Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fear of Science

Steven Peck wrote a fantastic post at his blog, The Mormon Organon, on the fear of science:
There are still those trying to separate science and religion. Who try desperately to dichotomize and put up barriers between the two. To rank order ‘ways of knowing’ into absurd hierarchies in which one trumps the other, or one is more important than the other, or where one wins always and the other loses always. Certainly science will never teach us all truth, but to ignore the things it does teach is a descent into superstition and foolishness. Likewise religion has taught us little about how the universe is constituted or provided models and theories of how material things work in the universe, yet it has provided the source of the reasons that such a universe exists, our place in it and what is expected of us.


These little minds that understand neither science nor religion are ever drawing lines trying to convince people that they must choose between the two and that one should hold one or the other in suspicion and doubt. These attitudes are based at their root, in a kind of fear that drives out faith. On the one side of the coin there are the vocal atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens who try to argue that they ‘know’ and have all the ‘answers’ and draw their lines in ignorance of genuine spiritual attunings. However, to me they are of little concern. I’ve seen few persuaded by their arguments. They misunderstand faith so badly that those who have experienced God in their lives find their arguments uninformed and based on hackneyed stereotypes and caricature. They poise little danger to those who have experienced the richness and depth of lived religion.

On the other side of the coin however are those that I’ve seen do much damage to faith. Like the ‘Judaizers’ of the apostle Paul’s time, who followed him around proclaiming that new Christians must be circumcised and follow the laws of Moses, these scientific decriers suggest that we should be afraid of science and that we need to choose between science and religion. They hold deep suspicions about science and suggest that scientists are in deep conspiracies out to destroy faith and undermine spirituality.

This hermeneutic of fear is uncalled for. We can embrace science in its fullness. We do not need to equivocate and talk about who beats who in the game of truth, or fear that science will undermine our faith. Nonsense. Science is a method to discover how the laws and patterns of nature are constituted. It is powerful. But it is nothing to fear. And it does not set itself in opposition to religion (although there are those who do, as noted above). Yet those who fear it, are acting out of a false dichotomy rooted in that very same fear.

It is a weak and immature faith that finds a threat in science. Fear can never produce faith and this is the danger. Time and time again I see those fear mongers who old up science like it was a graveyard ghost and proclaim that it is dangerous to faith actually undo tender faith struggling to find new growth. They squash that faith by demanding that one must be chosen over the other.

I hold both science and religion in a dynamic tension. Both reveal things about the universe—one exploring the material aspects the other revealing the author of that universe and His intents and purposes.

Those who go about proclaiming that we should be afraid of science do great harm. Reject these dichotomiziers. Join with the lovers of discovery, the probers of the universe who hold both faith and science as objects of wonder and delight and who say,

“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

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