Maybe Science and Religion Do Mix

By Karen A. Bellenir

One of the most persisting myths of contemporary society is that religion and science don't mix. Today's school children hear stories about famous scientists who were persecuted by fusty ecclesiastical authorities, but they often don't learn about the ways religion inspired people like Copernicus and Galileo to look more deeply into the workings of the universe.

In his book Reason and Wonder, Dave Pruett investigates the evolving relationship between religion and science. The book grew out of a popular honors course he taught at James Madison University (From Black Elk to Black Holes: Shaping a Myth for a New Millennium) that encouraged students to reconnect with the universe.

According to Pruett, animosity between people of faith and people of science leaves both sides with incomplete answers. He says, "To borrow Einstein's most famous aphorism, 'Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.' The modern tragedy is that most choose, wilfully or unwittingly, to be either lame or blind. And therein lies the root of our global crises: ecological, economic, and moral" (p. xvii).

Pruett argues for a path that seeks to reclaim the wisdom associated with ancient faith traditions in light of the findings of modern science. He traces the development of cosmology from ancient beginnings that placed the earth in the center of the universe to the more modern notion that the earth is just a tiny speck in a galaxy that is but one of billions of galaxies. Pruett also discusses other concepts in physics, biological sciences, and psychology, and he talks about the evolution of Homo sapiens and the emergence of consciousness.

Pruett concludes that consciousness is the hidden face of what we call "matter," and that the next step in human development will usher in a new era of heightened spirituality. Whether or not one agrees, his plea for reconciliation between the urge to investigate nature (science) and the instinct to stand in awe (religion) is one that should not go unheeded.