If you’ve read my blog for long, you know LiveScience is one of the popular science sites I follow. The writers do a great job of publishing short articles about the latest topics, and they provide a balanced set of perspectives. I was pleasantly surprised when Tia Ghose, who has interned at Science News, Wired.com, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow, contacted me about the recent Pew Research Center poll.
The Pew Research Center reported that 73% of Americans say they believe in the Virgin Birth of Christ, even though not all of them claim to be religious. She asked how I thought these people reconcile that belief with scientific thinking. Obviously I don’t agree with everything in the article, but I’m satisfied that my views are represented accurately.
About three-quarters of Americans believe in the Virgin Birth, according to a recent Pew survey.
That’s not surprising, experts say.
Belief in Jesus’ immaculate conception [no, the Incarnation*] isn’t such a leap once you accept the possibility of miracles and the supernatural. And from a cognitive perspective, the human brain is primed for a belief in God and the supernatural.
Those polls are “evidence that most people know scientific knowledge is not the only kind of knowledge,” said Stacy Trasancos, a popular blogger on science and Catholicism and the author of “Science Was Born of Christianity” (Amazon Digital Services, 2013). “People find it reasonable to believe in the reality of the supernatural.”
I am delighted that my book got a mention, and that this comment ended the article.
Trasancos, who trained as a chemist and converted to Catholicism in mid-life, used a variant of the scientific method to arrive at her religious beliefs.
“In science they say there are these physical laws and you go into a lab and test them empirically,” Trasancos said. “With moral laws, I tried them in my life — tested them, even when I wasn’t sure how they can possibly work. I tried them and saw the truth of them after I tested them.”
See? People can talk about science and faith at the same time! Read the rest at LiveScience here.
I gave a longer answer on this site earlier.
The Virgin Birth is a miracle, and miracles, by definition, transcend scientific explanation. Since they are beyond all the forces and laws of nature, miracles can only be worked by God. The Virgin Birth is how God chose to reveal Himself to us, the central point of salvation history. God chose—of his own will—to come to us as an innocent and helpless infant born from the purest virginal womb. He chose to be poor to teach us that happiness is not based on the riches of this world, to teach us to be like children and humble ourselves, to become little so that we might enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The Virgin Birth is about life itself. Where does scientific thinking fit into that?
To believe in Christ is to believe in the supernatural, and “super” means beyond and above the natural. Religion answers the “super” questions, the questions about purpose and destiny. Science only deals with quantitative measurement of physical objects. The reminder in Mark’s Gospel is a good one for those who think science can explain everything. “How is a man the better for it, if he gains the whole world at the expense of losing his own soul?” Even if he possesses all knowledge of the natural kingdom, a man still is not saved. Christ taught us which kingdom to seek first, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all else will be given to you.” Likewise, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Pope Paul VI, says that science conducted in “accord with moral norms…never truly conflicts with faith, for earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from the same God.” (Gaudium et spes §36)
I actually see this high statistic of believers as empirical evidence that most people already know science cannot answer every question, and more so that the Christmas miracle touches the heart in the deepest way. It puts numbers to the song: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining,‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.“ That seems to be the best answer to this question. “Fall on your knees!”
*Thank you Kari Farrell Matthews.