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CNN: SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT

What Is A Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science

Aired May 19, 2007 - 15:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(NEWSBREAK)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It's a clash that has stretched across centuries, the relationship between the scientific and the divine. At its heart the most fundamental questions about how we got here, who we are?

Many Christians call the Bible the ultimate authority on creation and existence, a manual for all that's possible. Others seek to chip away at that conviction; and yet others hope for harmony between science and faith.

Where do you stand? Chances are you've asked yourself some of these questions, did God create our bodies? Does he heal us when we're sick? Or is religion a denial of science? Could there actually be a scientific explanation for biblical miracles like the parting of the Red Sea?

Tonight all the angles, and we begin with the most contentious issue, the fight over creationism. Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the beginning, an explosion rocked the cosmos, and the universe was born. Primitive life crawled from an ooze, mutating, changing.

Dinosaurs lived, died, left nothing but bones. And evolution rolled on. Until millions of years later --

(BABY CRYING)

Science tells us that's what happened. But what if it's wrong? What if another story, a very old one, is right?

(On camera): So this is the Garden of Eden and you have dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden?

KEN HAM, FOUNDER, CREATION MUSEUM: That's true because God made the land animals on day six.

FOREMAN: Ken Ham is the founder of a $27-million Creation Museum, set to open on Memorial Day in rural Kentucky. The message -- God made the Earth, the heavens, and everything in them, in just six days, just 6,000 years ago.

(On camera): This just doesn't look like what I've always thought of as the Garden of Eden, does it to you?

HAM: Well, that's true. And it's meant to challenge people, because most people today would not think of that. That's true.

FOREMAN (voice over): Polls show roughly half the country believes human beings were created in our present form by God.

HAM: Genesis is written as literal history. Why are we sinners? Because there was an original sin, because a real man, in a real garden, with a real tree and a real fruit, a real event, really happened.

FOREMAN: So, it stands to reason, people and dinosaurs roamed the planet peacefully, together, facing no death or disease before Adam and Eve sinned, and were cast out of Eden. Some people might call that blind faith. But the Creation Museum calls it hard science, and -- they say, they have proof.

MIKE RIDDLE, CREATION MUSEUM: We are also finding dinosaur bones that are not mineralized. They're not fossilized yet. How in the world can a bone sit out there for 65 million years and not be completely mineralized?

FOREMAN: That argument doesn't wash in this museum, the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

MIKE NOVACEK, PROVOST, AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: There's no question in my mind that dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, long before humans. There's absolutely no scientific evidence aligned with the notion that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

HAM: If the history of the Bible is not true, then neither is the rest.

FOREMAN: There is a ready market for this version of history. Ken Ham is preaching to the choir, a convention of Christian home schoolers in nearby Cincinnati.

HAM: They haven't thrown religion out of the classroom, they've thrown Christianity out and replaced it with a different religion, it's the religion of atheism or the religion of naturalism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could easily take one of these lessons and stretch it over a full week.

FOREMAN: Here parents browse creation science textbooks with lessons you'll never find in a public school.

JOE SCHLAWIN, CHRISTIAN HOMESCHOOLER: We believe it's the truth. And why would we teach our children something that's not true? We don't sit down and talk to them about Santa Claus and an Easter Bunny and try to instill in them that that's the way it happens. No. We tell them the truth.

Evolution doesn't fall into that category of being good science. FOREMAN: Pam Amlung, and her daughter Kayla, say believing all creation came to be without God requires an even greater leap of faith.

PAM AMLUNG, CHRISTIAN HOMESCHOOLER: How could all of this, what we see, possibly have come from nothing? Just can't figure out how atheists can have that much faith to believe. It takes a whole lot of faith.

KAYLA AMLUNG, STUDENT: Like they have nothing to start with. We have something. But they have nothing, and they're believing this whole thing where the Bible makes more sense.

FOREMAN: They admit faith is full of mystery.

P. AMLUNG: I think when we get to heaven that we'll be really surprised, that God will reveal -- at that point in time, this is how I did it. And it may not look exactly like what any individual here on Earth ever could even imagine.

