June 2018 – Are God and Science Mutually Exclusive

June 2018 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

Are God and Science Mutually Exclusive?

  Monday, June 18, 2018
  7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

To prominent atheists Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion and Jeff Coyne in Faith Versus Fact the answer is an unequivocal “Yes!” But what of the Catholic Church, which in 1996 accepted evolution, in a proclamation by Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences? Muslim authors argue that many scientific discoveries are confirmed by the Qur’an, including the origin of life in water. Is the issue that scientists claim the only worthwhile data comes from the scientific method? Is this claim a type of faith? If God does exist, does it matter what scientists believe? And if God doesn’t, can science prove it?

To Christians especially, the theories of Charles Darwin have been seen as an existential threat to Genesis and other teachings of the Bible. If dinosaurs predated man by millions of years, how can Adam and Eve appear on Day 6? Do geological layers of sediment prove or disprove the Great Flood of Noah? Does “nature red in tooth and claw” per Alfred Lord Tennyson fit with a Creation described as “very good?” But doesn’t the Bible agree things went bad quickly with Adam and Eve eating forbidden fruit and Cain killing Abel? Isn’t a nature which is both cruel and beautiful consistent with a Fall? Or is this a myth trying to make sense of an often disturbing reality whose cruelty and beauty are the intimately unavoidable consequences of evolution by natural selection?

Is the apparent conflict a secular myth? Ancients and Medieval scribes knew the world was round. Columbus was questioned not because he argued the world was round, but because he proposed China was just west of Europe. Is the war between science and religion a false narrative to exalt the scientist over the theist? Will religion collapse if some lost scripture contradicts the New Testament? Or haven’t lost gospels been found, considered, and discarded? Was Matthew Arnold correct when he stated, in the poem Dover Beach, that the replacements for the Sea of Faith offered “neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain?” In our “Brave New World” of science as supreme, what is gained and what is lost? Diseases are conquered and communication made instantaneous, but is this all that’s necessary for a worthwhile life?

The late Ian Barbour, who taught in Northfield, MN, offered four models of the relationship between science and religion. First is fundamental conflict (suggested by the topic’s question). Second is independence — or, articulated by scientist Stephen Jay Gould in Rocks of Ages, Non-Overlapping Magisterium (NOMA); Science answers its questions and religion answers others. (Or as Galileo claimed, “The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go.”) Third is dialogue between the disciplines, with the assumption each has something to say to the other. The final approach is integration, with each (but perhaps especially science) having an impact on the other. But if God does not exist, why bother with having a relationship with nothing?

How well do Science or Religion address these fundamental problems of life: Why is there such cruelty in nature? What is beauty and why do we seek it? Why are some poor people much happier than the rich? What exactly is love? How should we handle disagreement about fundamental values? By inquisitions, or by dropping atom bombs? If Reason’s the answer, why are we so emotional? If Faith’s the answer, why do we doubt?

On Monday, June 18, from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will try to resolve the conflict between science and religion or perhaps deny it exists. Our agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality will help us remain reasoning or at least reluctant to throw the first stone. Treats will still be provided, even if Religion and Science both agree they’re not good for you!