As often seems the case, however, his arguments soon become more grandiose than convincing. He argues that the patent amorality of the natural world leads to an “unavoidable” exclusion of a benevolent creator, just as random variation excludes the need for a grand “watchmaker” god.
While I agree that these distinctions are masterful explanations of how we understand the physical world, they do not unavoidably exclude a creative force. To overstate the case against a creator, in my mind, is as logically obtuse as preaching the reverse.
San Diego, Sept. 30, 2014
To the Editor:
As a Catholic biology teacher, I see that teaching students about life processes is a powerful mode for learning about their creator and understanding their place in the cosmos. Like Prof. David P. Barash, I recognize the centrality of evolutionary theory in biology; however, I also see that evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive theories. The creation story in Genesis is meant to communicate that God created the world and has a certain relationship to it, not how he created the world.
Also, Mr. Barash does little to prove his claim that science and religion cannot be reconciled. It all depends on how science and God are defined. Science, without religion, becomes its own belief system. We would benefit to embrace science as a valuable, though limited approach toward understanding the multidimensional mystery of life.
Louisville, Ky., Sept. 29, 2014
To the Editor:
David P. Barash argues that science and religion cannot be reconciled. That is true if one reads the Bible literally. But if we extract from the myths of the Bible (such as the creation myth in Genesis) the moral underpinnings, then the teachings of the Bible and religion hold relevance even for the scientist. The most important lesson of the creation myth is that we are all created equal, from a common ancestor, in the divine image. Genesis is not a textbook of geology or astronomy; it is an attempt to discover the true meaning of human existence.
Albert Einstein observed, “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” The Nazi doctors who performed atrocious criminal experiments on humans were all educated scientists — but they lacked religious and moral values. If we can grasp the significance of the two disciplines and their legitimate functions and limitations, then science and religion might coexist peacefully and enrich one another.
(Rabbi) GILBERT S. ROSENTHAL
Needham, Mass., Sept. 28, 2014
The writer is director of the National Council of Synagogues.
To the Editor:
David P. Barash notes that evolutionary processes show “no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.” In other words, he argues (very reasonably) that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. However, in religious logic, this absence only indicates that the creator is withholding the evidence — perhaps to test your faith.
Science deals with theories that stand or fall on the data; there must be (at least potentially) tests to prove or disprove the theories. Religion is a non-falsifiable “theory of everything” in which the conclusion need not fit the facts, but rather the facts must be fitted to the conclusion. This methodological conflict is the essential reason that science and religion are incompatible and not merely nonoverlapping.
Professor Barash falls into the trap of trying to apply scientific logic to religion. Indeed, the New Testament firmly discourages use of the scientific method: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Evanston, Ill., Sept. 29, 2014
The writer is a professor of physics at Northwestern University.
To the Editor:
Perhaps The Talk should begin with a preface and change of venue. David P. Barash should gather his students where they have a clear view of the nighttime sky and acknowledge that he is a human being with limited intelligence, living on a small planet traveling through space at 67,000 miles per hour, rotating around a medium-size star in a small solar system that is on the fringe of a galaxy that is one of billions out there in the universe. Sometimes a little dose of humility discourages scientists from thinking that they have all the answers.
Bel Air, Md., Sept. 29, 2014
To the Editor:
In discussions about the alleged conflict between science and religion, our ethnocentricity is apparent. We seem to regard our own religion as what “religion” really is, and assume that if our religion has a problem with evolution, then all religions must have that problem. However, many religions have no problem with evolution. It doesn’t bother most Hindus or Buddhists. The problem, then, lies not in “religion” per se. But if we believe that Scripture is an infallible source of historical and scientific facts, then we are asking for trouble.
STEPHEN E. SILVER
Santa Fe, N.M., Sept. 29, 2014
To the Editor:
A colleague of mine, a professor of biology, with whom I shared this article mentioned that he too has The Talk with his students — the only difference being that his conclusions are the opposite of that of the author. Indeed, an evolutionary biologist should know better than to suggest that religion does not evolve. In the 21st century, orthodox theology has unapologetically confronted the conflict of science and religion, and declared not only that the two are compatible but also that they wonderfully complement each other.
Great Neck, N.Y., Sept. 30, 2014
To the Editor:
Prof. David P. Barash argues that evolutionary biology has “demolished two previously potent pillars of religious faith.” Contrary to his claim that evolutionary biology has narrowed the space for religious faith, many theologians and scientists argue that Darwin has opened new horizons for the understanding of God and the place of the human person in the cosmos. It turns out that Darwin’s work is as great a gift to theology as it was to biology!
While Stephen J. Gould’s “nonoverlapping magisteria,” or “noma,” principle — viewing science and religion as separate but compatible — may be simplistic, it at least allows room for theological exploration, which Professor Barash would shut down. Mr. Barash presents his stereotyped comprehension of religion as the only one. Does he not realize that the discouragement of exploration is anti-science?
Until he is willing to openly consider Judeo-Christian religion and spirituality in all its many forms, I would ask that Mr. Barash please spare us, and his students, The Talk.
GLENN R. SAUER
Fairfield, Conn., Sept. 28, 2014
The writer is a professor of biology at Fairfield University.Continue reading the main story
Science is meaningless without religion.
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
Age old accepted religious myths and customs have persuaded ingenious minds, to explore and test the validity of these beliefs. As a consequence of this, we got to know the actual theories behind actions and occurrences that earlier was explained with religion. But even so, the influence of religion on science is qualitatively limited and counter-intuitively one might find that religion could even have detrimental effects on the progress and development of science.
Foremostly, science is a concept that has evolved from logical and coherent thinking. The beauty of science is that every concept in it, is substantiated by either, theoretical or practical evidences. Religion on the other hand, consists mainly of ideas that border the realms of fantasy. It is virtually impossible to prove the theories and doctrines dictated by religion. So science is, by itself, a self-substantiating idea that doesn't need the crutches of religion for it to thrive. One need not go far away to find validations for science than science itself, as every concept could be proven or disproven with the help of other pre-existing valid ideas.
To add to the above, since religion is mostly made up of imaginary ideas and fantasies, it can sometime hamper the progress of science. There were times when religion had proved to be a dangerous threat. These were situations when blind faith transcended rational thinking in the minds of the masses. To illustrate, centuries ago earth was believed to be in the center of the solar system. When maverick scientists and physicists brought in evidences to prove the contrary, they were burned alive on the accounts of practising sorcery! Religion is powerful enough to steer ignorant minds away from the truth. The reason why we get to live the lives we live today is because we, human beings, as a species chose science over religion and this decision changed the progress of our development for good.
However, one could argue that religion has incited mass debates and intellectual wars that has, in fact, contributed to the creation of many much needed theories and technologies. But still the fact remains that such pursuits incepted from fundamental human curiosities rather religion itself. So one could positively say that science would continue to thrive even long after religion becomes non-existent since human curiosity will forever be insatiable.
In summary, even though religion has kindled minds to question and explore various accepted norms and beliefs, the actual influence that it has is very limited. As a matter of fact, for science to burgeon in it's progress, it should first get rid of the shackles of religion and use the wings of creativity and curiosity to fly to the immeasurable heights that it is capable of actually reaching.
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