by Susan Barreto, editor
Where does religion fit?
It is a very old argument and question – but what exactly constitutes a religion and why is it necessary? This is a question some in the scientific community continue to ponder. And lately many have considered religion as something humanity has evolved to practice and could simply eventually ‘evolve’ away from.
The news section in this month’s issue of Covalence spends some time reviewing human origins and shows how religion and evolution continues to grab headlines. For example, University of Michigan researchers found that religion over the last few millennia have enabled large-scale cooperation and sociopolitical conquest even without war. At the same time, the number of people who see God as having a role in the process of evolution remains relatively the same as it was 30 years ago, according to the Gallup organization. But as a significant percentage of the US population believes in creationism and a younger earth, it still begs the question of whether our faith practices are out of touch with reality.
Jameson Wetmore, who authored this month’s feature on the topic of religion and nanotechnology, sees a growing role of religion in decisions related to nanotechnology.
Religious spokespeople recognize that the quickest way to get marginalized in a discussion about nanotechnology is to appear “anti-technology,” writes Wetmore. He says, “Thus many of them openly reject the idea that religion is fundamentally anti-technology and even quote scripture to give a basis for a religious belief in technology as a positive human endeavor.”
Pastor Tim Brown of ELCA congregation Luther Memorial Church of Chicago, was interviewed recently on a Chicago National Public Radio station to discuss why young people are coming back to church. A caller asked if disillusionment with the church has something to do with the Scopes trial, which brought to the forefront the idea that the scientific theory of evolution could be taught in public schools although it differed from the biblical story of human origins. Pastor Brown was quick to say that his faith was not a matter of relativism – although it may be for some. He personally adheres to an absolute faith.
This raises the question though whether absolute faith can inform a view of science. As we recently celebrated the Holy Spirit filling creation on Pentecost, do we risk missing the big picture of creation? Would we be living up to this Old Testament passage: “As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything?” Ecclesiastes 11:5
Some may be skeptical of the role religion can play in understanding the world around us, but in the past it has formed us socially and can continue to inform our decision making for a better future. This will only happen if we are active in applying our faith outside of church pew for the greater good of the planet and humanity.
Covalence, June 2012