The Need for Diversity and Empathy in Science and Religion

The diversity of science also finds a parallel in the diversity of religion. Once, when I was a child, walking with my mother through the English cathedral town of Winchester, I asked her: "Why are there so many different churches?" My mother gave me a wise answer: "Because God likes it that way. If he had wanted us all to worship him in one church, he would not have made so many different kinds of people." That was an answer invented on the spur of the moment to satisfy the curiosity of a five-year-old. Now, almost sixty years later, it still has the ring of truth. In the nature of God and in the nature of man there is a far greater diversity of spirit than any one church can encompass. Just as in the nature of the universe there is a far greater diversity of structure and behavior than any one discipline of science can elucidate.

Religion and science can live harmoniously together in the human soul so long as each respects the other's autonomy, so long as neither claims infallibility. Conflicts occur when organized science or organized religion claims a monopoly of truth. The ethic of science is supposed to be based on a fundamental open-mindedness, a willingness to subject every belief and every theory to analytical scrutiny and experimental test. The Royal Society of London in 1660 proudly took as its motto the phrase Nullius in Verba, meaning "No man's word shall be final." The assertion of papal infallibility, even in questions of faith and morals having nothing to do with science, grates harshly upon a scientist's ear. We scientists are by training and temperament jealous of our freedom. We do not in principle allow any statement whatever to be immune to doubt.

On the other hand, as I listen to the arguments raging in recent years between biologists and creationists over the teaching of biology in American schools, I am shocked to hear voices among the scientists sounding as arrogant as the voices of the creationists. In these arguments, the parents of schoolchildren {12} are complaining that the public schools use taxpayers' money to destroy the religious faith of their children. The parents have a legitimate complaint. The tragedy of their situation lies in the fact that their religious beliefs are in conflict with the evolutionary doctrines of modern biology. But the scientists, by and large, show no respect or understanding for the human anguish of the parents.


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 Infinite in All Directions
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dyson , Freeman J. (2004-07-22), Infinite in All Directions, Harper Perennial, Retrieved on 2012-04-25
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  • Folksonomies: religion