Why Science and Religion?
Hi, I’m Brook, your TFT Science and Religion correspondent. Why the belated introduction? I got my first comment the other day, on my piece about the Creation Museum and dinosaurs. It went like this: “How can you have a section called Science and Religion? You might as well have one called “Astronomy and Astrology.” One is grounded entirely in fact and the other exclusively in superstition.” That’s when I realized I should back up a little bit and explain myself.
Firstly, The Faster Times has lots of paired sections—Science and Art, Music and Ideas, Love and Death—and in none of these are the two topics being equated. Not to speak for my fellow dual-beat columnists, but I’d venture a guess that they, like me, are interested in the “And” in our respective titles, that is, the place where the two things intersect. Granted, I really like to find the relationship between seemingly unrelated things: to me, an Astronomy and Astrology section sounds like a great idea. Science and Religion are not the same thing. But I think it’s pretty hard to argue that the two have no relationship at all.
There’s lots of ways to describe the relationship. The brilliant science writer Stephen Jay Gould famously called science and religion two “non-overlapping magisterium.” I tend to disagree—I think science and religion do overlap, lately in the political realm. Then there’s the “God of the gaps” theory, in which God resides only in the places that science can’t explain, the idea being that in a progressive, scientific world view, those gaps will slowly disappear. The problem with the theory is: religion doesn’t seem to be disappearing.
The clear implication of the commenter is that science is fact and religion is junk not worth talking about. I know a lot of people who feel this way. But consider the possibility that religion is worth talking about simply because it effects so many people. We need to get better at explaining religion in all its many guises: as a social phenomenon, as a political factor, as a basis for literature, as a comfort for the sick. (I’m not the only one to make this observation. There are now a small army of publications and organizations seeking to do this. See especially: getreligion.org, The Revealer, and the Religion Newswriters Association.)
For the record, I am neither a scientist nor a religious person. I’m not out to promote or denigrate anybody’s beliefs. I just think there’s a lot of gray area between and around the two, and that’s what I’m here to investigate. And I want your help. Keep those comments coming!
Image from Stephen Jay Gould’s original 1998 essay in the New York Times, “Science and Religion: Bridging the Great Divide.”
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