Juxtaposing Religion & Science
Evolution, Stories, Diversity
February 11, 2011
Juxtaposing Religion & Science
During my third year at Bryn Mawr College I entered into a class that crosses the observed boundaries between educational focuses. English is separated from Biology. History is separated from Science. Psychology is separated from Math. But not in this class. Here we encounter an interweaving of Biology and English, evolution and literature. As made explicit by our professors, the course deals with “the story of evolution and the evolution of stories.” Just as that first part of the statement claims, we have been discussing Darwin’s Origin of Species, complicating that which he tells us and juxtaposing his ideas with those of creationism. We are continually asking, which one of the two should be taught? Which one should be believed? Is there one truth?
The many discussions, the questioning and the jumble of responses encountered from classmates have all made me wonder; what is this necessity to choose one sole foundational story and to close one’s mind off to any and all other possibilities? This raises the question of, can both notions, evolutionism and creationism, coexist peacefully? Are they capable of being viewed together in society and being viewed together in a single individual’s mind? I say yes. I think it is very possible for this to occur. From what I found, I am not the only one who thinks this way.
Religion and science can be viewed together in different lights and to different degrees. One way would be to see the faith found behind religion to be a driving force in science. We can also see them as completing each others’ sentences. What one cannot define or answer, the other can step in and provide a response. Or, my own personal view, it could be seen that an individual is capable of code-switching between both realms, where one does not affect the other but both can exist in close proximity. We can see each of these as lying on a spectrum, with different degrees of accepting the two spheres together.
I found that Albert Einstein could be placed on this spectrum which I have created. He states that “science without religion is lame; [and] religion without science is blind”, and while he himself was not a devout person he recognized the importance of one within the other. A couple of the aforementioned ways of viewing the simultaneity of religion and science seem to fit in with Einstein’s line of thinking. In one sense, Einstein sees “the cosmic religious feeling [as] the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research”, which follows with the first view of how the two can interrelate.
Another view that Albert Einstein has in regards to this topic depicts how “science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be…religion, on the other hand, deals…with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot…speak of facts and relationships between facts.” In this sense, we see how religion and science correlate with one another and build off of the prior knowledge each has constructed. It ties back into the formation of one complete story when both realms are included as part of the foundational story.
A more current scientist holds a similar view, expressing it in the article God and Evolution can Co-exist, Scientist Says by Robin Lloyd. Through this article we meet Karl W. Giberson who is a physics professor at Eastern Nazarene College in Massachusetts. We find that Giberson has “staked out a middle ground when it comes to the battle between Christians and Darwinists, stating that they can be reconciled with one another.” This notion of pinning one up against the other is not one which this scientist would agree with. Rather, he is convinced by his own viewpoint, where “…he thinks one can be a Christian and accept evolution”, also claiming that “these two sets of knowledge don’t make as much contact with each other as other people think” (Lloyd, 2008), which is an argument that I would make. It seems to be this fear of crossing into the confines of one realm that causes a clash to occur between the two. It seems to be that when individuals place all their belief into one explanation, into one foundational story, they will listen to nothing else and argue when they become offended and feel personally attacked. Releasing this narrow scope allows one to respect the views that others have while keeping our own intact.
A third source, an online article from National Geographic, Evolution and Religion can Coexist, Scientists Say, expresses similar beliefs held by other scientists. These scientists claim that Darwin never mentioned God, insinuating that it would be “logical to think that a divine being used evolution as a method to create the world” (news.nationalgeographic.com). This notion would seem to fit the second view that I mentioned, in which science and religion can be seen as completing each others’ sentences and eliminating any blanks in the big picture. The article claims that each of the two serve different purposes and each has their strong points and their weak points in responding to inquiries. It is stated that “science is very good at answering the ‘how’ questions…But it is woefully inadequate in addressing the ‘why’ questions…These are the meaning questions, which many people think religion is particularly good at dealing with.” With using the two, religion and science, side by side we are provided with one complete story, with an answer to every question.
Through each of these examples we can see how the varying stances, all of which were accepting of religion and science together, are capable of coexisting with one another without clashing. It indeed is not absolutely necessary to side with one over the other when they can work well jointly.
As we have seen, it is possible to hold both foundational stories, a scientific one and a religious one, in mind and to perceive both as adequate in telling their story. In effect, they can even come to compliment one another. Depending on where an individual stands on the spectrum, which I have constructed to mark the relationship between evolutionism and creationism - science and religion, dictates which view they are most likely to hold. Religion can propel science, they can combine to provide a complete story, or they can simply exist in one’s mind while not affecting one another. One question that this might raise, if science can work so closely with religion, can it then be considered a religion of its own? I’ll leave us with this thought from Albert Einstein:
While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to whom we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge.
Evolution and religion can coexist, scientists say. (2010, October 28). Retrieved from <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news>.
Einstein, Albert. Ideas and Opinions. Crown Publishers, Inc. 1954, pp 36 - 49.
Lloyd, R. (2008, November 18). God and evolution can co-exist, scientist says. Retrieved from <http://www.livescience.com>.