Rabbi Sacks: Science vs. Religion

Given what this blog was originally all about, how could I pass up pointing you to this article in the Times today:

“Any account of the human condition that reduces the human spirit to an accidental by-product of evolutionary pressures tells less than half the story of who we are. We may be — on this, the Bible and neo-Darwinism agree — ‘dust of the earth’, the reconfigured debris of exploded stars. But within us is the breath of God. Scientists call this ‘emergence’: the process whereby systems of self-organising complexity yield something new, more than the sum of its parts. That is where religion and science both began: when life became conscious, then self-conscious, then able to ask the question: ‘Why?’

The current argument between ‘religion’ and ‘science’ is deeply unnecessary. It involves a caricature of religion and a parody of science. It is structured around a set of absurd oppositions, between science and superstition, reason and revelation, knowledge and wishful thinking, as if scientists and religious believers were incapable of realising the limits of their respective domains. We need both: science to tell us how the world is, religion (and philosophy) to tell us how it ought to be.”

The author of the piece, Rabbi Sacks, is the Chief Rabbi of the british-led Commonwealth

Read the rest here: Religion and science are twin beacons of humanity -Times Online

Author: Nicholas Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

1 thought on “Rabbi Sacks: Science vs. Religion”

  1. I agree that the “versus” in the title is superfluous. After Episcopal Life published its discussion of evolution and ID last year, the predictable letters appeared reminding everyone that “evolution is just a theory.” The “conflict” between science and religion arises from just this kind of misunderstanding, and prompted me to write this letter to the editor (which was interesting practice in cramming a difficult topic into 250 words or less!):
    “As a professional astronomer, I am regularly asked about evolution and ID. I answer that science demands proof; religion demands faith. These modes of thinking are parallel, and where there is no intersection, there is technically no conflict. What there can be is a colossal and centuries-long misunderstanding as to where the boundary between science and religion lies, a line it is dangerous to blur.
    Exemplifying this is the recent letter parroting the tired, blatantly erroneous use of the term “theory.” A theory is not a guess, but a complex, exhaustively tested explanation of a phenomenon. Theories are supported by substantial — or, in the case of evolution, overwhelming — evidence.
    Two great achievements of 20th-century thought, quantum mechanics and incompleteness theory, demonstrate that the universe contains unprovables, uncertainty, a basic “fuzziness” that scientific and logical systems cannot circumvent. So as a scientist, I accept the greatest unprovable of them all: the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
    But we force religion into science classrooms at great peril. We foster scientific illiteracy, and we shed the humility that acknowledges that neither evolution, nor Big Bang cosmology, nor genome projects, nor other aspirations of our soaring curiosity deny God. Science can neither prove nor disprove God; and religion must not be used to attack science, which has given us the comfort and technology to contemplate the wonder of God’s works. The day our school starts shoehorning ID into its science curriculum is the day I begin home-schooling my kids.”
    Though specifically about evolution and ID, the point is of course generally applicable to the science-religion issue. In fact, after all this I ended up leading a 7-week course on Science and (not “vs”!) Religion at church last fall.
    Thanks for the link above…a very interesting and thoughtful read.

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