And now I find the same thing happening again with science. "How can you call yourself a scientist but say you believe in God?" sneered a bloke I met at a conference a few years ago. "Dear boy, how can you call yourself a scientist and not?" I sneered with the best well bred Patrician contempt that I could muster, but it was only bluster. Because faith is an intensely personal thing. I cannot explain it, I would rather not have to analyse it, and I feel uncomfortable talking about it in public. I am certainly not one of these people who feels comfortable knocking on people's doors and shouting "Halleluyah!" whilst banging a tambourine.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
RELIGION VERSUS SCIENCE
The best comment on this ongoing debate that I have heard in a long time is from a guy called Dr Ranan Banerji, reviewing a book called The Universe - Solved by Jim Elvidge. I haven't read the book so I cannot comment, but the quote reads: “We have recently been inundated by a spate of books on the "science-religion" controversy. They all confuse science with reductionist materialism and religion with fundamentalism".
My Goodness, I wish that I had written that line, because it encapsulates what I have been trying to say for years. Because I consider myself both a scientist and a Christian, and I see no contradictions between the two.
Science, or at least the Science that I have spent my life in pursuit of, is more than just the studdy of matter, and the Christianity that I practiose, and indeed that any of my Christian friends practises does not require a belief in the literal truth of The Bible word for word, nor a belief in primitive superstitions.
It always used to irritate me some years ago, when two friends of mine - both female, and both Pagan - would come round to my house, and after a glass of wine or two would start ranting about how "my people" were responsible for having burned thousands of "their people" in the 16th and 17th Centuries.
In vain I would try to argue that there was very little connection between the brand of Christianity practised in the 16th and 17th Centuries, and that practised by me and my fellows in the early 21st, and even less connection between the brand of neopaganism practised by my two friends, which - as Nick Redfern and I showed in a paper for Fortean Studies - in about 1998 had its genesis in the 1940s, and whatever folk beliefs were held by the unfortunate victims of the witchburnings. And that as a modern Christian, I bare no responsibility for the witchburnings, the Spanish Inquisition, the slaughter of the Knights Templar, or indeed anything else from times past.
But it was to no avail. They just would not accept that I had a point, and eventually I gave up trying.
I think that the real problem is that the human race likes to categorise people to their lowest common denominator - reductionism in action - and then, when people have been reduced to armed camps of social cliches, the human race likes to set them off against each other. Christians are not all fundamentalist zealots, preparing to tie outsiders to a stake, and then baptise them before burnbing them. Muslims are not all suicide bombers or Al Quaeda terrorists. Scientists are not all cold-hearted automatons in starched lab coats carrying out vivisection experiments on cuddly animals whilst plotting to overthrow the Universe. And pagans are not all inbred yokels, conspiring to burn hapless visitors alive in a giant wicker man.
We are all human beings trying our best to make sense of an infinitely complicated Universe in the best way that we can. And somewhere in another plane of existence God is shaking his head in exasperation as he makes himself his fifth cup of coffee of the morning. How can mankind have screwed everything up so badly. He is tempted either to intervene, or to start all over again, but he can't break his own rules. That just wouldn't do. So he drinks his coffee instead.
Posted by Jon Downes at 11:20 AM