I'll admit it, I have a problem with the title I chose. In my last post I took the hyperbole farther than most readers could tolerate. My goal with this blog has never been to be divisive. So this time I wanted to dial down the controversy a bit and yet still spark a kind of interfaith dialogue I think has been missing from the public forum - between theists who value science and non-theists who value aspects of religious faith.
I chose it because it sums up for me one of the more central conflicts in my being. I am a theist, among other things, and also consider myself to be fairly well versed in the sciences and can't help but be frustrated by the propensity with which people will refer to science as somehow being the opposite of religion. As a result, in the spirit of "make no little plans" I have chosen to refine the focus of this blog in a very specific way to touch more regularly on this topic.
Now might be a good time to admit, that I have a bit of a man crush on Neil Degrasse Tyson:
Who can blame me, really. Except it is far more complex - more like a love/hate thing.
My Love Hate Thing with NDT:
Science is great. Not only does it help us learn about ourselves and our environments, science as a process in the shape of the scientific method can be a really useful way of just plain learning new things in general about language, art, or even religion.
But more often than not, folks refer to science in a way that somehow sets it up as the OPPOSITE of religion. That is just not scientifically accurate in my view. Sure, science and religion OFTEN collide when it comes to objective truth. For example, recently this study shows conservatives more frequently bend their perspective of reality to match their sense of morality. The "legitimate rape" comments of a certain poilitician come to mind. But that still does not make religious devotion the opposite of scientific discipline, does it?
It is totally possible to be both religiously devout and scientifically accurate. One does not need to bend objective truth in order to have religious beliefs. What must bend, however, more often than not, are personal attachments to many human details of religious devotion. In most cases this makes the religious less inclined to be scientifically accurate, it seems. But even science has been proven to be wrong about suppositions from age to age (the whole "center of the universe" thing comes to mind.)
I realize I'm a bit odd in both believing in God and loving science, but the two are simply not mutually exclusive in my book. This is problematic for NDT, as is shown in this video:
That's why I say I have a love hate thing for NDT. On the one hand I applaud all he is doing to continue to bring interest in science into mainstream consciousness. One the other hand, every time another quote of his appears as an image in r/atheist, I think "great, more ways believing in God makes you look stupid or crazy." The frustrating thing is that nine times out of ten (if not closer to 9.9) what folks are pointing out as stupid or crazy behavior from theists (Midwestern Protestant Evangelical Christians, in particular) is totally spot-on.
Perhaps there is reason in all this crazy behavior. Is there a scientific link between craziness and belief in God, for real? Recently, there was some discussion I came upon that spoke of this very thing.
This recent series on the NYT blog, for example.
Using the documented experiences of writer Philip K Dick, the author explores the connection between the religious and the insane and make some clear points in the process.
What do you think? Do you agree that science is the opposite of religious faith? Do you, like NDT, wonder with suspicion at the scientific prowess of the percentage in the scientific community who are religious? Do you wonder at the religiosity of those who try to be scientific? Can we find a way to stop seeing the two as ends on a spectrum?
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