FOREMAN: But until then, they will believe that creation looked like this glimpse of Eden in the heartland. Tom Foreman, CNN, Petersburg, Kentucky.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The battle over what children should be taught in school has been raging for nearly a century now. The question is, is there room for compromise? Joining us to talk about it is Robert Boston, of The Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Charmaine Yoest of the Family Research Council.

Appreciate both of you being with us.

Robert, let me start with you. Polls show that nearly half the American public believes that people didn't evolve from lower life forms, but were created in our present form by God. If so many people think that shouldn't we at least be discussing it in a science class?

ROBERT BOSTON, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE: Well, I think we need to look, really, not at what polls show but what scientific evidence shows. We wouldn't want to teach something in the public schools that was factually incorrect, simply because some people believed it was so.

So you really have to look at the science. If you look at the scientific community you don't see this great disparity in polls. You see most of the scientists backing the theory of evolution.

COOPER: Charmaine, what about that? Why should a science class be forced to teach something which mainstream science says is simply not true?

CHARMAINE YOEST, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, you know, mainstream science throughout history has been challenged by questions. And that's how we make advances in science, is being open to all different perspectives.

That's all that we're calling for is saying have we gotten to a place in our culture where science has such an orthodoxy around Darwinian theory that we can't even question it? That we can't even look at some of the gaps in the theory, and ask how can we do better? And how can we answer some of these questions?

That's all we're asking for is an openness of dialogue and looking at all of the research.

COOPER: Robert, President Bush has suggested that the theory of intelligent design should be taught in public school classrooms. The idea that kids should be able to make up their own minds, get different points of view. Robert, what's wrong with that?

BOSTON: I disagree. I think that there is a mechanism in science that allows for these views to be aired through peer review journals.

YOEST: Well, sure.

BOSTON: And the intelligent design advocates have not been able to publish any research --

YOEST: That's just not true.

BOSTON: Let me finish, Charmaine.

One of the important things you need to remember, too, is some of the ideas that groups would like to bring in our schools have been completely discredited. For example, the idea that the Earth is 10,000 years old and that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time. Scientifically that's untenable, yet that is what the creationists believe. And that is what, ultimately, I think they'd like to bring into our classroom.

COOPER: Charmaine, do you believe that dinosaurs walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? And if so, is that the basis of your argument?

YOEST: What we're looking at here is saying, there are legitimate scientific questions on the table. And it is not true that there is a complete cohesiveness among scientists. So we're really, really seeing an amazing censorship of anything that questions Darwinianism.

And you see this kind of thing, where immediately the minute you question Darwinianism, people like Rob come up and say oh, no, you're going to talk about God. Well, you know, I think our children have more robust intelligence, and questioning to be able to cope with looking at all the different theories that are out there. I think it's -- I just have to ask, what is he so scared of?

COOPER: Robert, do you believe this is really a debate about science or a debate about religion?

BOSTON: Of course, it's about religion. Notice how she did not answer your question about the age of the Earth and dinosaurs and humans coexisting. I would guess if you took a survey of the members of the Family Research Council you would find overwhelmingly they believe the Earth is 6,000 to 10,000 years old, that dinosaurs died because they were too big to fit on Noah's Ark, or that they existed alongside human beings. Other pseudo-scientific ideas that have been debunked time and time again.

YOEST: Hey, Rob --

BOSTON: Why would we want to bring this into the classroom when there's in scientific evidence?

YOEST: You are trying to --

BOSTON: Charmaine, answer the question, yes or no. Age of the Earth?

YOEST: You are trying to confuse the issue of --

BOSTON: Age of the Earth? Answer the question, how old is it?

YOEST: I'm trying to answer the question.

BOSTON: How old is it, Charmaine?

YOEST: I can't get a word in. You're trying to conflate creationism with intelligent design. I'm saying that you should look at --

BOSTON: That's because you want creationism in the classroom. Answer the question.

YOEST: I didn't say --

BOSTON: Answer the question, 10,000 years, or 6 billion?

YOEST: The only thing I have talked about is intelligent design.

BOSTON: Why are you afraid to answer the question?

YOEST: Why are you afraid of the fact that 90 percent of the American people do believe in God?

