A call to be mutually supportive of each other has been made to science and religion in James G Martin’s latest book Revelation Through Science. Martin, a retired American politician who served as the 70th governor of North Carolina, makes this fervent plea for the sake of the future of humanity.
Written for the educated non-scientists, Martin’s background as a chemist has allowed him to address how science and faith can complement each other. Following the lead of astronomers, physicists, and biologists, he presents new examples from chemistry that the more deeply science probes nature, the more it reveals evidence pointing towards god.
“There is a new and growing network of scientists who are willing to defend their religious faith, and who ‘present evidence for faith,’ to cite the elegant phrase of NIH Director Francis Collins,” said Martin. “Rather than minimise the issue by separating science and relation into different domains of truth, this informal network contends that science and religion are compatible and mutually supportive.” Kirkus Reviews called the book “a philosophically challenging but accessible argument for comity between reason and faith.” It claims that Revelation Through Science adds new material from chemistry, describing organic structures that are profoundly vital for life, yet too complex for self-assembly without some guiding principle. Martin believes that it should lift the burden from believers and seekers to realise that science is not the enemy of faith.
The books gives a sweepingly thorough account of the ways in which modern science and religion share common ground in our cultural context. Few cultural cleavages are as stark as the one between modern science and religion. Martin, who holds a doctorate in chemistry from Princeton University, argues that the relationship between the two systems, though historically fraught with tension, has evolved over time toward a point of reconciliation, if not harmony. Prior to Galileo’s monumentally important astronomical discoveries, he says, theology and science enjoyed a fairly cozy relationship, with each supporting the other, and afterward, they affected a détente that lasted centuries until Charles Darwin’s seminal discoveries renewed the acrimony between them.
However, Martin contends that the most recent scientific discoveries close the gap and “function as instruments of revelation.” As a result, he says, many people see Darwinian evolution as the final confirmation of atheism but “Others of us prefer to interpret the same scientific evidence as modern revelation of the creative glory of god, revealed to us through the unique intellectual powers that he has provided for us to acquire.”
According to Kirkus Reviews, the author treats readers to a stunningly comprehensive tour of modern science that visits the innovations of physics, biology, and chemistry. He finds in all of them “evidence for an updated version of the classical teleological argument, which states that the order of the universe is so intricately complex that it powerfully suggests intentional designer.” The author reassesses various sources of conflict between science and religion, providing fresh perspectives on such things as the infamous Scopes “monkey trial” of 1925 and other related controversies. The book argues that today the time has come to grow out of the conflict and be supportive of both science and religion. Overall, though, this is a provocative introduction for the “educated nonscientist”— one written out of great respect for both science and religion. It is thus “a philosophically challenging but accessible argument for comity between reason and faith.”
Today we need such ventures, where differences are acknowledge and respected and dialogue is fostered. This is true not only between science and religion, but between cultural, political and religious groups. Respectful dialogue is the way out of the mess we have created for ourselves.
(The writer is professor of science, religion and philosophy and author of Gratefully and Gracefully)