Sunday, May 16, 2010

What Scientists Really Think

Someone concerned with university ministry has written a blog post on a new book called Science vs Religion: What Scientists Really Think. I appreciate the blog post as an attempt to address an issue that goes constantly unattended to by Christians of all sorts. I'm afraid my own views on the matter have grown rather pessimistic, but I hope there's room for change.

You can read their post for an analysis, but here's the raw data they publish, which I think speaks volumes about the world I live in as a graduate student in mathematics:

One comment really rang true for me:
Religious scientists often feel embattled, both in their scientific and religious communities. At work, they might experience subtle discrimination. At church, if they were to express all facets of their identities as scientists, they might face misunderstanding and rejection, especially within religious communities that sometimes question (or outright reject) the theory of evolution.
I can't really say I've experienced discrimination of any sort, but it is easy to feel relatively isolated as a religious person in the academic community. As for my experience at church, this quote hits the nail on the head.

In my opinion the biggest problem with the Church on this issue is stubborn pride. If pastors want to know how to improve their university ministry, start by showing a desire to learn instead of just teach. How about having a scientist--even a nonchristian scientist!--give a lecture on global climate change, or evolution, or some other big issue, at a Christian student fellowship gathering? Try it! See what scientists say. And then see what students say. You might be surprised. You might find students actually talking about things that matter most to them, instead of walking through their Christian life without ever thinking critically about it.

And one more suggestion, though this probably won't go over so well: be willing to accept changes to Christian theology. Personally, I don't think it's possible to take modern science seriously without being led to think new ideas about what the Bible means and what Christianity says about our lives. More fundamentally, the kind of critical thinking that goes hand in hand with science also leads a person to continually rethink theological issues. For instance, the problem of evil is not a scientific problem at all--it is a philosophical and moral issue. Yet scientifically minded people are just as burdened with this issue as with evolution vs creation. As Protestants, especially, I would hope we could learn to respect liberty of conscience enough to allow Christians to think new thoughts about our theology and practice, especially as this liberty is essential to building intellectual life among Christians.

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