Adam Frank is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester who studies star formation and stellar death using supercomputers. His new book, “The Constant Fire, Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate,” has just been published. He will be joining Reality Base to post an ongoing discussion of science and religion—you can read his previous posts here, and find more of his thoughts on science and the human prospect at the Constant Fire blog.
Not surprisingly, I managed to piss off a few people with my last post , as well as generate some thoughtful responses (including Sean Carroll’s highly relevant thoughts). What I was thinking out loud about is the need for a different perspective on science and religion. The times demand both it, and our creativity. But getting anywhere new requires getting away from those ways of thinking that stopped being useful or interesting a long time ago.
The public debate on science and religion has two dominant forms: the Sullen and the Silly. The Sullen are the snarly legions of Fundamentalists, Creationists, and Literalists who have clogged the courtrooms and airwaves for decades. They drive the endless, pointless debate about evolution vs. scripture. We’ll push that rusted hulk an argument off a cliff in the next post.
The other mode of public debate—the Silly—focuses on new age enthusiasms for “quantum” spirituality. I’ll be happy to dance on that grave after we deal with the Sullen.
But before we get any further, we have to make sure we properly spread the blame, like manure, where it belongs. In case anyone thinks the goal is here is a snarkfest about the ignorance of the scientifically unsophisticated I’ll remind you of sciences’ own prejudices.
Adam Frank is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester who studies star formation and stellar death using supercomputers. His new book, “The Constant Fire, Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate,” has just been published. He will be joining Reality Base to post an ongoing discussion of science and religion. You can read more of his thoughts on science and the human prospect at the Constant Fire blog.
If the change-fest in Washington last week taught us anything, it’s that we are long overdue for transcending rickety old categories and rusty old polarities. A particularly urgent place to start, given the dismal history of the last eight years, would be the traditional Science v. Religion debate, which is exhausted, ossified, and no longer speaks to the challenges we face as a species.
I am a practicing scientist (astrophysics) and, after writing for DISCOVER and other popular science magazines for a decade, I consider myself something of an evangelist of science’s methods and worldview. I have always been in love with science and, for the record, do not hold a belief in a supernatural deity. But, in a cosmic twist of fate, it was science that gave me a profound respect for the character of experience people have always called “sacred.” Through my scientific practice, I have gained respect not for religion as a means of social organization and control, but for what happens beneath the institutions where individuals encounter the world through their own, inmost experience.