Sunday, February 10, 2008

Are Science and Religion Compatible

On Thursday Bjorn and I saw a fairly interesting and relevant "debate" at the University of Minnesota. I say "debate" because for the most part the two sides agreed with each other. The question was whether science and religion were compatible. Arguing the negative was PZ Myers, and on the positive was Loyal Rue, a non theist teaching at Luther College.
I'll start with the argument that Bjorn and I obviously agree with, that it isn't. PZ states one can be religious and a good scientist because people are complicated, and as humans we encompass many views at once. We are also very good at ignoring contradictions making science and religion able to coexist. As a scientist himself Myers believes that science is everything and that the world is material. The problem with religion is that it makes claims about the world, but we now are knowledgeable enough that these religious methods of viewing the word have become irrelevant and unnecessary. He thinks that religious thought is antithetical to scientific thought.
Rue states that religion and morality is naturalistic. Religion is a myth, meaning story. It brings facts together with values. Religion comes from the Latin word meaning to bind, which, to me at least, makes a lot of sense. To him, it binds together values with explanations for how things came to be. It unifies our vocabulary for talking about our world, and our values. It is the ultimate explanation for facts and ultimate justification for values. For this reason it is important to have this story, religion, to guide us. We still read Greek myths after all. There has to be a reason for it. He states that God is a metaphor of a person and explains how the world came to be as well as justifies what we do. Religion should help us achieve a personal wholeness, a sense of social solidarity. He also thinks that we have a need for ritual, that it is therapeutic, and that religion can fill that role. His solution is to borrow the pillars religion is based on, institutional, experiential, artistic, ritual, etc., and build a religion of a naturalistic cosmology and develop a new story which is more compelling then the dualistic cosmology we currently observe in major religions.
PZ Myers agrees that religion fuses truth and justice and that it brings us together. However, religion is a tainted word. He urges all of us to keep the bible because it is a part of our history. It shows us how people lived, and thought thousand of years ago. Place it between The Odyssey, and other great works of literature.
As for me, I definitely do not think that the two are compatible. I recently looked at the winners for a Creationist science fair. The second place winner for the middle school level was Why Women Are Good Homemakers. Needless to say that is the most insulting science project I've ever seen. The winners for the high school level proved that the Arc was scientifically possible by suspending mice in a cage, and that praying over bacteria will make them more resistant to antibacterial agents. Everything that science tells us spits in the face of every argument an ancient book claims about how things are. I won't go into those obvious discrepancies. I am interested in what you guys think. I'm really looking forward to some convincing arguments that the two are indeed compatible., I haven't heard one yet.

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