Religion and Science: A Beautiful Friendship? HTML version
partner or child, or with a sudden change in our status or health, can feel like what St. John of the Cross
described as a "dark night of the soul. "
From the mode ling perspective , resurrection and reincarnation can be understood not as migrations of the
soul, but rather as metamorphoses of the identity. In today's rapidly changing world, most of us
experience several distinct changes of identity. Yes, the process occurs within one's lifetime rather than
connecting one life span to another as some theologies suggest. Many find reassurance for life 's most
hazardous passages in the Bible, the Talmud, the Koran, the Upanishads, and Sutras. That the core
teachings in these books still serve as illuminating and consoling guides to self-transformation is why
they're deemed holy.
During those perilous passages where one identity dissolves and another crystallizes in its place, we are at
maximum vulnerability, like a crab molting its shell. When a familiar identity disintegrates, we may doubt
our worth. At times the community we normally depend on for support, even the fellowship of friends
and family, can fail us, and we may find ourselves defenseless and alone.
Religion serves when it illuminates the process through which we morph from one identity to another.
Religion combines art, literature, and theater in the context of communal fellowship to effectively
transmit truths about the identity and its transformation that help many ma inta in the ir balance in a world
in flux. The future of vocations that can help people through the whitewater of traumatic change is sec ure.
The preceding chapters provide a basis for rapprochement between science and religion. Here are some of
its princ ipa l elements:
1. Both science and religion make use of educated guesses to create theories, devise rules, and build
mode ls. The vast majority of these scientific and religious mode ls—inc luding our identities (or self
mode ls)—are found wanting and must be revised or discarded.
2. But human fallibility does not inva lidate the process. We're well advised to "try, try again," because
one success, which may then spread via imitation (mimesis), makes up for countless failures.
3. The alternative to fundamentalism—whether of the religious, political, or scientific variety—is not
relativism nor obscurantism, it's mode ling.
4. Both scientific and religious precepts ultimately rest on painstaking observation. (More on this in the
5. The models of religion, politics, the arts, and sciences are the DNA of civilization.
6. Both science and religion can reduce suffering: science by alleviating material wants (e.g., hunger) and
by curing disease; religion by cultivating virtues (e.g., kindness and compassion).
7. Both religion and science sometimes cling stubbornly to the ir mistakes.
8. The process of discovery—though it goes by the different names of eureka, epiphany, revelation, and
enlightenment—is basically the same in all fields. An occasional ah-ha punctuates a lot of ho-hum.
9. Both scientists and religious leaders have sometimes put institutiona l interests above the public interest.
Although this is self-serving, condemnation is tempered by the fact that both science and religion have
also produced leaders who have sacrificed themselves for truth, beauty, and justice.
10. Science gives us reason to think that hunger, disease, and scarcity can be overcome. Religion harbors
the hope that peace is attainable. In the remaining chapters, I'll try to show how, together, science and
religion could de liver on the dual dream of suffic iency and decency.