Religious fundamentalists on one hand and secular fundamentalists on the other talk past each other. The rest of us try to get on with our life and get out of the way, but it’s unfortunate the two cannot come to a reasonable consensus. Most people in the US have some sort of religious faith, and most people are rational and reasonable and see the value in scientific inquiry. The secular fundamentalists “won” the battle a few generations ago, but they don’t seem to be holding back as they march on towards “progress.” Though they can offer no rational justification for their own behavior, other than power, they seem to want to discount any person with sincere religious beliefs or dogma from the public square.
The intolerant minority, which Nasim Taleb has written extensively about in his new and excellent book, Skin in the Game, usually win out in any debate. So, the minority of secular fundamentalists won out in the decision back in the 1960s to remove prayer from school. The large majority either wanted it or were agnostic about it, but the tiny vocal minority pushed things that direction. And the country’s sense of ethics and justice has been on the wane ever since. An intolerant minority is dangerous to a country that purports to be tolerant.
At the very center of the debate between science and religion is something that most people overlook. Both are true, but in different ways. Even if you believe in direct revelation from God, you can also believe in science.
Science offers a way to study the way things are. Religion tells us how to act.
This is important, because the most brutal and barbarous totalitarian regimes of human history were atheistic. Mankind has not proven himself to have “evolved” or “progressed” enough to not need God, no matter what the secular fundamentalists say. Religious truths are not the same as scientific truths, because they justify ethics. They cannot be examined in a laboratory and provide a strong basis for a culture.
We did not really have science the way we think of it, until about 500-800 years ago whereas our religious stories go back in some cases 1000s of years. To deny that science has a valid claim on truth is idiotic, but it is equally as idiotic to deny religious truth also.
Religion answers questions about:
Why are we here?
What should we do?
How should we act?
What is the human condition?
Who are we?
How do I belong?
I’m always amazed when I read a magazine like Fast Companyhow many new technologies are being developed all the time, for things like healthcare, technology, and energy. On the other hand, when I read the story of Adam and Eve and Roger Scruton’s brilliant commentary on the subject / object distinction, or about Cain and Abel, or Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, I am amazed how real and true religious stories really are.
Scientism is another risk, which is making an ideology out of data. Data is just data. What is important is what’s done with the collected data. I get bored with scientism. I get bored knowing that if you eat this or that, you will live an extra month, or that chewing gum may cause cancer, or that soy eaten 3 times per week raises your estrogen. Or that there is now an Iphone 17 that has a virtual app for this or that. So what? Eventually, we can get so bogged down in means that we lose sight of ends. Scientific observation is good, but we always need to circle back to first things.
I say we call a truce. Let science observe, study, and learn about the world. Let religion speak to us about who we are, how we should live, and what we should do. Hold strongly to scientific and religious dogmas if you choose, but most of all, be tolerant of those who see things differently. The world will be a much healthier place if we do.
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