In the science vs. religion debates, how few people who claim to base their lives on either science or religion actually do so!
Instead, we as a society follow politically correct, symbolic, faux science and religion.
If we did base our lives upon real science and religion, we as a society would, for example–
Eat right and exercise to avoid disease, and structure our homes, schools, and work environments to help us do so;
Treat alcohol and addiction as diseases in terms of public health and homeless assistance policies instead of politicizing “the homeless” to be used as a partisan footballs each election cycle, without actually healing their ills;
Treat sexually transmitted diseases in order to cure and to eliminate them, without regard to political correctness that instead enables and thereby spreads them;
Follow proper agricultural conservation principles;
Consistently focus educational resources based simultaneously upon ability and aspiration and achievement, and not simply upon one or upon another;
Maintain our roads, bridges, transportation, utilities, and communication systems in a self-sustaining manner using scheduled preventative maintenance;
Run our businesses, our charities, our government, and our bureaucracies based upon established scientific quality control measures to advance better customer service and achievement of mission and purpose;
Better match sources of funds with uses of funds in public policy decisions, e.g., pay for alcohol treatment with the alcohol tax, tobacco-related illness with the tobacco tax, instead of funding every other use of funds with a mishmosh of every other source of funds;
Regularly measure and test the effects of government action and taxation on a municipal, regional, national, and international basis (political parties are terrified of an unbiased, third entity measuring their actual achievement);
Educate prisoners while in prison, since abundant research shows that the more a prisoner is educated, the greater the reduction in recidivism;
No longer build homes or businesses in flood plains (which politicians allow generation after rebuilding generation; e.g., please see Ian McHarg’s 1969 book, Design with Nature, for a prediction of exactly where in New Jersey and Staten Island, New York, not to build because of the flooding potential of these locations; McHarg’s predictions were borne out by Hurricane Sandy);
No longer build homes, businesses, government projects, schools, or laboratories without adequate safety (especially fire) and without adequate security provisions.
But we are no more a scientific society than we are a religious society. We are instead really neither. Our familiarity with science and technology usually ends with the tips of our fingers. Our trust in God too often ends with the mottoes emblazoned on our coins.
After lip service to both science and religion, when it comes to very important issues of human organization, we as a human society fundamentally ignore both.
We are instead the uninformed and selfish inertia society, propelled by unenlightened self-interest pointed in the same direction that we may deny we have long been pointed: toward ourselves.
But even there we miss the mark. Hamartia, for the Classic Greek author the hero’s tragic flaw, for the Christian the New Testament word for sin, literally means “to miss the mark.” We are indeed both a tragic and a sinful society that does not even act effectively in our own self interest:
“A single sentence will suffice for modern man. He fornicated and read the papers. After that vigorous definition, the subject will be, if I may say so, exhausted.”
Albert Camus, The Fall
In her 11/11/11 talk at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture annual conference entitled, “Forgetting Jerusalem: Has the West Lost Its Way?” University of Chicago scholar Jean Bethke Elshtain updated and paraphrased the Camus quote above as: “We [Modern Man and Woman] fornicated and went on the Internet.”
In her same presentation above, Prof. Elshtain mentioned hearing Julian Huxley confidently predict many years ago a scientific, non-violent, non-religious society “by the year 2000.”
Julian Huxley apparently forgot that for scientific principles to be applied to address society’s problems, a certain amount of social altruism is needed.
But scientific reason has heretofore not been the principal fountainhead of human cooperation and unselfishness. It is religion which has steadily, despite notable failures, urged its adherents to think and to act with the well-being of others in mind. The reason of science follows the altruism of religion.
Catholicism in particular specifically recognizes not only Rome (Church teaching) and Jerusalem (Scripture), but also Athens (Reason).
Science needs religion-based altruism in order to implement society-wide its best findings in the human interest. Religion needs science in order to separate altruism from self-centered self-deception.
Both science and religion require a lifetime of study and work in their pursuit, which may explain why both science and religion–to expand G. K. Chesterton’s famous usage about Christianity–are “found difficult and left untried.”
The greatest threat to religion is not atheism, but consumerism and one of its effects: weekend sports scheduled during times of worship.
The greatest threat to scientific advance in society is not religion, but the scientifically-verified fact that approximately 25% of the collegiate population is abusing alcohol to the point that it interferes with their studies.
The search for scientific truth and the pursuit of religious truth are compatible pursuits which spring from a human hunger for truth.
Those who search for the truth of both the body and of the Spirit need each other in order to implement the best of their gifts of knowledge and wisdom to positively change our world.
Otherwise, just fornicating and just going on the Internet will continue to shape society according to both tragic and sinful human inertia.
Science is needed to prevent and to recover from tragedy, and religion is needed to prevent and to recover from sin. Both tragedy and sin stand in the way of human progress.
Because the world thirsts for both an end to tragedy and an end to sin, science and religion can work together to more quickly advance a better humanity and a better world.
© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved