Religion and Science, Again

371px-symbol_split_discussion_svgDoes it seem to you that in discussions between “science” and “religion” , most often “science” is the one who sets the terms of the discussion? It seems so to me. Not always, but often. We start with science and then see if religion has anything to add.  We approach the topic as if science has the more suitable framework for discussion. As if science provides the most real, the most true, the most honest, the most fruitful worldview. As if science, in fact, offers the only viable perspective.

Now I’m all for science. The way science engages the world, the way it questions and observes, the way it explores and explains has been fabulously successful. Modern life as we know it exists because of science in all its various disciplines and inquiries. Science is a good thing.

But I’m not sure that science should always be allowed to drive the conversation.  Science has a lot to say, but it doesn’t say everything.  Science has important contributions to make to many discussions. but it doesn’t necessarily have the final answer. Or even a fully sufficient answer.

Science has done an amazing job uncoverning the fundamental laws that govern our universe. And, it certainly is not finished seeking knowledge and understanding.  But science needs help with some questions.  “Why are there  laws of physics and chemistry and where do they come from?”  Or to put it slightly differently,”Why is there a first law of thermodynamics?”,”Could there be a world without it?” 

“Why can we understand the universe?” , “Why does the universe make sense?”, “Where does the intelligibility of the universe originate?”, “Why is there something, rather than nothing?”  These sorts of questions sit on the edge.  At this edge, science has less to offer, and I would suggest, religion has more to offer.

When science drives the discussion, much of what religion has to offer is ignored. For a discussion between science 373px-symbol_merge_discussion_svgand religion to be useful, to enlighten us, to inform us, religion’s views need to be taken seriously. Too often science and religion discussions turn into arguments about whether religion has the right to be part of the discussion at all. Religion spends the time justifying it’s existence and the discussion never advances past this point. These sorts of debates about the validity of religion belong somewhere else.

The “religion” part of the science and religion discussion contains a diversity of ideas and view points that have much to offer “science”. But the science and religion discussion can only be a stimulating and fruitful exchange if religion is an equal partner, accepted for its own valid perspective and contributions.

I’d like to know, what do you think?



For readers in the Grand Rapids Michigan area: The Grand Dialogue of Grand Rapids will be holding its annual conference on March 14, 2009. Brian Malley from the University of Michigan will be the keynote speaker. After the keynote address there will be several breakout sessions presented on a variety of topics.  I hope to see you there.

One thought on “Religion and Science, Again

  1. Religion has nothing to offer Science. We don’t even “…start with science and then see if religion has anything to add…”, for the same reason we don’t start with science and see what child thinks.

    Science is empirical and objective, religion is neither. Suggesting an equality between scientific and religious views indicates a serious misunderstanding of one or both, but most likely the former.

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