Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why I'm Interested In How Young Adults See Science and Religion

In relating science and religion, I fall into the Integration camp—that is, I agree with those thinkers that conclude the two need to make a difference to each other by learning from one another. I’m also fascinated by how emerging adults (18-30 year olds) understand this interaction of science and religion. It might be worthwhile to comment briefly on how I came to find all these strands compelling and why I’m seeking to wind them together in the current grant project I’m working on, Science for Emerging, Young Adults. 
      The precipitating event seems reasonably clear: I became a Christian as a first year college student at age 18—that is, during what is now know as “emerging adulthood” (a term coined by the psychologist Jeffrey Arnett in 2000—and that’s most likely why faith for 18-30 year olds will continue to allure me. My conversion also occurred in the secular environment of UC Berkeley. (In other words, “Go to Cal and become a Christian” should sound like an oxymoron.) I wasn’t nurtured from the cradle in the Bible Belt. All this means I’m also absorbed by the challenges and questions that an unbelieving culture presents. And often those arguments against faith derive from science (or science poorly understand and misused). Nevertheless, the issues of science qua science were not at first at the forefront of my faith. Instead, as a literature major during the Berkeley years, I was more engaged with the overall questions of culture. During my undergrad, I was much more concerned with religious pluralism (and still am); it’s a topic I confront through my C. S. Lewis book in “Jesus and the Crisis of Other Myths.” For the purposes of this brief essay, I’ll merely say that I, with Lewis, believe that truth can be found in many other narratives, religions, and philosophies (“myths” for Lewis), but that in Jesus the full revelation of God is present and that Jesus fulfills the longings of all human hearts. That doesn’t mean science was absent in my earlier theological development. Science, as a part of culture, emerged more gradually, primarily first as a way of integrating my faith with wider human knowledge, as well as ways that our culture resists and impugns faith.

      Later—after a sojourn in business—I continued my academic study in the history of Christian thought, and I found that science often posed a barrier to belief. Put simply I began to encounter the “warfare thesis” (science and religion are two warring forces with the former clearly winning), a position associated with Andrew Dickson White in the 19th century and Richard Dawkins in ours. I also realized that this view was challenging, but simplistic... More on the next steps in a future post...

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