Environmental Learning Green Faith Green News

Science and Faith. Faith and Science.

The False Dichotomy Fairy Tale  

“Once upon a time, there was a mean topic called science in which people were afraid.  With their fears rooted in misunderstandings, they turned religion into an army to battle science.”  Another version of the story goes like this… “Once upon a time there was a mean topic called religion in which people were afraid.  With their fears rooted in misunderstandings, they turned science into an army to battle religion.  “How do these stories end with a “happily ever after”?  Perhaps the real villain is a perceived dichotomy that breaks down when the roots are explored further.

As a science educator and spouse of a pastor, this question comes up a lot: “Science and religion together must be hard- how do you two make that work?”  If I had a nickel for each time that was asked I would donate my millions to nonprofits like Interfaith, Power & Light and the National Center for Science Education.  Both of these non-profits are working to breakdown the perceived dichotomy between science and religion and furthermore the work they are doing is specific to climate change.  Interfaith Power and Light and its 39 state affiliate organizations post environmental statements from religious communities such as Buddhist, Catholic, United Universalist, Lutheran, Muslim, Baptist, an more at coolcongregations.org.  In the same hand, the National Center for Science Education recently changed their mission statement to specifically include climate change and they offer resources of their own and a compilation of religion/science resources found online.

Think about the language trail we’ve taken in the past decade: greenhouse effect to global warming  to climate change to global change.  When I heard the director of NCSE, Eugenie Scott, speak to this topic she described how government agencies, including branches of the military, are preparing for climate change.  She went on to list the stats for increasing droughts, hurricanes, tornadic activity, flooding, sea level changes, and acidity of ocean waters.  The shift from climate change to global change takes effect as human populations and transportation paths move from where they are now.  Just as the language we use evolves, human beings change and even migrate to adapt.  I know I have a lot to learn about the science of behavioral change, but I also believe in the positive power of the human spirit to move in a positive directions to slow carbon footprints for individuals, communities, and the planet.  Compassionate engineers, politicians, scientists, parents, faith leaders, teachers and more are even working on it right now.

Reading, research, meditation, worship and prayer are some ways people tackle life’s questions, including this list of questions that I’ve heard from students:  “Can’t we just grow more food on our lawns then send it to Haiti?” “How can I find answers about the kind of cancer my Grandma has?”  “Where are dinosaurs in the Bible?” “Why do some people say BCE instead of BC when they talk about really old stuff?”  “If I built a giant flying reflector, couldn’t that just send the extra heat back into space?”  “When are they going stop that AIDS virus anyway?”  I think these questions point out that wonderment, sense-of-place, and unknowns are a few things that religion and science have in common.  As our places of worhip and school classrooms work to prepare kids for the future, one question I continue to ask and pursue is this:  How can we foster connections between the logical/mathematical parts of the brain with the compassionate parts of the brain in order to meet the needs of this climate-changing world and make it a more trust-worthy place?  Play.  Learn.  Love.

September 2012