When I was in Physics 101 at Wayne State University in Detroit, the instructor explained how passing a wire through a magnetic field would make current flow in the wire. A student asked why that was so and the instructor said, "I just told you, if you move the wire in a field, current flows in the wire." The student persisted, "but why, when you move a wire in a field, does current flow?" "Because you're moving the wire," said the instructor - not a little irritated at this point.
This exchange went on a few more times until finally the instructor, in a rather loud voice, answered, "Because God wants it to!" The room, with over fifty students in it, was dead silent. I realized at that moment, only weeks into my career as a physicist, that all science was just observing and describing what God allows to happen under a variety of circumstances and that I could never understand any more than what God's rules were and how to take advantage of them for the benefit of mankind. From this perspective, there is no dispute between science and religion.
Christianity vs. Evolution
Concerning a more typical religious debate, consider the conflict between Darwin and Genesis. I don't have any trouble accepting both viewpoints.
Some argue that evolution could not have take place in the six days God used to make the world. I've never considered "timing arguments" as valid challenges to the Bible because of what Peter said:
Even without the timing issue, when it was said that God created man in his own image, did he, in an instant, make a physical being that looked like him or did he give an ape (who had evolved for thousands of years) a spirit? Who cares which it was? I frankly prefer to think that the scriptures don't mean physical features when they talk about the image of God. For one thing, I have a tough time believing in an image of God that looks suspiciously like Zeus. Surely my God, the deity I worship, doesn't exist in a physical form like me.
Did the Lord make the lightning or did he allow a difference in electrical charge between the earth and some clouds? Does it matter which? All science does is name events and explain how they will usually occur; no scientist every really explained why something happened. You can explain that current flows in a wire when the wire moves through a magnetic field but why does it choose to do that? Because God wants it to.
What Scientists Believe In
In 1914, James H. Leuba of the Bryn Mawr College Psychology Department conducted a survey of American biologists and physical scientists concerning two beliefs he felt were central to the Christian Religion.
A God influenced by worship and an afterlife.
Leuba felt Christianity couldn't survive without those two concepts. In 1996 and 1998, eighty-two years later, Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham asked a group of scientists:
Do you believe in a God in intellectual and affective communication with man... to whom one may pray in expectation of receiving an answer and do you believe in personal immortality?
These are essentially the same questions. Four out of ten scientists believed in God in Leuba's study in 1914. In 1996 and 1998, it was still 40%. In Leuba's study 50% thought there was life after death; now it is down to 40%.
I would like to suggest, and I admit this conclusion is from limited evidence, that the declining numbers and indeed the low numbers to begin with, are the result of including scientists in the survey who, while they might have been on the rolls of the National Academy of Science, are not as brilliant and insightful as they would have us believe. Consider Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton. They were all profoundly religious.
Given that a "scientist" should appear objective, I suspect they have convinced themselves that a belief in a supreme being would cloud their judgement let alone steal their thunder. Remember, afterall, the best a scientist can do is understand cause and effect and name things. There is nothing new under the sun.