Despite what atheists like Richard Dawkins would like the world to believe, belief in the divine and science go together just fine. In fact, for many educated people, they’re inseparable.

Take the case of neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander, who is featured in the Oct. 15 Newsweek. After a career spent understanding the functioning of the human brain, Dr. Alexander dismissed reports of near-death experiences as mere hallucinations brought on by the chemical and physical events that occur in the brain of someone undergoing trauma.

But after contracting a rare form of meningitis in which E. coli bacteria attacked his brain, Alexander fell into a coma, during which he says he was brought to heaven.

As his doctors debated whether to discontinue treating his nonresponsive body, Alexander suddenly recovered. As he discusses in Newsweek, he now believes he has scientific evidence that consciousness continues after death.

Recently, Republican Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia has caught flack for telling a Baptist group that he believes evolution and the big bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell.”

The media likes to paint people like Broun as ignorant, unintelligent folk straight out of “Deliverance,” but Broun is a medical doctor and sits on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Broun regards his religious beliefs as integral to his work as a congressman and scientist. He said he regards the Bible as the “manufacturer’s handbook.”

Historically, there’s no conflict between Judeo-Christian religion and science. Many of the most famous scientists have been Jewish or Christian clergy.

It’s been suggested that the reason science developed in the West and not in most other regions of the world is because of biblical religion, which teaches among other things that God is consistent and has established natural laws which he himself obeys when interacting with the Earth and its inhabitants.

Even though it is not a biblically based culture, China, another technologically advanced civilization historically, has in common with the West the notion that the universe is subject to an order ordained by heaven.

Some other religions, such as Islam, for example, do not share the concept of an orderly universe. In Islam, the world is ruled by Allah, a god who can be described as capricious even at the best of times. There is no sense of a rational order, so there is no need to study the universe. Thus, modern lands under Muslim rule have not changed much in hundreds of years and sciences have been stifled.

It’s not without irony, therefore, that two of modern science’s most prominent theories — evolution and the big bang — are rooted in a belief in randomness. The bottom line of both theories is that everything happened by accident.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that scientists pursuing those theories are at a loss to answer the most basic questions about them, such as why did the big bang occur when physics suggests it shouldn’t have, or what mechanism could account for one species turning into another as mere natural selection clearly isn’t an adequate explanation?

And both theories notably have become protected by a dogmatic legion of believers in the scientific community. Scientists who question either one openly, particularly evolution, do so at risk to their careers and reputations.

It is almost as if the belief in randomness within these dearly held scientific theories has had the same effect of squelching rational questions and honest inquiry as might be seen under the strictest of theocracies. In fact, the almost religious fervor with which these theories are expounded has infected political attitudes toward education, preventing students from even hearing about other ideas, in effect creating something like a secular theocracy on school boards across this country.

A mind that is open to scientific investigation seems to be best supported when that same mind is also open to the idea of God.