BOSTON: I know exactly what you want to do. You want to teach your book of Genesis as if it's some kind of literal, scientific truth instead of maybe possibly metaphor, or lots of other history. You want to bring it in as science. It's not going to fly.

COOPER: Do you want your children, Charmaine, do you want your children -- to expose to a belief which the scientific community has disproven? I'm not saying that they've disproven all of this. But in certain cases, some of them clearly have been disproven.

YOEST: Sure.

COOPER: Things which have been clearly scientific disproven, do you still want them taught?

YOEST: Well, actually that would come in, in a history of science and a philosophy of science. That's why I'm saying, there's different kinds of classes. So we're talking about kind of a broad array of things. Your kids need to know what opinions are out there. And see what the evidence is.

COOPER: So for other --

YOEST: Consider the evidence.

COOPER: So for other subjects in a science class that people disagree on, but that have been disproven the kids should be taught those as well?

YOEST: Sure.

COOPER: They should know that there are other people who disagree on --

YOEST: Absolutely.

COOPER: On just about every scientific issue?

YOEST: I'm not afraid of my kids knowing about any controversy that's out there as long as you put the evidence on the table, and consider what the debate is. That's what education is all about. It's having a vigorous debate.

COOPER: Charmaine Yoest, appreciate it, and Robert Boston, as well.

BOSTON: Thank you.

COOPER: Fascinating discussion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, as you've just seen, the emotions are strong in this debate, the lines clearly drawn. But some are trying to reconcile science and God. Coming up, one of the top scientists in the world who once believed there was no God, and what made him change his mind.

Plus -- the greening of the church, the Christian environmental agenda. Making some Christians red-hot mad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY FALWELL, FOUNDER, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: It is Satan's attempt to redirect the church's primary focus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Politics and passion on "What Is A Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR ERWIN MCMANUS, MOSAIC CHURCH: It's not about how much of the Bible you read. It is about allowing God to have a conversation with you, and you engage in an intimate relationship with him. And let me challenge you, if you want to begin to become the person God created you to be, begin to have a continuous awareness of God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The relationship between religion and science is constantly evolving. Advances in genetics and geology have led some to question whether God exists at all. Reason, they argue, trumps religion. But one of the world's top scientists says progress doesn't threaten his faith, quite the contrary. Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice over): For nearly as long as we have walked the planet, life itself has been a great puzzle, cloaked in magic, bathed in wonder. Then suddenly, within just the past 200 years, science started to unravel the mystery, exposing the secrets of who we are.

In the last decade alone, an astounding revelation, scientists deciphered the human genome, mapping out the 10 of thousands of genes that make up the blueprint of humanity.

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced.

FOREMAN: Dr. Francis Collins is the map maker, director of the Human Genome Project. But to him, the genome is not just a triumph of science. It is a triumph of faith.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIR., NAT'L. HUMAN GENOME RESEARCH INST.: It's also a glimpse into God's mind.

FOREMAN (on camera): You were not naturally religious, or faithful, as a young person?

COLLINS: No. It was just not something I was exposed to.

FOREMAN (voice over): As a child, Francis Collins was home- schooled in rural Virginia. Faith never part of his family's tradition.

(On camera): Did it exist in your mind as a question?

COLLINS: Oh, I had glimmers of something, some longing outside of myself, some sense that maybe there was a God, up there.

FOREMAN: Up there, maybe, but still far from reach, especially from the ivory towers of Yale where Collins got his Ph.D.

COLLINS: As an adult I walked very far away from faith. I went from being sort of vaguely interested, but not really, to becoming an atheist. As a scientist studying physical chemistry, quantum mechanics, I became convinced that everything about the universe could be described by equations.

FOREMAN (on camera): So what changed that for you?

COLLINS: Well, I changed my life plan from physical science to medicine. And when I went to medical school, the ideas about death and dying, which had been rather hypothetical, became very real.

FOREMAN: With a scientist's precision, Collins began a philosophical exploration of the human soul.

COLLINS: All of us human beings have a sense that there is such a thing as right and there's such a thing as wrong. What a curious thing. Where does that come from? Something written within our hearts, universally in humankind, making us different from other species, and calling us to be good and holy. Pointing us, as a signpost, if you will, toward something outside ourselves that is much more good and much more holy than we can imagine.

