Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Musing... Is There Enduring Conflict Between Science and Religion?

A. N. Whitehead
When we consider what religion is for mankind and what science is, it is no exaggeration to say that the future course of history depends upon the decision of this generation as to the relations between them. Alfred North Whitehead

I'm going to indulge in some random musings...

Despite the fact that most scholars generally find the “warfare” model of science and religion historically untenable, currently about 70% of young adults believe that religion and science are incompatible. (On the inadequacy and even fallacy of the war between science and religion, see, for example, the fascinating book edited by Ron Numbers--which I'm currently reading and enjoying--Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion.)

So why is this the case? Why is it that most scholars don't see a need for, or even a history of, a war between science and religion, and yet the majority think that's how it is? Since I'd like to bring faith together with science--and in fact, represent those who believe that science can enhance our faith--these questions are particularly poignant for me.

This issues comes to mind:

  • Since young adulthood is a time to decide on career paths, if religious belief reduces the likelihood of becoming a scientist, this could pose a problem for our country (which tends to have a widespread faith in God) as we compete in the world.
I'll hazard two guesses for why the warfare model endures in popular culture:

  1. We have a sense that science works with theories that have testable claims, and that these claims are settled to some degree by imagination and the way the answers conform to beauty (beautiful mathematical equations, that type of thing), but ultimately science depends on reason. Religious faith possesses an added ingredient, which at its best, does, not deny reason, but knows when to transcend reason alone. With Blaise Pascal, I affirm that reason knows when to submit to truths beyond it.
  2. Secondly, the ongoing dispute between conservative Christians and evolutionary science reinforces the warfare thesis. According to a recent Pew poll, 64% of evangelical Christians reject evolution. The fact is that there are few--very few--scientists that reject evolution as a guiding scientific theory. So it's not unreasonable  for the public to see religion and science at odds.
What am I trying to do about changing these perceptions and seeing science and religion and mutually enhancing--and challenging ways--that we understand God. The Scientists in Congregations website tells one story. And I hope in future posts to say more. Who knows? There might even be a future book on the topic...

1 comment:

Fatcat said...

A really good website would be wonderful little bite sized bits of information to share on social media ... easier to get someone to read than a book*, not written at the doctoral or masters degree level, something people like me can link to.

(*not me, I love books, but you know what I mean. :-)