How Do Scientists Believe The Resurrection?

I do. I’d like to know how one can be a scientist and believe that at the same time.


I am a scientist that affirms the Ressurection. So is @pevaquark, @cwhenderson, @jordan, @dga471, and many others. What exactly is the question?

Yeah I realise there are people who believe both. What I’m asking is how. How do you square your scientific knowledge with your theological beliefs?

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Well, about to publish an article from @dga471 that would be a good place to have that conversation. This is a valid question. Give us a day or two (or maybe just a few hours). I’ll publish that article, and let’s discuss it there.


Fair enough.


@Rumraket (@swamidass & @jongarvey ):

So am I to understand your comments to mean that since you are an “Atheist Molecular Biological Technician”, it is beyond your comprehension to believe a scientist can ALSO believe that there is a divine being (or 2 or 3?) that is capable of supernatural performances?

How is it that you are so lacking in imagination that you cannot arrive at an intuitive understanding of such matters?

To be fair, @Rumraket was asking how you square the two. No one is doubting the sincerity of people’s beliefs and their ability to be a scientist. The question is how you keep those two mind sets from clashing together.

Speaking for myself, I do see a potential problem when it comes to consistency. How do you allow for the supernatural in one area but not allow it in another area? The best solution I have found is that is just the way it is. Humans aren’t machines, and we don’t have to be consistent. We humans can and do hold contradictory beliefs, and the universe keeps moving along. I also don’t pretend to speak for believers, so take it for the very fallible opinion that it is.


No. I comprehend that this is the case.

How is it that you are so lacking in imagination that you cannot arrive at an intuitive understanding of such matters?

The issue isn’t lack of imagination. Of course I’m well aware that it is the case that there are people who are employed and trained scientists who also hold various religious beliefs. But it seems to me they hold their religious beliefs in spite of being scientists, on extremely weak if not contradictory evidence.

Virgin births, of males no less, is not a belief that is upheld by any scientific finding. If anything, science should cause you to doubt that such a thing did ever take place. Which implies it’s just faith, on zero evidence, and with plenty of scientifically good reasons to actually strongly doubt.

This is where some religious scientists invoke something like divine intervention. But then that isn’t a scientific belief. It’s just belief. What upholds it? Scripture? What do we know scientifically about human psychology, sociology, and human culture, regarding religious beliefs and all sorts of human cognitive biases? All the findings of science testify to religion being, essentially, “man-made”. A product of various human cognitive biases, sociological effects, pattern seeking, self-deception, hyperactive agency detection. All that stuff. Pass a story through ten people by word of mouth, and have them believe it religiously, what you get out the other end is, pardon the phrase, a deformed mutant. We know humans do this, every time.

In every way possible, science should cause you to stop believing, or at the least extremely strongly doubt, all your religious beliefs.

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In fact, it’s one of the common religious tropes against atheists. That we are somehow just deluding ourselves into believing God doesn’t exist because we subconsciously hate God and are afraid of judgement. It’s like the concession that humans are extremely prone to make-believe is built-in to religion.

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You seem to be assuming that a belief in God comes from science. I (and I think many other Christian’s) have come to our belief in God, not by the evidence from science, but based on the Bible.

I would liken it more to the evidence in a court case. While I can’t prove God’s existence, the available evidence convinced me the God in the Bible is real. Given that the God in the Bible is unlimited in power, miracles aren’t hard to accept. However that doesn’t in any way diminish my fascination in what we can discover about the world around us through a rigorous scientific process.


Objection, your honor: hearsay.


Well, I think it is based purely on “evidence”. Miracles are, by definition, little blips on the field of reality…

Do we overturn centuries of physical evidence supporting evolution when we affirm that Jesus was miraculously born? No. Of course not. Nor do we overturn all this physical evidence when we allow that God just may have miraculously created Adam and Eve.

But Creationists are not this measured and conservative. They are willing to ignore huge patterns of fossil and physical evidence … because of a few sentences in Genesis 1 and 2…

This is not part of the a reasoned and balanced spiritual viewpoint of your average scientist of Western Civilization!

