Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Some recent conversations

Most if not all readers of this job live in a plural environment. We are constantly surrounded by people different than us in almost every way imaginable, beyond the array of necessary human characteristics that is. Each of us is acquainted, almost undoubtedly, with someone who does not share our skin color, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, or religion. It may seem strange to some people that not all Americans are afforded this opportunity. Until I went to high school I had little to no introduction to those different than me.

Growing up in the rural Midwest as a pastor's daughter did not offer many opportunities for conversation with those different from me. Now religious conversations with friends and loved ones who don't share my views of the world are both intensely exciting and frightening experiences. They have also taught me much about my own worldview, revealing my own set of those insidious hidden beliefs that we take for granted, either not acknowledging their presence or never imagining that those around us would differ from our cozily fabricated reality. They have also helped me to work through my own doctrine, fortifying and fleshing-out what I truly believe.

I recently had a couple of conversations with friends that helped me define my stance on the issue of religion and science. These two giants of ideology are often declared incompatible by members from each; debates have led to many a casualty, both on the intellectual and physical plane.

I have entered into this fray several times with friends. I am often quite nicely (literally, my friends are very nice) how I can be such a rational and logical person and a Christian at the same time. Isn't Christianity totally outside of the realm of logic? How could you even use logical processes to explore religion? These are all valid and reasonable questions. The answers to which lie in the nature of the two fields, not in their methods.

Science is often said to be a "hard" subject, a subject in which facts and only facts are sought and heeded. However, few people outside of science (and some within) fail to realize or acknowledge that the scientific process is based completely on mystery. Every scientific finding is only true until it is falsified, and only findings that are falsifiable are accepted. Therefore, we're not really sure what we know until we know that what we previously knew was wrong. An easy example of this would be the before-unquestioned notion that the earth was flat. Completely accepted at the time, it was only when it was proven to be false that this notion became antiquated.

The real issue with Christianity (at least in the scientific perspective) is that the existence of God, at least up to this point, is not considered to be falsifiable. How can you disprove the existence of God when most of the evidence for God is, to the naked eye, untestable. Yet, until the earth was proven to be round, no one knew how to test the hypothesis. It has not been proven that it is impossible to test the existence of God, therefore why is religion seen as something so far-fetched. I explained to my friend that my decision to become a Christian came after the accumulation of so much evidence for the existence of God that I could no longer deny it. Is the scientific process so different?

I believe that the real difference between science and religion lies not in the methods that they utilize, but rather their end goals. Science is devoted to the discovery of how the world works, while religion is devoted to answering the question of why it works. The latter question is not easily answered through physical data, at least that we know; the former is.

I never realized that I had developed such a theory on the relationship between science and religion until I had the chance to speak with my delightful friends. I am so blessed to be a part of the varied and dynamic community that is Boston University.

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