Science & God at Forefront of GOP Presidential Race

Dr. Jerry Zandstra submits the following:

Science and God are again front and center in presidential politics. GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry launched the discussion by responding to a boy's question about the age of the earth. He said, "You know what, I don't have any idea." He told the young man that evolution is "a theory that's out there" but that's "got some gaps in it." GOP candidate John Huntsman saw this as an opportunity and responded to Gov. Perry's comments, "To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists. Call me crazy." He accused Gov. Perry of holding an "anti-science" position which would turn off voters, stressing that Republicans would find themselves "on the wrong side of science."

Why does it matter, especially for Republicans? Because candidates and their campaign know polling numbers. In 2010, Gallup polling showed that only 8 percent of Republicans said they believed human life evolved without God's intervention. More than 50% believe that God created human beings "pretty much in their present form."

In anticipation of the release of our film, "The Genesis Code", we hired Strategic National to poll people as to their opinions of faith and science. Thirty-nine percent of voters in New Hampshire believe that science and the Biblical story of creation are in conflict. Forty-two percent of voters in Iowa agree.

Digging into the Iowa data shows why this matters to Republican candidates. Sixty-five percent believe the earth was created in six days and 48% believe the earth is around 10,000 years old.

Are the majority of Republican voters nuts? Are they the gun-toting, knuckle-dragging, Bible-thumpers President Obama warned us about in the 2008 elections?

Theology has certainly had to eat its share of crow in the last 400 years. The earth is not flat nor is it the earth the center of the universe. It took nearly 360 years for the Catholic Church to offer an apology to Galileo for placing him under house arrest and burning his writings that argued that the earth goes around the sun.

But science has its own dogmatists who are sure that their theories are law. At the beginning of the 20th century, scientific orthodoxy held to a "steady-state" concept of the universe. It had no beginning and it had no end and everyone knew it. Oops. Albert Einstein's theories led other scientists to propose the idea of a Big Bang and, suddenly, accepted orthodoxy was blown up too.

For nearly 100 years, Einstein has been the new orthodoxy. But recently, one of Einstein's central propositions was called into questions when scientists in France seem to have broken Einstein's unbreakable law of the speed of light. As Charles Krauthammer wrote in the Washington Post, this may mean, "we shall need a new physics. A new cosmology. New understandings of past and future, of cause and effect. Then shortly and surely, new theologies."

The three scientists who recently won the Physics Nobel Prize, Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Riess, were chosen because they have demonstrated that the expansion of the universe is not actually slowing, as everyone was sure they knew, but actually speeding up.

Again, scientists are forced to abandon orthodoxy and head back to the theoretical drawing board. Edward Witten, a theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study told TheNew York Times, "This discover definitely changed the way physicists look at the universe, and we probably still haven't fully come to grips with the implications."

So who's right? Scientists whose answers need to be adjusted or abandoned nearly as quickly as they become orthodoxy? Is Perry right to question current scientific conclusions or is Huntsman right to put his faith in science?

Let's make a case for a dose of humility. Science and faith should not be enemies. Christians should remember that science is merely the discipline of coming to a better understanding of the world God created. Scientists should remember that people of faith have much to add to the conversation about the origins, purpose, and ultimate end of the universe and life on this planet. It is time to put aside this false argument and encourage both sides to seek mutual understanding and appreciation in the context of some healthy modesty.

Dr. Jerry Zandstra is a pastor and is the Executive Producer of "The Genesis Code" a film about two college students and their struggle between faith and science. The film opens on November 4.


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