May 19, 2010

Here We Go Again: The "New" War Between Science and Religion

I ran across this article on the Chronicle of Higher Ed yesterday: "The New War Between Science and Religion" by Mano Sigham. In it Singham takes aim at what he calls the "accommodationists," those "who argue that science and 'moderate' forms of religion are compatible worldviews. . ."

He goes on:

[A]ccommodationists . . . see[k] to carve out areas of knowledge that are off-limits to science, arguing that certain fundamental features of the world—such as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the origin of the universe—allow for God to act in ways that cannot be detected using the methods of science. Some accommodationists, including Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, suggest that there are deeply mysterious, spiritual domains of human experience, such as morality, mind, and consciousness, for which only religion can provide deep insights.

I don't really see any new thinking going on here, but I "shared" it to by Facebook page anyway, because this is the kind of story that I think we need to pay much closer attention to, especially the rhetorical approach taken, evidence provided, etc. so that we can avoid engaging in unproductive polemical grandstanding.

Later in the day, I took my four-year-old daughter to the public library. She chose Maisy Takes a Bath, Maisy's Bedtime, and Rumplestikskin. Waiting for her to choose her books, I sat at a computer terminal and searched the on-line catalog for books by Martin Luther King, Jr. I'm working on an essay for my new book that incorporates a number of excerpts from speeches King gave at the height of the Civil Rights struggle, and I wanted to try to track down some of these in print. So, on top of the Maisy books and Rumplestilskin, whose cover portrays the title character as a 70s pimp (big floppy hat with feathers) strutting through the woods, I checked out Strength to Love and Why We Can't Wait both by Dr. King.

I tell you all of this because this morning, drinking my morning coffee, reading Strength To Love, I ran across this quote regarding what he King describes as "the belief that there is a conflict between science and religions." What follows is from "A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart," a sermon King wrote sometime between July 1962 and March 1963 and delivered to his congregation at Dexter Ave. Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama:

. . There may be a conflict between softminded religionists and toughminded scientists, but not between science and religion. Their respective world are different and their methods are dissimilar. Science investiagates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complimentary. Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism. Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.

What's even more wonderful about this passage is the larger context. The sermon is arguing for the importance of reconciling antitheses or opposites in one's character, quoting Hegel, ". . . truth is neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two."

Indeed, it is the inbetween where we need to be focusing our attention.

Check out the sermon below:

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