Science and Religion: More Debate or Dialogue?

Somemtines when I write an article, I start off with a set plan on what to write. I have s definite point I want to make or to explain. Then, as I write and my ideas unfold, I sort of run out of gas and don’t really make the point or complete the explanation. That’s sort of what happened with Part 2.

I set out to make the point that the relationship between science and religion is really more of a dialogue than a debate, but I never really completely developed that argument. So, today I want to try to clarify and conplete that discussion.

As I said in Part 2, science should and does inform our religious understanding, no matter what religion we practice. It is very hard for that not to be the case. Those believers who refuse to accept the findings of modern science as viewed pretty much with scorn, ridicule, or at best, amusement. For example, certain Amish groups, the most traditional ones, eschew electricity and all the modern conveniences that use it. They still cook their food and heat their homes with wood and/or coal stoves. They also eschew anything that runs on fossil fuels. They still use real horse power instead of mechanical horsepower.

So, what is your opinion of the Amish attitude towrd technology, which is applied science? Are they to be pitied? scorned? ridiculed?

In some areas of their beliefs, I admire the Amish. Their position on violence in any form – they are completely non-violent – is the real Christin teachings on violence. Taking only what is in the Synoptic Gospels and the letters of Paul that are completely undubiously authentic, a very strong case can be made for a belief in non-violence is what Christ preached.

And certainly, given all the problems we now face because of our dependence on fossil fuel, a return to the horse and buggy makes a fair amount of sense. But, although the Amish have made this aversion to mechanical horsepower a tenet of their faith, there is no Scriptural justification for such a ban. Granted, such technology was not even a gleam in anyone’s eye back then, so how could there be a Scriptural ban, you ask. True, but there is nothing in the Scriptural texts either about any ban on any technology.

Other denominations and sects of Christianity have similar or related bans on all sorts of modern technology or the by-products of that technology. None of these bans, including the ones by the Amish, are based on secular scientific reasons, rather they are all grounded in religious arguments, usually claiming to be Scriptural in some way. But there is no other Scriptural foundation for these bans other than the fact that this is the way things were done in Biblical times.

And that is quite true. After all, most of the technology that is banned has been developed quite recently – the last 100 years or so.

But just because the technology was not available to Jesus or Moses, does that mean it is not Scriptural? If yes, then these people, including the Amish, although less so than other groups, are living in violation of Scripture. I have seen these fundamentalists eating at McDonald’s and shopping at the local Wal-Mart, neither of which was available to either Jesus or Moses.

The point of that discussion is to show that there really is no Scriptural ban on science or technology and that we are free to adopt whatever sciecne or technology we wish or ban whatever we wish. Just, please don’t use the argument that says the Bible says so. It does not. Feel free to argue that it is part of your cultural tradition based on your religious beliefs. I can accept that.

Mainstream Christianity- and this can be said about all other religious belief systems – accepts the advances of science and technology without the need for a debate of one against the other. Christians, for the most part, appreciate the increased conforts and conveniences that advances in science bring. And they adapt their interpretations of religious symbols, like the Bible, to accommodate the advances in knowledge that science brings.

Sometimes there is resistance from orthodoxy, but usually in time, even orthodoxy accepts those advances. So, why don’t the fundamentalists?

That’s a very good question and one that needs a very elaborate answer, which means a different post. I will discuss that next time, but suffice it to say that it has everything to do with tradition and little if anything to do with Scripture.


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