I have been invited to be a part of a KPCC Crawford Family Forum on Science and Religion next Wednesday at 7:00. Joining me on the panel will be Michael Schermer and John Timpane, and the expectation is that we will explore the relationship between science and religion. It’s a big enough topic for an hour’s conversation I would expect. I am honored to have been asked, but nervous too. I am used to speaking in 18 minute segments, not 30-60 seconds, and that will be a challenge. The relationship of these two “magisterial” as Stephen Jay Gould used to term them, is old and often fractious, and continues to be so.
They need not be in opposition. Both science and religion are attempts to understand the world we live in – I would add the arts as a third magisterium – and understanding our world is prior to making decisions about how to live in the world. To deny the findings of science – for example in terms of climate change – is to court disaster. To deny the findings of science – for example in terms of sexual orientation – is to allow for injustice. Religion is not so much about fact as about value, and science is not so much about value as about fact. Hand in hand they can lead to wisdom; in opposition they can lead to violence.
UUs have counted among ourselves many scientists, and we certainly do so here at Neighborhood. We have always honored the findings of science and have believed that what is, is. We don’t often argue about what the meaning of is, is, but rather take fact as fact. But maybe the closest connection we have to science is in how we approach the world. At its best, the scientific method is open, open to questions and to change, to new understandings. So too with us. Our non-dogmatic faith affirms that faith, or belief, is dynamic, not static, that being open and free is the best way to a better understanding of how to live with one another and in this world.
So, maybe listen in on the 11th. And say a little prayer that I represent us well.
-Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson