Friday, June 26, 2009

Science and God ... or, God and Science

This is from a reply I wrote to an op-ed on Science and God in the Wall Street Journal. It is something not related to economics for a change!

This is a thoughtful argument although it feels familiar and retread to me. The conclusion that reason is the better guide in human affairs, which you use the current situation in Iran to illustrate the point beforehand, is a little dishonest. You seem to be implying the old canard that religion and belief just leads to wars while "reason" helps us to move beyond that. Are you truly suggesting that a world based on reason would end the human tendency to have conflict? A world of reason as the strict guide would actually lead to a harsh world even if you assume people benefit through cooperation. Sometimes it's reasonable not to cooperate. If reason is the only restraint, well, you'll find it's not much of a restraint.

Reason and faith should and do coexist even though you do have fundamentalist problems that you rightly point out. The basic problem with an entirely rational emphasis is that it is insufficient to explain the whole of what it means to be human. It may be sufficient to explain science but only because science is itself limited in what it does and what it can definitively predict with certainty. Humans are rational but they are also intuitive and far more complex than the study of the natural world - with all due respect to the methods, rigor, and analysis required of the scientific method. Transitioning natural science into the study of social science is not scientific in the same sense. The data is different and certainty cannot be the same because human relations are different and uncertain. My position is that my Christian faith does not have to be nor can it be entirely rational. Nor can a religion be irrational. It's just that at some point rationality runs its course and has its limits and an intuitive feel comes in. This may be what John Calvin referred to as the knowledge of God being imprinted in our hearts. We all have an innate desire to know God that goes beyond simplistic scientific rationales. There is something innate about that desire throughout cultures and time.

No comments: