Scott Petty. Little Black Books: Science and God. Kingsford, Australia: Matthias Media, 2011. 112 pp. $4.99.
Christians don’t have to choose between God and science. In fact, they are quite compatible. In his little book Science and God, Scott Petty succinctly, humorously, and helpfully makes just that point as he analyzes the modern tension between science and faith.
Science and God is a part of the Little Black Book series, authored by Petty, a youth minister in Australia. The series covers a wide range of topics for young people ages 15-20. The books are supposed to be fun and straight to the point, and Science and God is no exception. While it is simple, it is not simplistic or “dumbed-down.” I certainly learned a few things myself! The point of the book is simply to prove that science and God are not enemies. The book is not a complete resource on all things science, but it will certainly be a helpful resource for teens and even adults who are confused about the relationship of science and faith.
Petty gives three main reasons why we don’t need to choose between God or science. First, he says that science and God have historically been good friends. Second, he says that some of the world’s best scientists are professing Christians. Third, and most importantly, science and religion answer different questions.
This third point is especially necessary for both Christians and skeptics to understand. Petty writes, “Can science tell me anything about the Fall of Rome, or World War II, or your summer holidays? Can I put the events of 11 September 2001 in a lab to examine them scientifically No. Can I put the day I got married under a microscope so that I may thoroughly understand it. Not likely” (28). So is science unnecessary? Of course not! Science simply isn’t able to provide that sort of information; it cannot provide answers to every part of our existence. Simply put, science is not fit to answer questions of an ultimate kind, like those concerning purpose, meaning, beauty, and love.
So how do we reconcile science with theology? Petty proposes we adopt a layered approach. He gives the example of a book being created. A book came to exist because of the author’s know-how, expertise, and actually putting words on paper. But it also came to be through the invitation of the publisher, editing, and finally printing and binding, along with many other factors. These aspects work together, not against each other. In the same way, science explains some parts of our existence, and theology explains others. They are not opposed. They simply ask and answer different questions. Petty teases out this layered approach throughout the book. He also includes helpful sections on the Big Bang, Darwinian evolution, and evidence for God himself.
Are there any problems with the book? Some may criticize Petty for saying evolution is a scientific theory while ignoring the fact that it is an entire worldview that has become its own religion. Others may be upset that he does not clearly state his position on creation. These people miss the point of the book. This point is simply to show that science and God are not at odds. Regarding the first concern, Petty clearly understands that evolution is the lens through which some scientists interpret everything (chs. 1, 4), which is “a big mistake” (30).
Regarding the second, Petty clearly believes that God created the world from nothing (ch. 4). But is it necessary for him to say how he thinks that happened? No. He does admit that Bible-believing Christians differ on how to interpret Genesis 1. He notes that at least a dozen views have been proposed, and only one holds that God created everything in six literal 24-hour days. There is no way to be absolutely positive on how God created the world because Genesis 1 is not written as a science textbook for our 21st century questions (80).
This is a solid book. Even if you don’t agree with everything, Petty will challenge your thinking, make you laugh, and put your mind at ease.