For me, science is just one way of examining and knowing the world. Only phenomena that is regular, repeatable, and reducible to simple laws falls under the purview of science. Let’s not even talk about theology - there are many areas of human experience which natural science cannot model accurately, much less predict. Some atheists would retort, “But in principle everything, including human history, consciousness, ethics, and religion, is reducible to physics!” But this is more of an article of faith and expression of optimism in future science than anything with direct empirical proof.

Now when we put God into the picture, the limitations of science become even more apparent. God, if he exists like the Judeo-Christian conception, would be the Creator, Sustainer, Sovereign of the universe. When one claims that one can “scientifically” rule out the existence of God, one is really claiming that science should be able to fully model God’s actions in the universe. But why should this be the case? If God exists, he is the one who is responsible for the order and regularity that makes science possible in the first place. This would be like ants trying to decipher the actions and motivations of myrmecologists.

These reasons are why I think science is extremely limited as a tool for assessing the existence and actions of God in the universe. It’s only able to rule out some scenarios. For example, science cannot rule out miracles for this purpose. By definition, miracles are special, unrepeatable events with special significance. Through scientific lens, miracles are “five-sigma events” - events which if they happen, a scientist would likely interpret as a malfunction in equipment causing anomalous data points. A good scientist would reset their equipment and try to see if the anomaly happened again. If it didn’t, then the data point would be tossed out. This illustrates how unequipped science is to handle miracles.

A common error is to think that “once X has been explained through the lens of social psychology/cognitive science/biology/physics/etc. it means it is purely naturalistic and has nothing to do with the supernatural.” But this is falling into the error that God is regarded merely a placeholder for phenomena we haven’t understood yet. Thus, every time some phenomena is explained, God becomes less necessary.

On the contrary, a Christian believes that God is sovereign over all aspects of existence, including social psychology, cognitive science, and physics. Thus, even if aspects of religion can be explained through the methods of psychology, that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it. God may still exist even if aspects of his actions are intelligible through the lens of science.

This is similar to how I can explain that you, as an educated Western person living in a society which respects science and scientists, is more likely to be convinced by Newtonian mechanics compared to someone living in a hunter-gatherer society. Such an explanation does not reduce Newtonian mechanics into a purely sociological phenomena divorced from reality. We can still believe that Newtonian mechanics is objectively true. A similar logic can be applied to science-motivated explanations of religion.


Not at all. I know it doesn’t.

I think it should (if it was true), but it’s obvious to me that it doesn’t, and probably can’t be scientifically justified.

I (and I think many other Christian’s) have come to our belief in God, not by the evidence from science, but based on the Bible.

I agree, that is why most people who are Christians, are Christians. They were raised to believe by their parents, who read Bible stories to them. It’s not a belief based on good empirical evidence, it’s a belief based on tradition and upbringing. I’m sorry if this is insulting, but it’s like a Santa Clause story for grown ups.

I would liken it more to the evidence in a court case. While I can’t prove God’s existence, the available evidence convinced me the God in the Bible is real. Given that the God in the Bible is unlimited in power, miracles aren’t hard to accept.

Sure, if you believe what it says in the Bible, then you have no problem believing in miracles. But why believe what it says in the Bible in the first place?

It seems to me science actually gives you good reasons NOT to believe Bible stories about virgin births, turning water into wine, infinite loaves of bread, lay-on-hands-healing with no apparent mana cost(cheat codes?), resurrections, the sun standing still in the sky, and so on and so forth.

Science should cause you to doubt these things very strongly. You were raised to believe some stories, and then later when you grew up you came to know of the scientific method as the single best method for determining what is actually true about the world. And what we have found out through application of the single best method for determining what is actually true about the world, completely undermines the stories you were raised to believe.

Virgins don’t give birth. People aren’t resurrected. Water can’t be transformed into wine. People aren’t healed by lay-on-hands. Nobody is possesed by demons. Bread has exactly as many slices as you can cut it into. And so on.

