We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Religion (not) vs. Science

In light of the fact that nearly half of Americans believe that evolution is false and that creation took place just a few thousand years ago, it comes as something of a surprise that, according to MIT physicist, Max Tegmark in an article entitled, "Celebrating Darwin: Religion And Science Are Closer Than You Think," "only 11 percent of Americans belong to religions openly rejecting evolution or our Big Bang."    On his personal website (here), Tegmark summarizes the research he himself conducted on the official position of American churches and religious organizations concerning evolution and science.  Many of them officially embrace what he calls "origins science."  Many others are officially silent or allow for a diversity of personal views.  Only a relatively small number reject origins science including the Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Synod Lutherans, and the Presbyterian Church in America.

Tegmark argues that a root cause of the apparent conflict between science and religion is a failure in scientific education.  If a failure in science education is one of the key reasons for the disparity between 46% of Americans believing in creationism while 89% of them belong to religious bodies that allow for origins science, then we have to say that it is also a failure in religious education.  It seems entirely likely that we are not hearing enough science from our pulpits and in our Sunday schools classes.  There are not enough adult education courses on faith and science, teaching the compatibility between biblical and scientific worldviews.

Tegmark's conclusion in his article should give us pause to reflect.  He writes, "I feel that people bent on science-religion conflict are picking the wrong battle. The real battle is against the daunting challenges facing the future of humanity, and regardless of our religious views, we're all better off fighting this battle united." That is, the supposed conflict between religion and science distracts good people from the real issues facing us and pits them, instead, against each other.  And that matters.  It matters a lot.