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Hanno Langenhoven
 
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Religion & Science: Another perspective

18 June 2012, 10:33

A word of gratitude is owed to Mememan (http://www.news24.com/user/MemeMan) for an engaging series of postings on the relationship between Religion & Science. His first article (http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/Believe-in-No-Understand-20120611) was a short introduction and defining of the concepts faith, belief and understanding. The second article (http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/Religion-Science-20120611) was a more detailed introduction to the definition of science and the way the Science Method should be understood. His third article (http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/How-Do-We-Know-That-Science-Is-True-20120615) is a continued exposition on the value of science opposed to the serious flaws of the religious paradigm. The articles are well written from the perspective of someone who values the Scientific Method and has a very specific understanding of religion, albeit a little one-sided. In order to further true and open dialogue between different perspectives, which is another of the pillars of the Scientific Method, I offer a few articles from another perspective, one of faith.

It is possible to accept the opening statements of the above mentioned articles as fact, that “people of faith gravitate to their worldview by faith alone” and that “the hierarchical ranking within a religious society is directly proportional to the individual’s ability to believe dogma in the face of evidence to the contrary”. However, both these statements are not so objective nor absolutely true. In fact, it paints all people of faith with a very stereotypical and simplistic brush.

Many people of faith, from the Christian and other religion (May I interrupt myself and say that I am writing from a Christian perspective and from now will not venture to speak for faith-people of other traditions. It also holds that I am not speaking for all Christians across the board, as I am sure will be evident from the Comments)., are very critical about the world and also their faith. For many Christians faith is an act of seeking, about being curious about the world and that which is beyond the world. St Anselm (1033-1109) already coined a phrase that described faith as seeking to understand, fides quaerens intellectum, and this long before the Scientific Method.

At this point it might be appropriate to throw another term into the mix, namely experience. I think it might just be possible that all people of faith arrive at their belief based on experience. It is conceivable that at a primal level, before language and thought takes over, people have an experience that, in the long run, begs for articulation, that offers the very foundation of the individual’s existence. And articulate we do; every person in a different way, similar to some and completely dissimilar to others. The way we articulate, and therefore interpret this experience, depends on who we are, where we live, our education, income, sexual inclination, sex, race, age and a myriad of other factors.

It might even be that a number of scientists are using the language of science to give expression to this experience, that it is this experience that fuels their drive and curiosity to learn more, to seek more and to understand more. One might even be tempted to argue that many scientists are motivated by the belief that what they are doing will yield a result, which might or might not exist, to solve some or other problem which will better the lives of people or the ecosystem as a whole.

In this opening article I would like to make two other, but very brief, comments.

Firstly, although most Christians believe in a Creator-God, it shows a certain lack of understanding to paint all Christians as Creationists. The term has a very specific use and refers to people with a very specific dogma. Although I believe that God created, I also admit that I have no idea how (S)He) did it; in my mind evolution is the best answer to the question of how we have till now.

Secondly, understanding smacks a little bit of the hubris mankind (sic!) is known for. Physicists are telling us that what they happily described as being the whole of existence is turning out to be approximately 5% of the whole and that they have a vague suspicion of another 10 or 15 percent but that beyond that, they are essentially clueless. Now if you write theories, hypothesize, correlate, deduce et cetera on 5% of the whole and make it applicable to whole; well it sounds a lot like belief, or, would some argue, it smacks of God-complex.

So in conclusion, to this part, I would argue that both faith and science seek to understand, that honest scientists (lay and trained) and honest theologians (lay and trained), do so with integrity and sincerity, but with different ways of articulating their experiences. That belief is to be found in the most sterile of laboratories and that critical though and a questioning dispensation can be found in the most sacred of worship spaces.

I’ll write on the concept “religion” in the next article in this series of responses.

Originally posted on langenhoven.wordpress.com

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