Among the myriad life forms on planet Earth we now have discovered arsenic eating bacteria. Well, not exactly discovered: we have, under laboratory conditions, induced a strain of bacteria native to our world to survive and replicate using arsenic. Does the mean that the realms of science and religion, as some folks have since asserted, are now turned upside down?
No. What we have, simply put, is a group of scientists who have more or less trained a tiny organism to live differently. While that may be an important scientific innovation, it does not, as critics such as the American Humanist Association claim, portend the end of religion.
Why should it? If the Almighty has elected that some form of life should live off arsenic, then so be it. He created all things; if He wants a diversity of life forms, even strains of life which feed off of things poisonous to us, He shall have it.
Yet such easily understandable logic seems unintelligible in some corners. "The polite thing to say is that discoveries such as this don't really impeach the credibility of established religion, but in truth of course they really do," David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association (AHA), a leading secularist organization, said of this week's revelations about the microbes discovered in Lake Mono in California.
"The fact that life can spring forth in this way from nature, taken in context with what else we've learned in recent centuries about space and time, surely makes it less plausible that the human animal is the specially favored creation of all-powerful, all-knowing divinity," Niose said. He goes on to say that development of the new organism must necessarily challenge the belief systems of those religious folks who think the world has only existed for about 6,000 years.
A-hem. At the risk of deepening the rift between Catholics and our Protestant brethren, it is fascinating to see how the anti-religious always trumpet the views of Protestant Evangelicals when tolling the bells for the death of religion. For it is almost solely within the evangelical clique where we find the insistence that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. The humanistic community draws their arguments from what is merely one segment of Christianity, and a minority at that, rather than from an honest examination of the views of Christianity as a whole.
Consider that a scientist at the Vatican Observatory, Brother Guy Consolmagno, wrote that the experiment, "...sounds like a nice piece of work; we'll see where it goes from here...But any scientific discovery that broadens our knowledge of creation, deepens our understanding of the Creator."
Or, as we stated above, God shall have life however He wants it. The 6,000 year history of the Earth is a Protestant construct used as a straw man by secular humanists since it fits their bill. Such shallow thought allows them to ignore the more mainstream western religious, who more rightly see this new bit of science as easily within the realm of Creation.
Religion is not dead; science will not kill it. Nor are the subjects contradictory or without common ground: would there be such a thing as a Vatican Observatory if that were truly the case? In the end, the arsenic eating bacteria is what it is, and nothing more: the result of a scientific experiment which may or may not help explain or expand our scientific knowledge. Only time will answer that question. Meanwhile, let us not bother ourselves about the state of our religious belief with regard to science. Let us, rather, be concerned with the truths of science and how they may apply to our lives. Our orchards will bear better fruit with that mentality at the center of our thoughts.