What does the Bible say about science? I recognize that this may be unsatisfying, but the short answer is that the Bible says very little about questions that we view as part of the scientific inquiry. One of my professors in seminary said it well when he said that science is the study of how the universe works; however, science is incapable of answering the question of why the universe works the way it does. On the other hand, religion tells the story of why the universe is the way it is, but is not primarily concerned with the processes that govern how the universe works.
A prime example: in the first two chapters of Genesis, we get two different origin of the cosmos stories. In the first story, the universe begins as a wet, chaotic, formless nothing, which God hovers over and by speaking, introduces order. God separates light from dark, day from night, sky from surface, land from sea, plants from animals, birds from fish, mammals from reptiles, and as the final act, God separates, from the rest of creation, a human. All of these acts are seen as good and all of them flow from evening into morning.
In the second account (beginning at Genesis 2:3), the earth is dry and dead, but God brings forth life, water flows from the surface of the dry, dead surface of the earth, and God takes dust from the dry, dead surface of the earth, forms that dust into a human form, and breathes life into Adam. In the first narrative, everything is good, but in the second, Adam is working in the garden and God says, "it is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him."(v.18) God then brings forth even more life out of the dry, dead ground. Animals of every shape and size, but no animal is found a suitable companion. Until God finally puts Adam in a deep sleep, removes one of his ribs and from the rib creates a woman.
Now, science might ask the question, which of these creation possibilities is true? Was the earth a wet, formless void that God separates to create order, saving humans for last? Or was the earth a dry, dead planet that God brought life to, beginning with humans?
But religion asks the question what is true about these creation stories? As Christians we don't say that one creation narrative is true and the other is false, we recognize that neither narrative is presented as a scientific or historical telling of the origin of the universe, rather these two creation stories are given to us to teach us from the very beginning of the Bible some fundamental truths about who God is. And what are these truths?
- When God speaks, things happen.
- God is a creator of order, not of chaos.
- Creation is good.
- God is a giver of life.
- God has created humans in the image of God.
Additionally, we should point out that the vast majority of scientists throughout human history and according to a 2009 study, 60% of scientists working today believe in the divine and 40% have a religious practice. Science and religion aren't the competing worldviews the media makes them out to be. Science and religion continue to exist as partners in the pursuit of truth. We need not be afraid of learning about how the world works from our brothers and sisters pursuing the scientific inquiry. We shouldn't feel the need to defend the narratives of the Bible against scientific scrutiny. The Bible is a religious text, whose primary purpose is to tell us about God. It wasn't written as a scientific hypothesis, and it is unfair to treat it in that way.
Rather, we can affirm, like St. Augustine, that all truth is God's truth and sincerely do our best to understand how the world works, and praise God throughout the process for God's creativity and care to even the smallest details.