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Guest column | C. D. Chamberlain

Faith and science are intertwined

It is tempting to think that the only resolution to the current debate concerning evolution and science in public education is to place creation in the domain of faith/theology and evolution in the domain of science/knowledge. It is thought that as long as creation and evolution are confined to their respective boxes the conflict is ended.

Except this nifty solution doesn't work as well as its proponents might think.

A choked voice on the other end of the phone line asked me to tell his mother-in-law that her 21-year-old granddaughter had just died. The deceased had moved from Michigan to Florida to live with her cousins. Along with her relocation, she also left the church into which she had been baptized as a child. The group she joined persuaded her they could exorcise the demons that caused her diabetes. She only had to have faith.

She had faith and went off her insulin. They all were singing praise choruses to just lift up Jesus when she slipped into a diabetic coma and died.

I wish this young woman had learned how faith and knowledge need to be in conversation with each other. She needed to know that what she believed about being healed needed to be verified with a test strip on her glucose levels. As Aquinas (ca.1225-74) concluded, faith and knowledge are interdependent in the search for truth. I may not believe in evolution, but this belief does not alter the fact that I share 98 percent of my DNA with chimpanzees. Somehow, there must be a link with other species.

Pure science is amoral. The physics of gravity does not make moral distinctions. As Jesus concluded, despite the assurances offered by the tempter by quoting scripture, if he stepped off the tower of the temple he would plunge instantly to his death. The physical world may be amoral, but humans are capable of moral choices. It is necessary to impose moral questions on physical science.

Because of moral beliefs, human societies choose to disregard the law of the jungle and the biological principle of the survival of the fittest. Instead, we care for the young and the weak rather than abandon them to the cruelties of nature. Although art does not fill the belly, humans everywhere create art and music to nourish the soul. Thus, scientific discoveries must be evaluated in the context of morality. Further, because religious beliefs have direct impact on human life, religious claims cannot escape scientific scrutiny.

One educational task is to teach students how to distinguish between faith and fact or belief and knowledge. Education also must teach how faith and fact are inextricably linked. Our children must learn how to engage in the essential conversation between knowledge and belief.

It is not possible (however much we might wish it were) to confine matters of faith to the shrine and matters of knowledge to the school. In a democratic society, there will be constant tension between the sacred and secular. Hopefully, out of this tension we will produce competent individuals who can recognize the limits of both faith and knowledge, and who seek truth in true humility.

C.D. Chamberlain is a retired Methodist minister. He lives in Spring Hill. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

Faith and science are intertwined 03/01/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:20am]
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