Science essentially implies that it is much more probable that these things never took place. They don’t make biological, chemical, or physical sense. But as traditional religious stories, they make a lot of sociological and psychological sense, as stories. The sociological and psychological sciences explain their existence and persistence extremely well however. The implication being they’re not actually true, but originated and persisted for well understood reasons of human psychology and culture.

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I’m always hesitant to try and explain the reason’s for my belief without being face to face, as it’s almost impossible to find time to answer all of the follow up questions that naturally arise in this type of conversation. But I’ll give it a shot, and we’ll see how it goes.

Given that I don’t think science examine the supernatural, and our own experiences, emotions, thoughts aren’t a particularly effective means of evaluating what’s real, the only source for by knowledge of God is the Bible.

Having dug into the reliability of the Bible (primarily the New Testament) as a historical document, I concluded that is as objectively as reliable (if not more) than other documents we assume are historically reliable. The evidence of this reliability is enhanced by the actions and commentary of people who were alive during and immediately after the time frame of the New Testament. These actions and commentary can be found in a variety of sources.

Given the historical reliability of the Bible, I then have to question whether the God described in it & his description of the universe, but particularity of humanity and how it should operate line up with what I see around me. My assessment is that it does provide the best explanation.

Does that leave me with questions - of course, but given that I have found the Bible about God, I choose to rely on the the explanations it provides about things I don’t understand.

I think Daniel has done a great job a couple posts of of explaining why he doesn’t believe that’s true. I will just say I think he’s entirely correct in his explanation.

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My response would be very similar to @dga471, but not nearly as well crafted and stated :slight_smile:

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@dga471 Very nice summary on beliefs. I have a question: Do you think it is NECESSARY to have the beliefs that you do in order to live a good, happy, productive life as a scientist, human being and any other role in society that you chose?

But the Bible doesn’t treat those as normal or expected at all, that’s the point! I think the authors of the Bible would agree with you, there are very good reasons to think these things can’t happen, but they are attesting that they did happen. Read the reactions of the people in the stories. Mary, for instance, says “how can this be, since I am a virgin?” in Luke 1:34. She’s not stupid, she knows where babies come from. These (very rare, even by Biblical standards) events are described as anomalous, non-repeatable events and are far in the past, which means they aren’t accessible to scientific verification at this point. It’s just the way it is.

To the larger question of how can I be a scientist and a Christian, I worked side-by-side in labs with Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and atheists and never did that change the science. I don’t think science really has much to do with it.

So I think you’re real question is this one:

People will definitely give different answers to this. I don’t think I’ve full developed mine, and it has changed through the years, so here’s my best shot right now:

  • I grew up believing it. This alone would certainly not be persuasive, it’s just true so I wanted to start there. Christianity and the Bible have been with me my entire life, it’s how I see the world.
  • Because the arc of the story of the Bible makes sense of the world, its history, how it works, how it’s broken. It’s a very good explanatory model :slight_smile:
  • Because it gives me hope for a better future, and not just for me. That there is more to come. That I will see loved ones again, that there is purpose in all the pain.
  • Because there is evidence (not saying scientifically conclusive or overwhelming) that the Bible was written soon after the events happened, it has an internal witness that seems relatively reliable (why include embarrassing or difficult things in a religious text you want to turn into a revolt against the rulers of the day), and some external witness (Josephus, etc.).
  • Because I believe I’ve experienced the God that the Bible is talking about. I don’t have any far out miracle stories, but there are times when I “felt” God’s presence or saw where God was working. Obviously these could be explained away as coincidences or some physiological responses, but to me they seemed just as real as F = ma .

But it was consensual? Or was she told after it happened? And was she under the age of consent at the time? In today’s secular society, this story would be considered immoral, possible an illegal act.

Yes, it was consensual. In verse 38, it says:

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

And at the time she was betrothed (engaged) to be married so I’m guessing, at least for their culture, she was of age.