Can a former North Carolina governor bridge the gap between science and religion?
Jim Martin gives it a try in a new book, “Revelation Through Science: Evolution in the Harmony of Science and Religion.”
Why would he want to take on the task of showing that the discoveries of science pose no threat to Christianity or any other religion?
Martin is a Davidson and Princeton trained chemist. He is a champion of the scientific method and, without apology, endorses the discoveries his fellow scientists have made, including the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe and basics of the theory of evolution.
He is also the son of a Presbyterian minister and himself a lifelong Christian. He believes the Bible is “the received word of God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and of any life it holds, on earth or elsewhere. I believe the Bible is our best guide to faith and practice.
“I believe there is, and can be, no irreconcilable conflict between science and religion, for they are revealed from the same God. Even more than that, as a Christian, I believe that God is most clearly revealed in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, I firmly believe that a loving God intended us to have the capacity to observe and interpret nature, so that we would grow in understanding the majesty and mystery of His creation and all that followed.”
How can Martin reconcile his scientific truths with the biblical account of a six-day creation or with the related belief that the earth was created about six thousand years ago?
He admits that he would sometimes avoid discussion of these questions when he was involved in electoral politics. For instance, as governor he visited the small town of Hobucken on Pamlico Sound. He stopped at the local fishing supply store at R. E. Mayo Company and saw a “monstrous skeletal whale head standing right outside the store.”
Martin remarked to some of the local people, “Wow! That whale must have lived and died there millions of years ago!”
Martin says that everything got quiet. Then, one person responded, “No, sir, we reckon she couldn't have been there more’n six thousand years!”
“No,” Martin writes, “I did not stand my ground and debate the age of the earth with these fine gentlemen. I knew what I knew, part of which was that they knew what they knew, and this debate was not winnable.”
Now Martin is ready, not to debate, but to explain that science’s conclusions about the time of creation (13.7 billion years ago) and the age of the earth (4.5 billion years ago) are firmly based. More importantly for him, they are not in conflict with religion, including the creation accounts in the book of Genesis.
In his 400-page book, he lays out a seminar for the “educated non-scientist,” explaining the awesome complexities and orderliness of our world. He gives details of the sciences of astronomy, physics, biology, evolution, geology, paleontology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and genomics, including efforts to spark living organisms from inert chemicals.
With every scientific advance or explanation of how the world came about and works now, Martin says there is a further revelation from the Creator.
Does he assert that these advances prove the existence of God?
No, but throughout the book he points out what he calls “anthropic coincidences” that made for a universe that “was physically and chemically attuned very precisely for the emergence of life, culminating thus far in an intelligent, self-aware species.”
If the discussions of science and religion are too complicated for some readers, they should not put down the book before reading its final chapter in which Martin describes his personal journey of faith, study, service, and tolerance and respect for the opinions of those who see things differently.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.