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Science, Religion, And Wisdom

January 14, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 2

In his letter to the editor, George B. Kauffman makes an excellent case for tolerance in America: We’re all Americans! (C&EN, Oct. 22, 2012, page 4). However, he somewhat undermines his own appeal for greater unity by positing a dichotomy between religion and reason, as if the two were incompatible. They are not; the list of religious scientists of the first rank is long and distinguished, including Pascal, Newton, Euler, Faraday, and Gibbs—none of whom can be accused of relying on “faith rather than reason” or failing to “come to terms with change and progress” in their work.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary.”

Tim Royappa
Pensacola, Fla.



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Rob Kirk (January 16, 2013 3:40 PM)
Religion and reason clearly are incompatible no matter how hard you try to make them so. That incompatibility arises from the very definition of each. Religion is based on authority and typically the supernatural. Science is based on observation, evidence, repeatability and reason. After 2000 years of science there is no evidence that a supernatural domain or being exist. Many scientists that worked within a world dominated by religion often divorced the supernatural and the natural, or they were often more agnostic than they publicly would admit. Science gives man knowledge of the universe and how it and we work; religion gives man power to control other men in the name of some supernatural being. Values are born of humans and there selective accumulation over time. Science and religion(supernatural) are and will always be incompatible.
Bob Buntrock (January 19, 2013 10:01 AM)
Re the letter by Tim Poyappa, “Science, Religion, and Wisdom” (C&EN 1/14/13, p. 4) and the online comment by Rob Kirk, I submit that science and religion should be considered complementary and not considered rivals. Like many other scientists, I’m also a person of faith and I endorse the findings of science, including evolution, and yet retain my faith. We’re not absolutist creationists, young earth or old. We do not subscribe to the views of extremists on both sides of the issue. Militant atheists are unwise to attack religion as unneeded and baseless. In addition, misguided and unfounded attacks by conservative people of faith are also unwise and even insulting. Much has been circulated by conservative Christians by claiming that only atheists “believe” in evolution and “natural” origins of life and try to insinuate “intelligent design” and even creationism into the public schools. Both sides, especially the more extreme, should call a truce. Now.

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