FOREMAN: For him, overwhelming evidence, God was no illusion, no spiritual crutch for the weak and unschooled. God -- was real.

FOREMAN (on camera): Did you have, at some point, a born-again experience?

COLLINS: Yes, I did have a moment where I became a believer. And after many months of struggling with whether to make that leap, on a beautiful fall day, hiking in the Northwest, with my mind a little more clear than usual, because there were not the usual distractions, I felt I could no longer resist. And I became a believer that day, in the sunshine, and the shadow of the Cascade Mountains.

FOREMAN (voice over): For much of the past century, science and religion have clashed here in America. The most fierce battle, the Scopes Monkey trial, when creationism squared off against evolution, and evolution won.

COLLINS (SINGING): Evolution, it's causing such a lot of grief. Evolution is it compatible with belief ?

FOREMAN: For Francis Collins, an avowed evolutionist, each scientific advance is further confirmation of his faith.

COLLINS: Facts of the matter is, the universe began about 13.7 billion years ago, in this incredible singularity of energy, in the tiniest imaginable point the entire universe contained at that moment. How does that get started? We have not observed energy and matter to create themselves.

FOREMAN (on camera): You're saying that's one of those fundamental questions that science doesn't seem designed to answer.

COLLINS: It does force you to ask the question, how could something like the universe have had a beginning without having a creator, and a creator who's outside of the universe involved in that event? And that sounds like God.

FOREMAN (voice over): Science, he says, very simply, should not be seen as a threat to Christianity.

COLLINS: To actually insist, therefore, that God might be threatened by what science is teaching us, it seems to me that requires a lot less faith than one should have. If God is the author of all this, and he's given us the chance to discover the awesome nature of his creation, I kind of think he expects us to follow that lead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Up next, your DNA and faith, a revolutionary idea. Could you be biologically programmed to believe in God? See how prayer affects your brain and why believers and atheists alike are celebrating the discovery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. GREG WINGATE, ROSEDALE BAPTIST CHURCH: There are two kinds of people in the church. There are the pillars, who hold the church and the work of the church up, and then there are the caterpillars, who simply crawl in and crawl out, making no difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A new area of study suggests there is actually something in our DNA that makes us believe in God. But what's just as interesting is that both Christians and atheists are embracing the research. Sanjay Gupta reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Generations of people believing in God, generations of skeptics trying to figure out why. Now hard science is taking a hard look, exploring the brain, to see whether human beings are hard-wired for faith. And, astoundingly, the answer may be yes.

DR. ANDREW NEWBERG, HOSPITAL OF UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA: The brain is set up in such a way that it's very easy for us to have religious and spiritual beliefs and experiences and make religion and spirituality a part of our lives.

GUPAT: Dr. Andrew Newberg is a pioneer in a new field called neurotheology, conducting groundbreaking studies of brain activity during prayer.

NEWBERG: It's become a wonderful window, so to speak, into understanding how religion and spirituality affect human beings.

GUPTA: Using spec imaging, a brain scanning technology, Newberg has examined nuns deep in prayer, Tibetan Buddhists meditating, and Pentecostal Christians speaking in tongues.

No matter what the religion, no matter what the form of worship, prayer makes certain regions of the brain light up in a special and unique way.

Like this, the frontal lobe, right behind the forehead, focuses concentration. The limbic system deep in the center triggers feelings of awe and joy. The parietal lobe, at the back of the brain, brings on that feeling of becoming part of something greater than oneself.

Dr. Newberg says the faithful see this as confirmation that God has designed us to believe.

NEWBERG: The nuns took a look at those scans and said, this is great. It makes sense to them, if God's up there and we're down here, obviously there has to be some conduit through which we understand God.

GUPTA: Perhaps, but secular critics say the new research leaves many unanswered questions.

SCOTT ATRAN, ANTHROPOLGIST, UNIV. OF MICHIGAN: In terms of understanding the fundamental nature of religious beliefs, why people have them, to what purpose they serve, I don't think it's going to give us very much insight.

GUPTA: So for scientists the question of why we believe still remains a mystery. The answer, perhaps an eternity away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Sanjay, I've never even heard of this field of neurotheology. It's obviously very new. What are scientists and doctors hoping to explain with it?

