I personally believe that the real conflict is not actually between science and faith, but between materialism and idealism. For some background of these ontologies, I briefly talked about these two views in “Christ, the Cosmic Mind, and Consciousness.” Classically, theists of all major religions have tended to hold an idealist form of ontology. More on that another time.
To be clear, you don’t have to be a theist to embrace idealism so this post is not presented as proof of “God.” However, the ultimate dilemma for those who believe that matter is the fundamental nature of all things is that, as Keith Ward points out, you cannot be an empiricist and be a materialist. We’ve already looked at why the Materialist ontology fails us. In fact, it has lost lot of credibility in recent decades, especially in the world of quantum science, but it’s sustained in part by its symbiotic relationship with the economic and political systems.
According to David Bentley Hart, we’ve all inherited a 17th century paradigm which gave us a purely inductive method of scientific research allied with a mechanistic picture of nature. The problem is, what started out as a methodology turned into a metaphysics. And, as it turns out, our closed universe is not so closed after all.
From what I can see, we’re now at an interesting crossroads in scientific advancement. The mechanistic view of the universe originally separated mind and consciousness (and spiritual) from the material world. This dualistic partition of reality allowed for the modern science revolution to flourish. Ironically, for the same reason, its potency is now waning, as I pointed out in “Is Materialism Dead?” (quoting Rupert Sheldrake): “The prevailing materialist dogma in the science community has now become a restrictive framework for scientific inquiry, increasingly restricting what questions can be asked and what research can be done.” Sheldrake points out that the fields of science and technology are no longer being as innovative as they once were.
With the advance of quantum mechanics, materialism or physicalism among philosophies is in retreat. Most of the emergentist models of mind have failed. These materialist scientists believing that mind must be seen as an emergent phenomenon from physical nature means that people are confusing consciousness with cognitive science.
With regard to the question of God, here’s what Hart says about materialism in his book, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss:
“The only fully consistent alternative to belief in God, properly understood, is some version of “materialism” or “physicalism” or (to use the term most widely preferred at present) “naturalism”; and naturalism—the doctrine that there is nothing apart from the physical order, and certainly nothing supernatural—is an incorrigibly incoherent concept, and one that is ultimately indistinguishable from pure magical thinking.” (p. 17 *)
“The most a materialist account of existence can do is pretend that there is no real problem to be solved (though only a tragically inert mind could really dismiss the question of existence as uninteresting, unanswerable, or unintelligible).” (p. 44 *)
“I think it fair to say that a majority of academic philosophers these days tends toward either a strict or a qualified materialist or physicalist view of reality (though many might not use those terms), and there may be something of a popular impression out there that such a position rests upon a particularly sound rational foundation. But, in fact, materialism is among the most problematic of philosophical standpoints, the most impoverished in its explanatory range, and among the most willful and (for want of a better word) magical in its logic, even if it has been in fashion for a couple of centuries or more.” (p. 48 *)
We will look further into Hart’s specific theological arguments and more on idealism another time. For now, if you’re not familiar with how the genie got out of the bottle on materialism, this a good layman’s documentary by Fair Wind Films called, “The Simulation Hypothesis.” While you don’t have to agree with the hypothesis itself, this full-length video is informative and historical and I think you’ll find it enlightening and worth the watch.