, science owes its very existence to the Christian faith. That’s why we need to keep a close eye on what our own children are learning in the science classroom. Are they learning true science—or naturalistic philosophy? The more people are exposed to true science, the more likely they are to see the mounting evidence of the design of the God who created the heavens and the earth.


Chuck Colson


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