Last Saturday I spent the day at the Grand Dialogue’s annual conference. It was a great conference and there were many ideas that deserve more discussion. The Keynote speaker, Brian Malley, made an interesting comment at one point during the day. He said sometimes students ask him how he can do his work as a scientist and be a religious person himself. Particularly perhaps because his work has to do with the cognitive science of religion.
Now, if you read that and thought, “Yeah, that’s a good question.” Then I invite you to consider Malley’s response to his students, which is to ask them why they think there should be a problem between his work as a scientist and his being a person of faith. Malley said that once students are asked to think about , to articulate,what specifically should cause a problem, they realize there is no reason for a conflict between his work in science and the fact that he is a person of faith.
This is another example of the many subtle ways we have adopted a worldview that assumes a conflict between science and religion. We expect there to be a conflict and we look for conflict and then we look no farther. But dialogue between science and religion is just that- dialogue between science and religion. It assumes that both science and religion are “real” things and that they can and should talk to each other.
Now if you don’t believe in religion, or you don’t believe in science, or you don’t think they should be in dialogue; can I ask a favor of you? Have your opinion but please, refrain from attending science and religion discussions. Attend all the science only or religion only events you wish. But would you leave the science and religion discussions to those of us who want to further the dialogue? We need to move past the old tired debates about whether science and religion should be in dialogue. Spending our time re establishing the validity of the discussion just wastes everyone’s time. We need to stop framing this as a clash of world views.
Religious faith must seriously engage the real world and that real world includes science. And science needs to hear the ethical and moral wisdom that religion can offer. Science and religion have important things to discuss.
Really, there is a lot for us to discuss. Science, in one way or another, affects almost every aspect of our lives. As does religion. Religion and science are too important and involve so many people that we must be in dialogue. Real dialogue, constructive dialogue that helps us live well in this complex and wonderful world.
I’d like to know what do you think?