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Letter to the religion page

This letter is in response to Rabbi Jonathan Freirich’s claim that science and religion are entirely compatible, published in the Minister’s Forum section this past Friday.

Are science and religion compatible? This is by no means a new question; it just receives more attention from the pious these days as science decrypts the great mysteries of the universe. Many theists will spend their lives trying to unearth common ground between the two realms, but this is nothing more than a superficial attempt to pacify growing theological dissent. The truth is, science and religion are fundamentally opposing forces, and both actively try to extinguish the other whenever they are given the chance.

If one is intent on finding a relationship between science and religion, you need only look at the analogous relationship between a stick and bicycle spokes. The wheel of science is spinning, revealing amazing theories of the universe such as evolution and the big bang, yet religion is there to constantly prod this wheel of progress with its unswayable and empty prose. There is always theocratic friction and opposition to new scientific discoveries, and this friction creates a public lag time for acceptance, thus making it more difficult for scientists to obtain funding in areas that conflict with Judeo-Christian doctrines.

Take, for example, the public understanding of evolution in the United States. According to a recent poll, only 14 percent of Americans think that evolution is “definitely true.” The Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection is as accurate as say the “theory of gravity,” yet we are still fighting over its legitimacy because of the opposition from the church. Many priests and rabbis do believe in evolution nowadays, but their past words, and the words of their sacred texts, planted seeds of doubt in America, and do we not reap what we sow? Moreover, how many lives would have been saved if stem cell research, one of the most promising areas of medical science, were allowed to advance without religious obstruction since the outset?

Only when a religion is completely backed into a corner by science will it concede and say something like, “the big bang is completely compatible with Judaism.” If it doesn’t issue such a disclaimer then it risks losing some of its members to the 21st century and the greater modernity movement. When science reveals the cause of the big bang, and a new particle accelerator – the Large Hadron Collider – is coming online in May 2008 to seek this answer, religion will be forced to compromise once again. But will there be any creation issues left to simplify?

It’s quite clear that theological and scientific pursuits are diametrically opposing. Science is built upon mountains of data, pattern recognition, and strict peer criticism, whereas religion requires leaps of faith, and complete obedience. To actively pursue both, or to forge a tentative compromise between the two ideological realms, is an injustice to both science and religion. There is no fulcrum point for the balance of intelligent design and evolution, or Genesis and the big bang. Science and religion will never have a good relationship.

– Damian Sowers graduated with a degree in biochemistry from the University of Colorado at Boulder and went on to work at the Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory on the NASA Genesis Mission. He is a contributor to the Free Thinker’s Forum on the Tribune’s Religion page.


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