Examining Science vs. Religion
Sep 16, 2010
Astrophysicist Adam Frank opened the symposium by surprising the audience with a shared experience. Frank pulled out a harmonica and launched into a blues tune that caused the capacity crowd in Memorial Auditorium to clap along and hoot with enthusiasm. While Frank said one of the reasons for the mini concert was he loves playing harmonica, the purpose had been to create a specific shared experience. Experience, Frank believes is what brings us to new understandings of spirituality and science without polarizing the conversation.
Frank’s speech, “The Constant Fire: Beyond the Religion vs. Science Debate,” was the first plenary session of the Faith Reason and World Affairs Symposium, “Awakening to Wonder: Re-enchantment in a Post-secular Age.” The symposium examined the ways people are gravitating to awe, wonder and mystery in a time when technology and modernization could cause enchantment to seem irrelevant. It also looked at the resurgence of religion in a world that was projected to be growing more secular each day.
In his lecture Frank argued the extreme sides of the science vs. religion debate are led by small groups of people. The vast majority, he says, fall in between the two extremes. It is the responsibility of the more moderate group to change the question being debated.
“We must look for deeper connections that touch the root of both science and spiritual endeavors,” Frank says. In order to get to that root Frank believes we need experiences. Through experiences, Frank says, you can find or see the sacred and through the sacred people can see value in each other’s points of view. “Science can reveal the world’s ‘sacred depths,’” Frank says. “All the fruits of science can act as gateways to religion.”
Frank believes people need to come together on this issue because we inhabit the same planet. To continue to do so, we must believe the scientific findings of climate change and find more sustainable ways to live.
“In the last 100 years we’ve changed the chemistry of the atmosphere,” Frank says. “The planet will be fine, but the human habitability will be challenged.”
The 2010 Faith Reason and World Affairs Symposium plenary sessions will be available online the week of Sept. 20.