GUPTA: Yeah, it's a brand new field, Anderson, so no surprise that you hadn't really heard about it. I think they're trying to find is there a scientific basis for faith? Which is controversial, it's difficult. A lot of people who are cynical about this say there absolutely is no relationship. Why even bother studying it?

But are there certain areas of the brain that seem to light up, act up, when people are actually in prayer, actually have some sort of faith? And out of all the different kind of faiths, is this something that binds us together? Do our brains, no matter our faith, all seem to light up the same way? So, really it's saying, is there something that binds us together? And does something change in the brain when someone is faithful?

COOPER: You're a neurosurgeon. What do you make of the brain scans showing the brain responding to prayer in a particular and very unique way?

GUPTA: I think there's something there. Quite honestly, I mean, I think that when it comes to prayer, when it comes to faith, when it comes to optimism and attitude we do know that the brain changes. We know, for example, you can measure certain chemicals in the brain or in the body, rather, that actually increase, feel-good hormones, for example. But also some of the images there that you saw of the frontal lobe and the limbic system actually lighting up. The limbic system can be a place where fear is stored, but it can also be, as we're learning now, a place where that faith is stored as well.

So, I really do think there's something there. It's not a final answer by any means. There's a lot more that we still don't understand, but obviously something's happening.

COOPER: Interesting stuff. Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: It is fascinating stuff. Sanjay, thanks. We're going to talk to you again in a moment about the belief that many Christians have that prayer can actually heal the sick.

Also ahead tonight ...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to look at the sky differently. And every plant and every tree, God made them for you to take care of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So why are he and others facing a backlash from some big names in American Christianity? Science, faith and politics in a collision course.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN P. CARDINAL O'MALLEY, BOSTON: Jesus gives his first sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth, has presented himself as the merciful face of the father, sent to announce the good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to captives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: In times of illness, chances are you have turned to prayer for yourself or a family member or friend. It's the most common complement to mainstream medicine outpacing acupuncture and herbs and other alternative remedies. In fact, a Pew Research poll shows that 62 percent Pentecostals and nearly 30 percent of all Americans say they've witnessed divine healing. But is there a danger in believing in the power of prayer? CNN's Gary Tuchman investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Brownsville.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you come to this Pentecostal church in Pensacola, Florida ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning. How are you today?

TUCHMAN: You'll be told the seemingly impossible.

(MUSIC)

TUCHMAN: Is indeed possible.

(MUSIC)

PASTOR EVON HORTON, BROWNSVILLE ASSEBLY OF GOD: Hallelujah. Some say the age of miracles has passed. I don't believe that. I believe God is still doing miracles today. Do you? It is true.

TUCHMAN: At first glance, Pastor Evon Horton seems to be a fairly mellow guy.

HORTON: When God moves, just be ready to receive.

TUCHMAN: But that's before he transforms.

HORTON: Watch my brother. You know his mind. You know his heart. Fill him now, Lord. Fill him now.

TUCHMAN: Into a spiritual healer.

(MUSIC)

TUCHMAN: Pastor Horton says the Lord is working miracles in his church.

HORTON: If you need a miracle in your life, the river is flowing.

TUCHMAN: When he lays hands on worshippers, the pastor says he is helping to facilitate acts of God.

(on camera): It's kind of startling, to be frank, when you see people shake and fall down. Isn't it?

HORTON: It is to me. I'm still amazed every time it happens. I go, my goodness, this is amazing to me.

TUCHMAN: Is it the power of God that makes them fall down?

HORTON: I believe it's their reaction to the power of God in their physical bodies.

TUCHMAN: Do you ever worry they'll get hurt when they fall down?

HORTON: That's why we have catchers. TUCHMAN: Is that what you call them?

HORTON: That's what we call them, they're catchers.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Dale Goenner says divine healing cured the extreme pain in her hands.

DALE GOENNER, WORSHIPPER: You sense and feel the power of God flowing through you.

TUCHMAN: Renee Wilson (ph) says her vertigo disappeared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God healed me. And it's gone. Absolutely gone.

