Faithful to Science

blog on science and religion


Faith in God the Creator frees us from all mythical interpretations of the world and enables us to investigate scientifically the whole of that reality in nature and history which is open to our sense-experience and reason, without falling victim to any ideology of science. It is appropriate to want to understand this reality in its coherence without bringing in God as a stop-gap where our knowledge is as yet imperfect. It is, however, not appropriate to deny both the basis of scientific freedom and its limits by denying God and by claiming that the knowledge acquired within these limits is the one all-embracing truth which answers all questions, including the basic questions of human existence.

–Karl Barth, Fragments Grave and Gay, p. 56 (Harper Collins 1971)


An honest religious thinker is like a tightrope walker. It almost looks as though he were walking on nothing but air. His support is the slenderest imaginable. And yet it really is possible to walk on it.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.73 (1948)


Give up your good Christian life and follow Jesus.

–Garrison Keillor


We act unbelievingly and disobediently when we despise or mistrust reasonable scientific inquiry or when we absolutize its methods and results, thus evading God’s truth and our responsibility to him.

We act unbelievingly and disobediently when, for whatever motive, we distort, falsify, or suppress the facts about our life in nature and history.

–Karl Barth


… the brightness over
an interior horizon, which is science
transfiguring itself in love’s mirror.

–the final phrase of the poem Destinations by R. S. Thomas.


Everything without exception which is of value in me comes from somewhere other than myself, not as a gift but as a loan which must be ceaselessly renewed.

–Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, repr. in Simone Weil, An Anthology, p.103 (Penguin 2005)


Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean.

–Jonathan Sacks, The Great Partnership (Hodder, 2011)


Science is a differential equation. Religion is a boundary condition.

–Alan Turing, Epigram to Robin Gandy (1954); reprinted in Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: the Enigma (Vintage edition 1992), p. 513


We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and papers from Prison (1997), p. 311


Science accounts for what is going on; religion encounters what is going on.

–by me (A. M. Steane)


My whole tendency and, I believe, the tendency of all men who ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to run against the boundaries of language.

This running against the walls of our cage is perfectly, absolutely hopeless. Ethics so far as it springs from the desire to say something about the ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolute valuable, can be no science. What it says does not add to our knowledge in any sense. But it is a document of a tendency in the human mind which I personally cannot help respecting deeply and I would not for my life ridicule it.

–Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lecture on Ethics (1929)


We do not need to prove religion to [people], but to show them that they are religious.

–George Tyrrell, Christianity at the Cross-roads p.108


Faith is to credulity as mountain-climbing is to watching television.

–by me (A. M. Steane)

Whoever is led to believe that species are mutable will do good service by conscientiously expressing his conviction; for only thus can the load of prejudice by which this subject is overwhelmed be removed.

–Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species ch. 14

Whoever is led to believe that Darwinian evolution is creative will do good service by conscientiously expressing his conviction; for only thus can the load of prejudice by which this subject is overwhelmed be removed.

–a riff on the previous quote, by me.

From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it. Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.

— Sir William Bragg,  in Sir Kerr Grant, The Life and Work of Sir William Bragg (1952), 43.


We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified–how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You can think you know, as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don’t know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know.

Richard Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman, ed. Jeffrey Robbins (1999)



If you don’t make mistakes, you’re doing it wrong.

If you don’t correct those mistakes, you’re doing it really wrong.

If you can’t accept that you are mistaken, you are not doing it at all.


Coming to know the absolute reality that makes, challenges, and inspires people, that meets and recognizes them in their individual dignity as people:

If you don’t make mistakes, you’re doing it wrong.

If you don’t correct those mistakes, you’re doing it really wrong.

If you can’t accept that you are mistaken, you are not doing it at all.

–a take on the previous quote, by me


Perhaps this century, perhaps the next, the knowledge gap will slowly close, and surely Christians should see that ‘closing’ as part of our glad worship to the God who is the author of the whole created order, not as a threat to a poorly founded argument for God’s existence.

 –Denis Alexander, Science & Christian Belief, Vol 20, No. 2, p211 (2008) (commenting on the gap in our understanding of the origin of life)


It is quite disgraceful and disastrous, something to be on one’s guard against at all costs, that [non-Christians] should ever hear Christians spouting what they claim our Christian scripture has to say on these topics [astronomy, biology and so on], and talking such nonsense that they can scarcely contain their laughter when they see them to be toto caelo, as the saying goes, wide of the mark. And what is so vexing is not that misguided people should be laughed at, as that [biblical] authors should be assumed by outsiders to have held such views and, to the great detriment of those about whose salvation we are so concerned, should be written off and consigned to the waste paper basket as so many ignoramuses!

Augustine of Hippo, de Genesi ad litteram 1.19. (written circa 410)


Religion has always been a matter of community building; a matter of building precisely those relations of compassion, fellow feeling and – I dare to use the word – inclusion, which would otherwise be absent from our societies.

— Rowan Williams

Religion is a cop-out, … a betrayal of the intellect and everything human that is good, … a phoney substitute for an explanation … redundant and irrelevant.

— Richard Dawkins

–two quotes from a debate in Cambridge, 2013


What is critically important is that each discipline should continue to enrich, nourish and challenge the other to be more fully what it can be and to contribute to our vision of who we are and who we are becoming. . . .To be more specific, both religion and science must preserve their autonomy and their distinctiveness. . . . Christianity possesses the source of its justification within itself and does not expect science to constitute its primary apologetic. Science must bear witness to its own worth. . . . The unprecedented opportunity we have today is for a common interactive relationship in which each discipline retains its integrity and yet is radically open to the discoveries and insights of the other. . . . For science develops best when its concepts and conclusions are integrated into the broader human culture and its concerns for ultimate meaning and value. . . . Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.

Pope John Paul II, letter to the Reverend George V. Coyne, S.J.
Director of the Vatican Observatory


  1. Great to see you online. Looking forward to your posts.

  2. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

  3. 54714 66458Hey! Nice stuff, do tell us when you post something like that! 636739

  4. 9S6ULM very nice put up, i actually love this website, keep on it

  5. I conceive you have remarked some very interesting details, regards for the post.

  6. WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. …

  7. Hello there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  8. I have been surfing online greater than three hours today, but I never discovered any fascinating article like yours. It is beautiful price sufficient for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made just right content material as you did, the internet will be a lot more helpful than ever before.

  9. Enjoying this site enormously. Even though a non scientist, I managed to work out that nothing comes from nothing, and have often cited the need for a primary cause when others question the validity of my faith in a creator, so I enjoyed your article on the Grand Intention and have forwarded a link to my son, who is more likely to understand the terminology. However I had to smile at the idea of Augustin of Hippo (quoted in the article above) having a waste paper basket, or even having paper. Maybe those biblical authors would have been cast onto the papyrus heap to be used again…

    • admin

      May 8, 2015 at 8:21 am

      Thanks for the encouragement, and I see what you mean about the waste paper basket. I’m not sure who was the translator here but I guess they felt a basket was a gentler image than a rubbish bin, and (I assume) this captured the flavour of Augustine’s thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


© 2022 Faithful to Science

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