The Roadblock Between Science and Religion

Intelligent design. Creationism. Evolution. The Big Bang. Modern day guises for an intellectual war that could have, for all we know, been waged from the moment the creature we would recognize as man has walked the earth (whenever that may have been).

It’s an interesting debate because that debate is one that holds for me a personal paradox. I understand the motivating factors behind war, but in its new form of whether the public classroom is the realm of religion or science strikes me as curiously deaf and blind.

Apples and Oranges, I think to myself, the roadblock in the current war between science and religion as obvious as that, and yet it is blatantly overlooked, a signpost too many people breeze by while they’re doing 90 miles per hour in the fast lane.

And, in all reality, it gets to be a dull topic after a while as the same tired arguments get replayed over and over. Broken records have nothing on the debate between Intelligent Design and Evolution.

In stumbling across Charley Reese’s addition to the subject, I find myself again hearing the same old echoes and missing the same signs on the side of the road. The funny thing is that in the beginning he at least tries to establish himself as objective, a self-described “agnostic” when it comes to how we came to inhabit this little chunk of the universe. He pretends to pay lip service to the idea that both sides are in error in some ways, and then quickly pivots to turn the entire piece into a screed against the religiosity of science.

But as I say, he blows right on by the warning signs, as shown here:

My main conflict with the evolutionists is that they wish to assert their theory as fact and to employ government power to ban discussion of creationism and intelligent design on the grounds that they are unscientific or, worse from their point of view, religious. I am against banning any idea, theory, speculation or body of guesses. Human history shows us to be far too error-prone to go around eliminating dissent by majority vote of one of the more ignorant classes in our society, namely politicians.

True science means simply the search for truth, but a search conducted with an open mind and tolerance for dissent. There is nothing wrong with a person believing that a dinosaur evolved into a canary, but there is also nothing wrong with someone believing that God created the first man and woman. I’ve never seen any physical evidence to support either belief, and one is no more improbable than the other. The only fact is that some beliefs have to be accepted on the basis of faith, and that goes for evolution as well as creationism.

Clearly, there is a blatant disconnect here, one that is evidenced by the fact that Reese actually manages to lay the groundwork for the counter-argument within his own piece. The key for me is the first sentence in the second graph I quoted, “True science means simply the search for truth…”

Which, itself, is not true. The search for truth is more in the realm of your artists, philosophers, and theologians; in their own ways all of them they seek to take the existence about them and provide a deeper, more meaningful truth regarding the world and our place within it. Science is no such animal.

And that’s where the problem is, and why this is not a “well, both sides are equally wrong” dilemma. In order to say that science is wrong for insisting that science be taught in science class, one has to understand the inherent differences between science. Not that it is better or worse, but that it is a completely and totally different discipline of the mind.

Science is a search not for truth, but for facts. And there are no vague warm and fuzzy precepts about open mindedness and dissent either, but instead a strict and regimented system by which scientists seek out those facts. Science is exactly that, science.

This is why so many fight so strongly to keep religion out of science classrooms. It’s not because all of us evolution people want to stamp out God from our culture, okay, some maybe, but that’s not the guiding principle. The guiding principle is that in science class, one must follow the rules of science, which religion pointedly does not do.

That doesn’t make religion inherently wrong, mind you, it just makes it unscientific. Intelligent Design, Creationism, whatever, these are religious concepts with a veneer of science thrown on top of them, but the simple fact of the matter is that they continue to fail to withstand the guidelines of the scientific method. This does not make them untrue, per se, but it does disqualify them from that specific discipline of learning.

That’s the thing. Proponents of integrating religion based theories, or the expulsion of scientific based theories from the classroom see it as an attempt to firewall their theories and beliefs, but nothing could be further from the case.

Instead, integrating ID into a science classroom would not be unlike sitting in on an algebra class, and having the teacher order everyone to open up their copies of Catcher in the Rye to chapter 3, or going to chem and being tasked with playing basketball for an hour, or… well, you get the point.

So why is the discipline of science acceptable to teach in the classroom, but not religion? Again, the guiding principle is not based upon oppressing the consciences of religious people, quite the opposite. We live in a multi cultural society, one in which even the slightest differences between similar faiths can be offensive to others. The pursuit of religious freedom in this country is vital to its very integrity, and by placing religion in school, you shake the very foundation of that pursuit. This because no matter how broad you try to make religious teachings, to teach anything as true is to discount the conscience of a faith that may take issue with that.

By contrast, with science, it is more a situation in which a method is being taught, along with the results of the use of that method among generations upon generations of scientists. The teaching of science is at once the learning of a set of rules, but also a history of what others have accomplished within the framework of those rules. This latter part is itself a necessity for if we fail to cover the historical aspects of science, we would all be doomed to reinventing the wheel over and over again.

You know what they say about those who don’t study history.

It is the realm of science to understand why a ball rolls down hill, how a fire is lit, and why, when we flick the light switch, the lights come on. It is the realm of religion to know whether all or none of this is through the divine providence of God.

You can believe one, both, or neither, and that is the freedom that we all share, but what those who push for creationism to be taught next to biology must understand is that religion isn’t science, just as science isn’t religion.

The Bible belongs no more in a lab than a chemistry set does in a church.

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