My brother Chris, a well respected teacher in Central Alberta and a sharp mind in his own right, recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate. I thought it both thought provoking and lucid, and very worth sharing.
RE: Easter’s Date Up for Debate by Keith Lockitch
To the editor,
It was with interest that I read Dr. Lockitch’s column regarding Easter’s date and the ongoing ‘masquerade’ of science and religion existing as complimentary fields.
Regarding the debate of faith versus reason, Lockitch claims “Violent clashes between the two are not only possible but unavoidable, and the notion that religion can co-exist on friendly terms with science and reason is false.” He cites arguments and objections the Catholic Church held nearly 350 years ago, first with Copernicus, then Galileo.
Aristotle, a hero in the average objectivist’s world, believed the heart was the seat of the body’s intellect, and the brain’s function was to cool blood. Are all of his ‘reasonable’ accomplishments and ideas rejected on this basis? Of course not. He made logical deductions based on the knowledge available to him. As more information was acquired regarding the workings of the human body, better, more accurate claims were made. Dr Lockitch’s article conceded that prominent scientists see science and religion as mutually supporting fields. Among many others, these scientists include Dr. Francis S. Collins, head of the Human Genome Project. The Genome Project set out to map the entire human DNA sequence, an amazingly complicated scientific process if there ever was one. Collins claims, “From my perspective as the director of the Human Genome Project, the scientific and religious world views are not only compatible but also inherently complimentary.” In Collins’ book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (published in July 2006), he considers scientific discoveries an “opportunity to worship.” Albert Einstein could not conceive of a genuine scientist without profound faith, and said, “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”.
Like Aristotle, the Church universal held to beliefs that later proved to be incorrect and even foolish by today’s standards. Those ideas were then rethought, reworked and at times reworded. Both science and religion claim to be a search for truth. This makes them inherently similar. That they choose to pursue that search in different directions does not diminish the importance of either. Blind religion would indeed remain stagnant, adhering to outdated beliefs and opinions of the natural world. In truth, people of faith are involved in a living, changing, even evolving process in their own personal understandings of God and the world around them. Just as dangerous, lame science would have us tamper with the human genome, at any ethical cost to satisfy curiosity. Science without ethics seems to be illogical.
Certainly, suggesting that all people of faith are unreasonable, illogical or non-objective could prove to be the beginning of a violent clash. Just as insensitive, would be to state that all people of reason cannot have faith. Even in a strictly atheistic sense of the word, scientists require a degree of faith to develop their theories, or even to hope that the ones they adhere to will someday be proven. While the Catholic Church is huge in number (they themselves claim that there are 1.086 billion around the world), they certainly do not represent all Christians, nor are they the only people who claim to follow religion or rely on faith. To use a tired example of tenets of their faith clouding their middle-ages reason does not build a solid barrier between science and religion. Nor does it strengthen the argument that the two cannot coexist. It simply demonstrates that some people have chosen to live in the past, when the future shows the potential for great work to be accomplished by people from a variety of backgrounds.
I am reminded of friendly advice my grandmother once gave me – walking into a church makes you as much of a Christian as walking into a coffee shop makes you a donut. Perhaps followers of Ayn Rand should keep that in mind when they claim to be objective. Sincerely,