HORTON: God will do whatever he can.

TUCHMAN: Pastor Horton says cancers have been cured, bad heart conditions have gone away.

(on camera): You know, you hear a lot of tales about things like that happening that we can't see. But, for example, could prayer grow back a missing arm or a missing leg, things you can see?

HORTON: Well, I don't know if prayer can, but God can do anything.

TUCHMAN: But you've never seen that happen.

HORTON: I haven't seen it. I believe God can raise the dead. I haven't seen that yet either, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. He came down to heal me

TUCHMAN: Pentecostal and charismatic churches emphasize healing and speaking in tongues. And they're not on the fringe. In fact, they're part of one of the fastest growing segments in world Christianity with an estimated 500 million global followers. This church emphasizes belief in doctors' care, too, that medicine is also a gift from God. But that doesn't alleviate the concern the scientific community has about this.

DR. RICHARD SLOAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: There are things in medicine that we just don't understand. Nobody would dispute that. But there's no systematic evidence whatsoever to support that this kind of religious procedure or ceremony has any impact on health.

TUCHMAN: But they disagree here, although with this acknowledgment.

HORTON: I don't understand why some are healed and why some aren't. But then I have a choice. Am I going to believe God still heals or not?

TUCHMAN: I'm sure that people who aren't healed want to understand, why not me? What do you say to them?

HORTON: Keep praying. Keep believing. Do everything you can.

TUCHMAN: This couple keeps praying and believing. He's been in a wheelchair for almost 30 years, after a mountain climbing accident.

BEVERLY MAYO, WORSHIPPER: I would like to know why it hasn't come yet, but every day I've got to wake up and believe it's today.

TUCHMAN: There is no shortage of faith here, even though it comes with no guarantees.

HORTON: Amen. Can we honor the Lord? Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's not just Pentecostals. Across Christianity, many believe faith can help heal the sick. The question is, what does science say about it? Joining us is Sanjay Gupta. What about it? In this area, where does the medical community stand?

GUPTA: First of all, I find this really fascinating. This whole intersection, if you will, between faith and science. But there have been some studies on this as well to actually give raw data on this. You talk about what faith and what prayer, whether it's your own or whether someone else is praying for you, really does for somebody. With regards to cancer, for example, there's been no data to suggest that it actually decreases the likelihood of getting cancer or decreases the likelihood of a recurrence. It may help with the pain associated with cancer, associated with some diseases.

Obviously that's much more of a subjective thing. What's even more fascinating, Anderson, is something known as distant prayer, intercessory prayer where people are being prayed for but they don't even know they're being prayed for. Could there be something more cosmic here? And obviously this is controversial. But could there be something more cosmic where people actually being prayed for improve?

There's a huge study going on right now, multimillion dollar study, cardiologists are looking into this, doctors are looking into this, cynics are already saying absolute nonsense. But could there be something else there? No data yet but a lot of people curious about it.

COOPER: There are other studies that have shown that people who pray regularly are actually healthier than those who don't. What does that tell you?

GUPTA: I think that they are also more likely to have less anxiety, less likely to have depression, less likely to abuse substances. What other characteristics about these people who are faithful, who pray, do they also share?

And these are the things that are associated with better health, better health practices as well. We also know, for example, that people who go to church, or go to some place of worship regularly, at least once a week, 43 percent of them say that they are very happy. Whereas people who don't, only about 26 percent of them say that they're very happy.

So could it be more an interplay of attitude and faith, as opposed to the faith itself causing better health?

COOPER: Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, from faith and your health to faith and the environment. The greening of the church. The push to protect God's creation facing some backlash from Christian leaders. When WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN? Continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR JOEL HUNTER, NORTHLAND CHURCH: Creation is very ordered. Then God said, then God said, then God said. God has a plan. You've got to stick with the plan. You've got to understand the plan. And when you understand why he made the environment, it kind of shocks you because you never look at the sky the same way again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Have you heard the term "Creation Care"? Some top evangelicals committing themselves to protecting the planet. But there's a backlash under way. CNN's David Mattingly reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNTER: Oh, look. Look at this. Noah's Ark.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reverend Joel Hunter was a rising star among American evangelicals. So well thought of that he was once picked to lead the influential Christian Coalition. But Hunter suddenly found himself on the outs with powerful leaders of the religious right when he went public with this seemingly simple message.

