So, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between science and religion. They seem to be very much at odds; the science-minded among us seem to think that the faith-minded among us are very naive and backward and stupid, while the religious, apart from being very frightened of the science-minded, seem to be content to ignore and belittle their cold and colorless stance. Yet I am noting, perhaps in both camps, at least among the more intellectual circles, a growing interest in finding some kind of common ground. Look at http://www.edge.org – a very anti religious site, which is seeming to come a bit toward a softer stance.
I’ve been thinking that it would be nice if the two could come to terms in a way that was not insulting either to science or religious orthodoxy. Yes, that’s right, religious orthodoxy. When a fundamentalist says that the earth is 6000 years old, this is insulting to science. When Richard Dawkins says “And I am optimistic that this final scientific enlightenment will deal an overdue deathblow to religion and other juvenile superstitions” and writes books called “The God Delusion,” this is insulting to religion. Yet it is equally insulting to both to think that we can find some vapid happy medium. I can’t stand these overly simplified compromises; truth is a very singular thing.
It is the wrong question to ask, is science right, or is religion right? Is there some middle ground? Maybe God caused evolution? I am always irritated and bored by these discussions regardless of your perspective. Who cares if religion or science is right? I don’t. I care what is TRUE. People always seem to snicker and shake their heads when I bring this up, as if I am a naive child – the TRUTH is an impossible standard to obtain. In the REAL world we have science and religion. The true thought leaders in these fields were not pioneered by such cowardly thinking; they were pioneered by people who believed in and sought truth. A wreckless and fearless abandonment to the pursuit of truth is the only thing that will really carry the day.
Let’s consider this: what options are available to us, here in the 21st century, to interpret and understand the world? We have science, which believes (yes – BELIEVES) that the universe sprang into existence uncaused, and that life arose purely by the lucky kiss of chance plus time. I think we should all step back and look with honesty, and say, this is absurd. It’s OK, it is absurd. Science shoots itself in the foot and loses its credibility when it refuses to admit its weaknesses.
Now, let’s consider the considerably murkier waters of religion and metaphysics. The religious believe that an invisible super-intelligent being somehow masterminded all of existence, but remains so elusively invisible that we debate about whether or not He even exists.
Then there are the agnostic among us, who pretend that it doesn’t matter and we can’t know and perhaps shouldn’t pursue this. The strange and mystic thing here is that almost no one really believes this; we all strive to know the answers to these things; we maintain an insatiable curiosity. This is in itself a huge clue to me.
So, no matter what, we are shut up to believing in something which is patently absurd. There is no choice. Life is huge and beautiful and tragic and crazy and impossible to explain. Science is inadequate and religion is just… WILD!
One of the things I love about my faith is that it directly embraces this patent mystery; it demands faith right up front. It out and out admits that it demands belief in outrageous things. This does not make it true, by the way, don’t think I am saying that. But it does say things like, God exists, God became a man, that that man’s chief play for power was to die, even that somehow God wrote a book, things like that. The religious believer should not and cannot shy away from the fact that he believes in things that are shocking and outrageous.
However, does this mean, that in seeking truth, we only believe the shocking and therefore science is all wrong? How could that possibly be TRUE? Are we to throw all sense out the window? That would be just a little too black and white and simple to really explain the world, wouldn’t it? Just as reason alone cannot explain or color existence, so faith alone cannot only guide us. Perhaps God has created nature and given us minds. The scriptures, in all of their admitted strangeness and also their beauty, do not really advocate a 6000 year-old universe or any such thing.
I want to go back to something I said earlier. Religion, and not only religion, but religious ORTHODOXY, is crucial to our pursuit of truth, because if there is a God, surely that God can speak to the humanity He created, and He could speak to people all through the history of mankind. If it is not old religion, it is not ancient wisdom, it seems not to be as good. That is why I say, science and religious ORTHODOXY need to come to terms with their own patent absurdities and their own strengths and come to a place where they are set together without insult in the pursuit of the actual truth which is there.