Human societies throughout the ages have wondered about questions such as the following: Why are we here? What’s our purpose in life? What is the meaning of life? What’s our place in the universe? Is there a God? What does God want us to do? In other words and in the words of Carl Sagan, “What is our place in the cosmos?”
Many look to science for answers about the unknown. Unfortunately, science cannot answer any of the questions above because of science’s self-imposed boundaries of the observable events in the natural world around us. Science cannot differentiate the natural and the supernatural because science cannot empirically observe God’s hand; but that does not discount God’s existence. Prominent scientific writer Stephen Jay Gould wrote the following (Scientific American, 267, “Impeaching a Self-Appointed Judge”, 1992).
Science simply cannot by its legitimate methods adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We (scientists) neither affirm nor deny it; we simply cannot comment on it as scientists.
This does not mean those initial questions cannot be answered. Although science is a way of knowing, it is not the only way because science does not corner the way to truth. Philosophical, theological, historical, ethical, psychological/emotional, and political views provide additional perspectives. Therefore, it is up to each of us to put these things together.
Whereas science is the quest for understanding in nature, theology is concerned with the quest for understanding about the nature of God and his association with humans and the world that surrounds us; including all human affairs – including science. By aiming at questions of why, theology is an intellectual, reflective, moral, answer-seeking study about the meaning of the life and value that God intends for us. Therefore, through science and theology we learn our place and the natural mechanisms God uses to operate within His creation.
Strengthening our understanding of science, theology, and the interchange between them provides a greater understanding and appreciation for God’s creation – a greater sense of awe – a greater understanding to make connections of our place in the cosmos and a deeper understanding of His creation – our majestic, awesome, intricate, beautiful, continually growing universe.
Astronomer Robert Jastrow, who is in the video below, wrote these poignant words in God and the Astronomers:
At this moment, it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.
Enjoy the video.