Science and Faith fuel debate

By Christina Oddo

Contributing Writer

A panel of professors discussed the relationships and conflicts between science and faith Friday, Sept. 10 in Walls Lounge, coming to the conclusion that science does not necessarily have to do with morality, and that it is not cold-hearted. The solution to this controversy, they said, is to consider respect and compassion while teaching subjects relating to faith and science.

Professor of psychology and neuroscience David Evans began the lecture stating that some scientific and theological ideas are mutually exclusive; in other words, either a god created the universe or a god did not create the universe. Evans explained people may adapt or adopt particular aspects of an established religion (i.e. “Cafeteria Catholics”), and not all religions conform to the general and commonly acknowledged definitions of religion.

Evans believes the religion a person follows has a great impact on policies like global warming, stem cell research and vaccinations. He said religious and supernatural beliefs hold similar aspects in common. They “elude scientific evidence and do not welcome empirical scrutiny,” he said.

“Science is not just another form of faith, but the process by which we test our assumptions to determine whether our beliefs about the world are more or less accurate,” Evans said.

Evans believes anxiety and uncertainty lead people to “false positives.” “It only makes sense that humans cling to such beliefs that help them during uncertain periods of time,” he said.

Richard Crago, professor of civil and environmental engineering, spoke as a devoted Christian. He said faith and science are compatible and enrich each other.

“Knowing God is real knowledge, and God is a friend that will never let us down,” Crago said. He explained that science has to do with the material world. “However, God did, indeed, create that world,” Crago said.

Crago said people may disagree on interpretations of scientific evidence, but differences (and acceptance of those differences) in beliefs and religion come into play.

According to Crago, the statement “God is separate from the physical world” is a false dichotomy. Crago claimed God created us with a purpose: love. He also said people must learn about nature, a separate purpose, through science.

David Fletcher, a member of the biology department, clearly separated science and faith.  He defined natural law as the knowledge we can all agree upon (i.e. chemistry), and said there are no equivalent laws of faith.

Fletcher raised many controversial questions, such as “Who created God?” He also questioned God as both a Creator and as a sustainer.

Fletcher finished his speech with the idea of tolerance. “Everyone and anyone can chose what to believe, what to take part of, yet with religion comes responsibility,” he said.

Associate professor of English Alf Siewers, the last of the panel, said that the secret of life is experience, and that Creation is a beautiful concept, not corrupt, and renewed everyday.

Siewers framed scientific metaphysics as the opposite of experiential and empirical. Siewers believes through the arts, sciences, and most importantly through love, we must embrace the mystery of the world that is both symbolic and real.

Jason Leddington, assistant professor of philosophy, spoke on the necessity to critically reflect on our own beliefs.

“As part of a liberal arts education, it is pedagogically irresponsible for us to not take up this topic of religion and science, and to discuss and teach. Dogmatism and relativism are dangerous, especially when chosen over critical thought, for relativistic viewpoints stunt learning. We need balance, humility and mutual respect. Most importantly, it is more than necessary to continuously have our ‘critical faculties engaged,’” Leddington said.

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