HUNTER: I want you to look at the sky differently and every plant and every tree. God made them for you. Take care of them.

MATTINGLY (on camera): What exactly did you do that was so offensive?

HUNTER: This is not all about global warming. This is about who speaks for evangelical Christianity.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): To many, Hunter has become the face of a new green Christian movement, following what he believes is a biblical mandate to protect the environment. He appeared in this television ad challenging evangelicals to act on the threat of global warming.

HUNTER: The good news is that with God's help we can stop global warming for our kids, our world, and for our Lord. MATTINGLY: One national poll reveals more than two-thirds of evangelicals believe the earth is getting hotter. But highly placed critics of the global warming initiative are taking a very hard line. Calling the appeal for action a threat to unity.

REV. JERRY FALWELL, DECEASED, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: That's what it's all about politics. The fact is it's all phony baloney.

MATTINGLY: The late Reverend Jerry Falwell took to the pulpit in February calling global warming a myth and calling church leaders who believe otherwise alarmists and naive.

FALWELL: It is Satan's attempt to redirect the church's primary focus.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Are you doing the work of Satan?

HUNTER: I hope not. I hope we're on exactly the opposite side.

MATTINGLY: Opponents believe this greening of the church chips away at an old but successful agenda, one that for years has kept evangelical voters narrowly focused on issues like school prayer, gay marriage, and abortion. It's also kept them tied to the political party that supports their views.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are people who have an ideological litmus test that you have to meet as a Christian. Which is to vote Republican. And that's the way they think.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Prominent Christian conservatives unsuccessfully demanded Richard Sizek (ph) be fired as Washington lobbyist of the National Association of Evangelicals, for his support of the global warming campaign. They argued, "The issue should be addressed scientifically and not theologically.

(on camera): How did your congregation respond?

HUNTER: There are -- many people are loving this. We have a few people that are really kind of, I didn't come to hear -- come to church to get lectured on how I ought to treat the earth and so on and so forth.

Cap-key, is that how you pronounce that?

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The outcome for the hearts and minds of the faithful is not clear cut. And pastors like Joel Hunter appear to be in the minority. According to a study by the Pew Forum, compared to other Christians, white evangelicals are still less likely to believe that rising earth temperatures are the result of human activity.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So should the church even be involved in environmental issues? The debate is growing. Joining us to talk about it, the Reverend Jim Ball president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, and Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, DC.

Gentlemen, thanks for being with us. Reverend Ball, Reverend Jerry Falwell has called the new Christian environmentalism, quote, "Satan's attempt to redirect the church's primary focus from issues like abortion and gay marriage." How do you respond to that?

REVEREND JIM BALL, EVANGELICAL ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORK: Well, Anderson, the great commission is to go and make disciples of all nations. And part of that discipleship teaching is to care for his creation and to protect the least of these. And pollution, especially global warming pollution, impacts the poor the hardest, the most vulnerable.

And so we're called to protect those folks and so it's a very biblical Christ-centered message that we have that addressing global warming is part of being a Christian today.

COOPER: Reverend Ball, do you worry it takes the focus, though, off other issues which many evangelicals believe are more important, gay marriage, prayer in school?

BALL: Well, you know, a lot of young folks out there are very concerned about the environment. And when they hear messages from evangelical leaders saying don't take that seriously, they start to tune out.

And so our message, a "Creation Care" message, care about global warming, care about the impacts on the poor, care about mercury's impacts on the unborn, this message is really starting to resonate with the younger generations, and it helps us to get the message out there about the Gospel, about the saving blood of Jesus Christ. And that's what we're trying to do here.

COOPER: Well, Bishop Jackson, what's wrong with that?

BISHOP HARRY JACKSON, HIGH IMPACT LEADERSHIP COALITION: Nothing's wrong with that, Anderson. The real issue is what are we going to do about the fact that the globe has warmed by about one degree over the last 100 years? There is a controversy about the science as it relates to what you do next. If we're going to spend $100 billion or more of money on things, why not HIV/AIDS research, maybe alleviating poverty around the nations.

