For centuries mankind has been awed and perplexed by the character of the universe and the existence of humanity. Many ideas have come and gone while many more will inevitably be introduced and as always, some will gain traction and others will fall by the wayside. Just another day at the office of creation.
I remember as a child I looked up at the night sky and asked my father questions like, how many stars where there and how big was space. My father looked at me thoughtfully and told me that there was an infinite number of stars and space was endless. Now, as an adult, I still look up there and wonder the same things sometimes.
It has now become widely accepted that the number of stars is finite and the space they occupy does in fact have boundaries of a sort. We are currently in a new age of enlightenment brought about by the advent of new technologies and innovations in the way we observe the cosmos. Science has opened the door to many new discoveries but also, it has raised many new questions as well. Nevertheless many of us look to science to answer some of the most difficult questions. There is however, an alternative perspective. The worldview that is provided by religion.
I realize that the Bible and other written works of a religious nature are not science books. By the same token, science books are not religious literature. Both mediums do however, weigh in on our existence and the nature of the universe. This article is not meant to be a comprehensive study for obvious reasons. For the most part, I will be referring to the most well-known scientific theories at this time. For the religious standpoint I will be referencing Judeo-Christian beliefs, namely, from the Holy Bible.
This is not an attempt to extol the virtues of one view over another. Only a general comparison between them and where the two agree or disagree. And, of course, my own take on, "this thing called life". Also, I am NOT a scientist. The real scientific theories on the formation of the universe and man are extremely complex. The scientific explanations here are simplified versions based on my understanding of the many science books I've read and the lectures I've attended on these subjects.
And now, in this corner, weighing in at infinity, Religion. Often avoided by secular educators, touched upon warily by politicians, laughed at and ridiculed by some, revered by others. And in this corner, weighing in at the atomic mass of the known universe, Science. Once labeled witchcraft, sorcery, and heresy, now taught in schools all over the world, called upon to explain the functions of nearly everything, and revised constantly.
Never in civilized history has there been more controversy and disagreement on anything like the intellectual minefields that are science and religion. Since I have neither an academic nor political career to destroy, I am going to attempt to meet both subjects head-on.
Let's start with a simple statement: We exist and so does the universe. Simple enough don't you think? Well in this arena even a statement like that can be challenged. For the purpose here, we are going to operate on the "I think, therefore I am." principle of existence and even that phrase as many of you know has been subject to severe scrutiny. Anyway, let's continue.
A current, widely accepted scientific theory states that in the beginning there was no universe, no Earth and, no people. Nothing. The Bible tells us in the beginning there was no universe, no Earth and, no people. Time and space as we know it did not exist. Seems like we're off to a pretty good start. Well this is where we have the first disagreement. Science says that time and space were rolled together in what is referred to as, "The Singularity". We know this as the Big Bang Theory. The Bible says the universe was spoken into existence. Now wait a minute here! If there was nothing in the beginning, then who spoke the universe into existence or, where did this singularity come from? You see, "nothing" in the physical world we live in now, tends to mean void or empty but apparently, "nothing" meant something else in the pre time and space era of what was to become our universe. What we seem to have here is either a preexisting "singularity" or a preexisting, all-encompassing, uncreated being. Either way, the "nothing" is SOMETHING.
Now the concept of some all-powerful, uncreated personal entity controlling events may seem ridiculous to some people. On the other hand, the idea of a cosmic pin prick in the void, before the void, being responsible for this vast universe may seem equally ridiculous to others. Regardless of what you believe, SOMETHING did take place that led to this universe coming into being.
Next, there is life itself. Yet another thing that is a seeming existential paradox. Science surmises that nonliving substances were subjected to a series of processes that produced precursor chemicals, that created the chemicals which brought about the complex molecules called DNA, that led to the development of simple lifeforms that eventually became more complex lifeforms which ultimately became you and I, after billions of years. The Bible tells us simply that man was created from the "dust of the earth" and the "breath of life" was breathed into him and he became a "living soul". Would it be unreasonable for someone to assume that the biblical account could possibly be a super simplified version of the scientific explanation, with the "dust of the earth" referring to the nonliving substances, the "breath of life" describing the process that led to the formation of the first self-replicating molecule, and the "living soul" being the end product of that process?
One difference I see is the scientific explanation seems to allow an element of chance and/or randomness into the equation, whereas the religious account shows conscious intent by a personal entity. I believe it's the conscious intent by a personal entity thing that makes the biblical account unpalatable to those who are not religiously inclined. However, the notion of nonliving matter gaining self awareness by some unknown means could very well be construed as nonsense by those who don't subscribe to the scientific theory. No matter what camp you reside in, SOMETHING led to the rise of humanity.
The universe does exhibit a perceivable pattern and structure. There is no argument that DNA possesses a definite structure. Just ask any biochemist or take a look for yourself. These things would seem to indicate the presence of a designer. After all, when was the last time you saw raw materials come together spontaneously to build a skyscraper without the aid of a designer? We're not even going to address the probability of that complex, nonliving structure gaining sentience. Would it be a safe bet that even if we could observe said materials for the next 13.7 billion years, the chances are slim we would witness such a thing? On the other hand, we cannot deny that chance and randomness exists. Even the Bible acknowledges this. (The casting of lots was a practice used in games of chance where people placed wagers. See Matt 27:35). So can we really say with absolute certainty that given sufficient time, those materials would not come together spontaneously? So, are we here by design or just by chance due to a cosmic roll of the universal dice?
And now we come to an issue that both science and religion seem to agree on. They seem to agree however, in a strange way. Science tells us that once biological functions stop completely, an organism begins to break down chemically and physically. The Bible says that once biological functions stop, the body returns to the dust and the spirit returns to the Creator. So where is the agreement here? Well, the breakdown of an organism is called decomposition. Decomposition results in the release of carbon dioxide via respiration. Respiration converts sugars to carbon dioxide and water with the subsequent release of useable energy. As the energy contained within the progressively decomposed organic matter becomes harder and harder to extract, it accumulates as soil humus and plays its role in stabilizing soil structure. In other words, organic matter returns to the Earth after all the usable energy released is converted.
Our current understanding of energy tells us it can neither be created nor destroyed. Energy only changes from one form to another. Now keep that in mind for a moment.
According to Ecc 12:6-7 (New Living Translation),  "Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don't wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well."  "For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." Now in order to understand the biblical narrative, we need a quick course in Hebrew. The word "spirit" used in Ecclesiastes 12:7 is translated from the Hebrew word "ruach" which means breath or wind. Wind is a form of energy. So science says the energy goes back to the sum total of all the energy there ever was and ever will be. Only changed to another form. The Bible tells us the spirit returns to an eternal, personal entity. Only changed to another form. So both seem to agree except the question here is, where does this energy or spirit really go? This is pretty much a matter of what an individual chooses to believe... for now - that is. Until someone can provide definitive, empirical proof, I suppose it truly is a matter of faith.
So there you have it! A brief but hopefully insightful look at a centuries old conflict with no end in sight. Science and Religion! Two behemoths that have helped shape the world as we know it today and, influenced societies and cultures for better and for worse. From the Crusades to the Inquisition, the misguided application of religion has claimed its share of casualties. Likewise the misguided application of science has also destroyed an impressive portion of humanity with its atom bombs, poison gases, killer drones, and other assorted weapons of mass destruction. On the upside, both have contributed to many advancements of mankind as well, from medicine to understanding our environment, to our collective philosophies and laws, mankind is also indebted to both.
In the meantime, while two of the giants of human civilization duke it out, the 800 pound gorilla that is our undeniable existence, sits quietly in the corner waiting to see which one will survive to take a shot at the title.