This is the third summer of Mary & Marie. And every year so far, the last week of July, no matter what else is on my mind, I stop and talk about faith and science.
As I work on my dissertation, I wonder if I'll find anything. Will there be (enough) evidence to support my hypotheses? Or is this thought I'm having simply not true? As scientists, we always hope our hypotheses are correct, of course. For one, there is the publication bias that means we won't get to share our findings if we don't find something (statistically) significant. And, of course, there's simple human nature where we also want to be right... But ultimately, as scientists, we are bound to seek truth. It is our highest aim, our loftiest goal, and our ethical obligation.
What I want to be true just doesn't matter. All that matters is what is. And while all good scientists must endeavor to interpret the facts, to weave a narrative about the hows and whys, to situate our findings within the context of the larger field-- interpretation must always be regarded as just that: interpretation. Evidence is a solid foundation. Interpretations can be wrong, and we mustn't hold too tightly to them. And we must always consider alternate explanations since our very perception of the evidence is always shaded by our own biases and experiences-- they're shaded inevitably by some measure of interpretation.
As a scientist, I guard against these things. I regard interpretation cautiously, even if I believe it. I check my biases. I am willing to admit when I'm wrong, even when it's inconvenient or unpleasant. I study. I invest time and energy. I do all this, often going to a lot of trouble actually, because I seek truth.
As a Christian, I am also a truth-seeker. And as a Christian, I must also endeavor to interpret Scripture. Good Bible study practices warn against taking Bible verses out of context. Instead, we seek to situate each verse into the larger context of the Bible (not to mention the historical/cultural/linguistic context implied). We recognize that interpretations can be right, wrong, or uncertain. We recognize that wrong interpretations don't change the facts, and that our loftiest goal and most solemn obligation is to understand and convey the facts as accurately as possible.
As we study, sometimes we put aside interpretations we used to believe in. This doesn't mean the facts have changed, but often means that further study (perhaps learning more about the historical or cultural context) has illuminated a Biblical passage in a new way, and has changed our understanding of it.
We must consistently confront and put aside our biases (e.g., our modern perspective reading an ancient book, the connotations of English translations vs. those of the original language, reading passages the way you were taught based on what is common in the geographic area you live vs. exploring other interpretations that may be common in other locations, etc.).
My identity as a truth-seeker manifests in both my faith and my science. While it's not something I always consider or name, it is one of the most basic reasons why my identity as a Christian and my identity as a scientist are completely compatible. It is also one of the reasons why I never fear science.
Some would argue that faith and science seek truth in different domains, faith focusing on the supernatural and science focusing on natural phenomenon. That is true sometimes, although I also would argue that there is also some overlap. ...But if we are all seeking truth (scientists and people of faith), and as a Christian, I believe that God created the natural world and is the Source of everything, I have no reason to fear science.
Science may threaten my interpretation of Scripture at times. Science is also a process and may not line up with Scripture at every moment. In both science and faith, we see only part of the truth-- as seeing "through a glass, darkly." We don't have all the facts in either domain. (That knowledge should give us all a healthy dose of humility.)
What does this mean about how science and faith interact? It may mean that science may influence my interpretation of Scripture. It may also mean that I need to admit more frequently that I don't have all the answers yet. But it doesn't mean there's any cause for fear or concern... I don't believe science will ever "disprove" Scripture (also, that's not how science works-- we can't disprove things!). Ultimately, I do believe that science and faith will tell the same story, and that that story is the whole truth we are all seeking.