It's very, very important for us to think about the implications, what are we going to do next? And there's no consensus in the evangelical community. So, Anderson, what we're saying is simply that there seems to be this leaping ahead and folks speaking out on behalf of evangelicals when maybe we need to get together, have a focus, concerted, strategic approach to solving this problem.

COOPER: So how much, though, are you concerned that focusing on environmental issues is going to take the focus off other issues which traditionally evangelicals have focused on?

JACKSON: Well, I don't think it's going to take the focus off of our traditional issues. I think the agenda for evangelicals has definitely got to broaden, to deal with justice issues, along with issues of social conservative, structure of families, being pro-life, those kinds of things.

But I believe that there is a difference in terms of opinion about what to do next, with the science. I think that no one refutes the fact that there is a global warming phenomenon of some dimension. What there is, though, is confusion around whether this is something that we have to deal with, whether human activity will change what's going on. And until we find out about that, I'd rather have us not leap into the middle of a discussion that we really don't know that much about.

COOPER: It's a whole new world. Reverend Ball, appreciate your discussion.

BALL: Thanks for having us.

COOPER: And Bishop Jackson, really interesting stuff. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

JACKSON: Thank you very much, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next -- miracles under the microscope. Can science explain the Bible?

(BEGIN VIEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miracles don't prove the faith. They're invitations to faith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: But what about Noah's Ark and the parting of the Red Sea? Is there a scientific basis for those biblical stories? When WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN "God, Faith and Hard Science" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. DR. THOMAS D. JOHNSON, SR., CANAAN BAPTIST CHURCH: Whatever the Lord said that He would do, that he will do. He might not do it when you want it done. God might not shape it as you want it shaped. But rest assured that God will do what God said He would do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Welcome back to WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN: "God, Faith and Hard Science." It's the greatest story ever told, taken as faith by millions. But some are looking for concrete proof of the miracles in the Bible. Answers to some of the most baffling mysteries of all time. CNN's Tom Foreman investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The idea that God touches the earth and makes miracles is a cornerstone belief for many Christians.

JOHN CAVADINI, UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME: I believe in miracles.

FOREMAN: John Cavadini, a theology professor at Notre Dame, teaches about miracles and says they can't be proven or disproven by anyone.

CAVADINI: Because to believe that something is a miracle is to believe that it was a special act of God. And there's nothing that can prove that it was or wasn't a special act of God, nothing that you can observe.

FOREMAN: Still, scientists try.

CHARLTON HESTON, MOSES: Behold His mighty hand.

FOREMAN: Take the parting of the Red Sea, which allowed Moses to escape the Egyptians. The Bible says, "The Lord drove the sea back with his strong east wind and turned it into dry land."

Researchers with the American meteorological society say indeed, intense wind, or an earthquake, could cause shallow water in that region to recede dramatically, and then rush back in just like the Bible says.

What about walking on water? Some researchers say it happens all the time. Although the Sea of Galilee is not known to freeze, they say once a century or so patches of ice appear and maybe Jesus strolled on these.

(on camera): All this can be a slippery slope. Showing how something might be done does not prove it was done that way. And even the scientists don't always agree with each other.

(voice-over): Archaeologists have sought biblical sites all over the globe. They've suggested that the Ark that held the Ten Commandments might be in Ethiopia or Egypt or Israel. Jesus' tomb has been found in the Israeli capital Jerusalem not once but three different times in different places.

Not to mention those researchers who think it may be in Kashmir or even Japan. And Noah's Ark? Various sources say that that great ship of biblical lore came to rest in Turkey or Egypt or Iran. So John Cavadini says it again.

CAVADINI: You can't prove that that was a miracle. You can't disprove that that was a miracle. Miracles don't prove the faith. They're invitations to faith.

FOREMAN: After all, if you've got proof, it's not really faith at all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Across generations, research and religion have done battle in courtrooms, in classrooms, and of course in churches. But as science marches on, faith remains strong, and maybe they're not on such different ends of the spectrum after all.

Tonight we hope you've gained some insight. Thanks for watching WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN: "God, Faith and Hard Science." I'm Anderson Cooper. Good night.

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