FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Essay: Discovering Multiple Intersections of Faith and Science

Discovering Multiple Intersections of Faith and Science

There are many ways to look at how faith and science intersect. Most often we relate them according to the truth claims each makes about the world and whether the claims conflict or are in harmony. When these claims align, we celebrate the wonders of God’s creative work and our human capacity to explore and understand it. In response to disharmony, Christians often work from the conviction that since God is the Creator, faith and science cannot, ultimately, be in conflict. Therefore, any current conflicts between the two must be due to human error and sin.

While true as far as it goes, this approach encourages a tendency to think faith and science only interact when they make conflicting claims. It also offers us little remedy for the error or sin that is causing disharmony and provides little help for relating to non-Christians who reject Christianity because it seems to conflict with science. Relating faith and science based on their truth claims is of obvious importance, but there is a larger context that must be considered if we are to do justice to either faith or science, for both are more than sets of propositions about the world.

As Christians, our primary calling is to love God and our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40), and science is one of the many arenas in which we have the opportunity to live this out. Thinking FASTly means relating faith and science not only according to their truth claims, but also as a way of practicing the virtues called for in these “greatest commandments.” The concept of virtue is a rich area to explore. We often think of virtues as moral traits such as humility, patience, or courage. But the term virtue, in its broadest sense, refers more generally to capacities or abilities acquired through repeated practice to accomplish a particular goal. Considering virtue forces us to also think about practices and about motivations.

For example, if we desire the virtue of humility we must repeatedly practice accepting the limits of our abilities and how easily we can be wrong. If we desire the virtue of patience, we must practice responding to situations where we do not immediately get what we want. These virtues demand discipline, which we submit to because we realize the result will help us to more fully love God and others.

Science is the discipline in which we practice certain activities as a part of a scientific community. Distinctly scientific practices include observation, making hypotheses, making predictions based on those hypotheses, and running experiments to see if those predictions hold. Scientists then share their work with the world, submitting it for peer review to see if it stands up to scrutiny. These practices have the potential to cultivate the virtues of objectivity, attentiveness, honesty, and humble receptivity to the world. The necessity of collaborating with others in scientific work provides opportunity for practicing the virtues needed for relationships that display service, care, and respect for others. These practices, when motivated by love of God and love of neighbor, have the potential to develop virtues that empower humans to live well together in the world God has created and love God, neighbor, and creation more deeply.

Teaching FASTly means not settling for thinking about the relationship between faith and science as just a series of arguments about what is true. It means being explicit about how we shape the practices of science and science education and how they shape us, about the virtues cultivated through those practices, and about the goals those practices and virtues are oriented toward. What practices should we adopt to cultivate the virtues we need to do science with the goal of loving God and my neighbor? Raising questions such as these opens up a host of interactions between faith and science rarely explored, yet pregnant with possibility. embraces this larger framework and makes it concrete and doable by providing teaching ideas and lesson resources that enhance and enrich the connections between faith and science.