Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dogma, Science and Religion continued.

In my last post, I explained my opinion of the intractable parties that make up the debate over science and religion. If you have read my book review over the last few months, it is obvious where my bias falls. But before anyone skips this fearing another soap box speech about how "science is an elite institution that religion has no place even approaching" let me say they are both social constructs and as such deserve an equal voice in directing the future of our world.

So I guess I am biting off a big chunk of what makes for so many disagreements in the world, lets see if I can start to chew.

To say religion has no providence over science is just as false as the juxtaposition. Religion played a very important part of the early development of society, it was the pool where morality was drawn and imbibed from. It was designed in the best possible way with as much foresight as possible for the time. Even though I personally am an atheist, I do not feel as though we have grown past the need for religion in society. I do feel that religion has lost its way as many of its ideals, no matter how important they might have been when they introduced to the doctrine, are simply antiquated and could use revision.

Like wise, a world completely under the control of the cold and rational arts, seems even less appealing. Maybe if the scientists who invented atomic weapons; for example, were forced to confront the morality of their actions before such an undertaking, they might have thought twice. Science's role in society is to educate inform and advance. Religion is a part of society, it has benefited from science as much as any social construct. Where would televangelists be with out television, or imagine crowding into a church once a week with out the antibiotics and hygiene advances that have come about through scientific inquiry.

On the whole, I believe neither could exist today without the other. It is time to reconcile. For those that are religious, I suggest you take the same approach to science that you would take to religious literature, pick and choose carefully both what you would embrace or fight, but be better informed on the whole of it. The Union of Concerned Scientists isn't inventing global climate change to force an agenda, they really do want the best for you too. (There might just be a chance the message from religious leaders has been co-opted by people who don't, but that is for you to decide.)

Science, when you are asked to question the morality of a course of scientific methodology, do so in earnest. Further more, we need to come off our tower a little, we need to cultivate an other tier between educators and journalism. A group of people who speak both science and english. People to help demystify and humanize research, in an effort to spread a greater understanding of intentions and values in both directions. Maybe stem cell research is a line we should look into not crossing despite its promise in medical science.

As always your comments, positive or negative are welcome and will not be deleted or edited.

1 comment:

  1. While I agree with your thesis that all would benefit from a rapprochement between the world views of materialism and religion, it seems to me your treatment is more than a little 'Pan-glossian;'

    It is not enough to ask "can't we all just get along." What you are leaving out of your discussion is the question of Evil. There are scientists like Teller who are really proud of inventing the H-bomb and see the incineration of whole continents of people as an unfortunate, but necessary cleansing, 'no more than a shave and a hair cut;' So there are also religious fanatics who, like Toquemada the infamous high priest of the Spanish Inquisition, see nothing wrong with torturing and maiming those who do not share their beliefs.

    One could argue that these extremes of the materialist/religious dipole are irrelevant to the lives of most ordinary people, but are they really? We still have 5,000 nuclear warheads in our arsenal. Having been unable to stuff that Genie back into its bottle, most people go about their lives blithely ignoring the fact that we are still on a hair trigger defense posture, less than 15 minutes away from total global destruction; and most of history's most vicious wars have been fought in the name of religion, the underlying idea being that if one dies in a righteous cause, you go straight to Heaven and leave this 'Vale of Tears,' while sending your foes straight to Hell which is a desirable outcome to fanatics. And don't think for a minute that those views died with the Middle Ages. Right after the events of 9/11 I heard it seriously advocated that we should 'nuke Iraq, which would kill all those #@$%^ Jihadis and convert desert sand into glass, thus preserving the middle east oil for our future use.' The bigotry and just plain stupidity of such thinking rooted in toxic religious and racial prejudice is staggering, and yet you hear it frequently, but usually with less frankness. It has even become mainstream in our politics. Just listen carefully to the debates taking place in the presidential race or the Congress or the speeches coming out of Iran, Israel, or any of 50 other countries that are armed to the teeth. The true 'axis of Evil' is the subordination of the Evil inventions of science to the Evil purposes of religion. Until we can root out those twin evils, we ignore them at our peril.