The age-old debate between faith and science often gets tripped up by unexamined assumptions.
Naturalists affirm that there is a dichotomy between faith and science so that faith can never be considered “scientific” and science has no room or regard for faith. The teacher in my daughter’s freshman biology class has implied as much with her frequent insistence (repeated several times in the first 3 weeks of class) that “you can’t prove the existence of God”. This is, of course, a true statement in my opinion; an argument I will freely concede. However, her repetitive assertion seems to be carrying with it an underlying implication. “It would follow from this premise,” this teacher seems to suggest, “that faith in God is unscientific and, therefore, irrational.”
This is a common position, held (undoubtedly) by the majority of scientists with a materialistic world view (although a recent article on NPR discusses some very intriguing counterpoints to this argument). In the end, however, what these naturalists fail to acknowledge is that it is possible to “know” something without being able to “prove” it. I believe this is true even in the scientific community. Let me illustrate.
Astronomers tell me that the universe is rapidly expanding. (I assume they can “prove” this somehow, though I don’t know the precise verification.) They explain that Space is, in fact, growing at such a staggering rate that distant galaxies are actually racing away from us at faster than the speed of light. As a consequence of this, these far reaching galaxies will eventually “disappear” from us entirely. At some point in the far-distant future (if the universe doesn’t collapse back in on itself) all but the closest galaxies will have receded entirely into the blackness of space leaving no trace of their existence to human observers. They will, at that point, be undetectable. So the obvious question for the astronomer in this distant future is simply, can you believe in the Universe? At that point there will be no way to scientifically prove the existence of the galaxies. In fact it would be quite possible for them to have no knowledge of them whatsoever. The scientists may believe with absolute certainty that we are, in fact, profoundly alone. And all the observational data would support their conclusion. In that case, the only way for someone to “know” the truth is if it were somehow preserved – in a book, for example. Scientists who studied ancient history might read the primeval text books and might somehow become convinced that the character of the authors of those books was trustworthy, and that their description of the visible universe was accurate. They would therefore know what was true even though they would quite literally have no way to prove it by any rigorous method. Would that be considered unscientific? Perhaps. Would it be irrational? You tell me. Discounting someone’s faith simply because it is not “provable” might possibly be just as dangerous (in the pursuit of Truth) as clinging to faith blindly.
Not all evidence can fit in a test tube.