Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Not Your Fathers Science vs. Religion Debate

So my book is now beginning to make its way into the world and I am hearing some reaction already.

One argument I can anticipate is people saying "Oh god not another book on science and religion. I am soooooo tired of the topic."

I could not agree more. That was in fact the reason I wrote The Constant Fire in the first place. The traditional debate which pits christian scripture against the latest results of science be it evolutionary theory or cosmology is tired. There is nothing more there we can learn from since most of the people involved in the debate are simply talking past each other. What I set out to do was look beyond issues of God vs Physics and ask about Religion or better yet Human Spiritual Endeavor as a broad and very old phenomena and ask is there any other way of seeing what happens there in relation to what happens in science. My answer is a definitely YES. There are entirely other ways of seeing the science and religion debate which go beyond the tired confines of historically conditioned prejudices. The most important stepping off point however is to see that Religion can not simply be about whatever your parents handed you.

We live in a rather remarkable moment in history in which humanity is forced to see itself for what it is - a species as a whole with stewardship over the planet as a whole. If we want to argue about what happens in science and what happens in religion then we have to broaden our view to see the long history of the human encounter with what it experiences as sacred. If the debate is tied to some particular vision of deity of some particular subsect of a religion then there is unlikely to be much progress. The history of culture is such that the longing which gets defined as "spiritual" manifests in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it has an explicit creator and sometimes it does not. Better to go beyond particulars and look at the phenomena as a whole and where it connects with science.

That is why I looked to scholars like William James and Mircea Eliade and why I looked to domains of comparative mythology to gain a different perspective. While people may not agree with what I found there it is not, I hope, business as usual.