Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit (banazir) wrote,
Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit

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Dances with Gods: Discourses Between Science and Faith

Many argue, as I do, that faith as an aspect of culture is compatible with science as a method of inquiry. Doctors and lawyers, after all, have upheld their professional oaths and then expressed and resolved personal misgivings where their beliefs conflicted with some aspect of their professional code. So have soldiers, tax collectors, artists, and actors over the centuries.

What is different about science, after all? The conflict is in a sense in the believer's mind. What reifies that conflict, and makes it a sticking point to the effect that "you cannot be a scientist and believe/disbelieve X" is really metareasoning assertions about evidence. If we understand faith to be belief in the unseen, it still remains a valid question how we define sight. We can agree to disagree on a feasible system of observation and experimentation within the material universe - i.e., on what is testable. What I think scientists and religious advocates should especially not do is go "Dances With Wolves" and write the other side off as not worth talking to. In true inquiry, your opponent can have invalid premises, make erroneous judgments, or simply exercise reasoning you don't acknowledge as valid, but if you pack up and go home, the only lost cause is you.

auriam and others have said to me that science versus religion is intrinsically an insoluble conflict: it's "them or us". But let's put that cultural question to the test: suppose it is indeed an ideological war. Even in a war, there are scenarios of mutual assured destruction, and there are reasons for detente, dialogue, and diplomacy. When you have two ways of life that conflict, supported by two systems of belief that each assert their own truth, the next thing you have to ask is who has to live in the battle zone.

If you have followed the Collins-Dawkins debate an similar dialogues, well-reasoned and capable scientists don't resort to circular arguments that can't support their own weight. Of course there are irrational fanatics - arguably on either side of a "science vs. religion" debate. When you reduce it to an intrinsically amoral or purely moral question, though, it's like trying to broker a peace treaty when everything has been reduced to one issue. Then, and only then, is it zero sum; but I don't think it is. I think we have the dialogue because many of us have issues to resolve within ourselves. We want to reconcile the believing part of us, whether we acknowledge it fully or not, with the part that wants to subject everything to rational inquiry. Put another way, you wouldn't come to the table (or step up to the debate podium) if you thought it was just every heart and mind for itself.

Tags: religion, science

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