Why We Need Both Science and Religion 1: (Rerun)

Why We Need Both Science and Religion 1: (Rerun)

Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from the Bahá’í Writings.

August 19, 2013.

The 37th Annual Association of Baha’i Studies Conference – held in Irvine, CA – just concluded and I’m home in Northern California after a seven hour drive. The conference, which ran from August 15 to August 18th 2013, was excellent.  Plenary talks ranging from the actor Rainn Wilson talking about the Matrix movie as pop culture version of religious enlightenment to Layli Miller-Muro talking about the Tahirih Justice Center were the order of the day.

But I didn’t have time to write a blog. So in its place, I rerun my very first blog.

Why We Need Both Science and Religion 1: An Introduction

We live in an age when simplistic answers no longer work.

We know we can’t solve global warming by going back to 18th century technologies. We know we can’t solve global poverty by launching generous aid programs. We know that we can’t solve political conflicts by demanding elections.

Why then do so many intelligent people argue that we just need to get rid of religion to eliminate terrorism, prejudice, injustice, and the like?

Why do others insist, against so much evidence to the contrary, that evolution and science-based understandings of the world are false and pernicious doctrines that undermine society’s integrity?

These are the questions I will pursue in this blog.

But more than just pursuing these questions, I want to pursue answers to the questions behind the questions. Without a doubt, religion can be as insidious as its detractors claim. And, although it is hard sometimes for the technically-inclined to see it, evolution – not the science, but the hand-waving, quasi-religious narrative that explains anything and everything by just-so stories about what our ancestors did four million years ago on the plains of Africa – has become a kind of a grab-all, free-form substitute for serious thought about life, society, and individual and social purpose.

Common Ground, The Blog: Science and Religion, Faith and Reason

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. – Albert Einstein.

That brings me to the purpose of this website. Common Ground, The Blog is very new and still under construction and we hope that you will contribute to making it a success.

This website, we believe, will achieve its purpose if it becomes a destination for discussion, sharing, community building, and the working out of answers to the questions, insights, and goals that people have about science and religion. So, we encourage comments, comments on comments, discussions, sharing of insights, and blogs and articles.

Those of us launching this blog are Baha’is, and we view science and religion as going together and requiring each other. Without science, how can we understand the teachings central to the Bahá’í Faith, a newly-minted religion that seeks to unite the world? Without religion and its universal values, how can we focus our scientific capabilities on solutions to people’s real needs and problems?

Because of reasons like these – and because we think any solution to problems of the day are necessarily inclusive and embrace diversity – we encourage widespread participation by people of all persuasions – agnostics, secularists, humanists, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, other perspectives, or any combination of the above. We ask, however, that people refrain from polarizing comments that antagonize and/or demonize others with different views which characterize much of the discussion of science and religion in the blogosphere. We are striving to offer a level playing field – a common ground – for discussion.

We also feel that the perspective of the Bahá’í Faith – that science and religion need each other – is an important part of the solution for creating a productive and successful world civilization:

When religion, shorn of its superstitions, traditions, and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science, then will there be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements, discords and struggles—and then will mankind be united in the power of the Love of God. – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from the Bahá’í Writings.

Without the intellectual power of scientific investigation – and I’m not talking here solely about the limited and end-focused physical and biological sciences – how can the age-old prejudices that keep people apart be dissolved? Without coming to an understanding of religion – by any measure the oldest and deepest proclivity of both individuals and societies – how can the scientifically-inclined strive to penetrate beyond the mechanics and biologies of simple systems to the complexities, strivings, and intellectual prerogatives of our species?

On New Atheism

Let me end my first blog by talking about New Atheism. I’m of several opinions and not yet fully resolved about it. (If I’m too critical of it, please take me to task.)

On one hand, New Atheism is a very important engine pushing the current discussions of both religion and religion and science. Even the academics writing in Zygon – The Journal of Religion & Science, (http://www.zygonjournal.org/) are finally being forced to admit that New Atheism exists. By putting theological issues in a simple modern language derived from the sciences and technology, it has rescued discussion of religion from the intellectual sterility of modern theology and the simplistic refrains of popular fundamentalism. In this sense, New Atheism is a powerful and welcome component to the modern renewal and revival of religion.

On the other hand, New Atheism, at least as enunciated by its founding fathers, has taken on many of the colorations of modern Protestant fundamentalism. Views other than those in accord with its dogmas are considered not only wrong, but a source of evil. Islam, long the bane of western European Christianity, is treated with a time-honored scorn and hatred. Creation stories embroidered from evolutionary narratives of the origins of man or from the findings of astronomy and high-energy physics, are touted as fact. And it seems that it is the white male writer, journalist, philosopher, or science-writer and his like-thinking colleagues who are the source of the “new” knowledge.

So which is it – an engine of growth and progress pushing away the detritus of the past, or simply the latest version of know-it-all fundamentalism?

My answer is that it is both, and its positive contributions in the future depend on whether its valid contributions are cordoned off from the age-old hatreds, prejudices, and European exceptionalism that crowd in on its insights.

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