Monday, April 26, 2010

Explanation vs. Appreciation

This blog post by Karl Giberson is a nice, moderate article about the relationship between science and faith. I especially enjoyed the following comment:
Scientific explanations exist for all that I see and hear outside my window. And explanations can be proposed for why humans enjoy nature so much. But faith is God is not about explanations. We do not believe in God because we need to explain this or that feature of the world. That is what science is for. We believe in God because we see something deeper in the world, something that transcends the scientific explanations.
This may be pushing in the direction of "religion and science are two separate spheres that have nothing to do with each other," but I don't think it has to. It's just a fact: believing in God neither begins nor ends a person's pursuit of questions about how the world works.

For me, personally, believing in God inspires me to ask questions about how the world works. Knowing that God created all things, what could be more natural than to ask how he did it? But there are many believers who aren't really that curious about such things, and that's inevitable. It seems God has distributed curiosity to the human race in a somewhat uneven fashion.

I take offense at claims made by atheists that "God did it" is the answer Christians give to questions about the origins of matter, life, and ourselves. It's not that the statement "God did it" is unsatisfactory; it's simply that our curiosity doesn't have to end there. Questions of why and how are perfectly natural for those who have faith, and need not be the product of skepticism.

On the other hand, I admit that in order to answer questions of why and how one usually has to be discontent with traditional answers. This requires an attitude of skepticism toward the status quo, but not necessarily toward God. If God is truly transcendent, it makes sense that traditional understandings would continually fall short of explaining his work.

All in all, I think we need to be humble in our approach to nature and God. Healthy skepticism is a good thing, but it often leads to arrogance, in the same way that traditionalism can foster pride.

So while we will never be able to explain everything, we can continue to explain more and more by returning to an attitude of humility, rethinking our assumptions, and turning with a heart of appreciation toward the created world we love so dearly.

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