June 22, 2012 in Question of the Week, What are the boundaries between science and religion? by Albert Kirk
Noted scientist and best-selling novelist Alan Lightman, a Memphis native, asks what are the boundaries between science and religion, the two greatest forces that have shaped human civilization. What are the different kinds of knowledge in science and in religion? And how do we come by those different kinds of knowledge? Members of the Faith in Memphis panel respond.
The Myers-Briggs personality profile distinguishes people who primarily approach the world in a sensate manner from those who primarily perceive in an intuitive manner.
Science is almost totally sensate. Religious knowing is more intuitive. One “knows” deep within. A religious belief/doctrine makes sense, and helps make sense of ourselves and the world around us. Consider how science and a friend “know” a person. Science knows that this person weighs so many pounds, is so tall, has this color eyes, etc. The friend knows at a totally different level. The scientific data are not unimportant, but knowing “the person” happens in a more intuitive way. One’s appreciation for or love of the other can be expressed more fully in poetry than in prose. This doesn’t mean that faith is impractical. Over and over I discover that Christianity works. Living by the revelation of the Bible and being guided by two millennia of Christian tradition leads to a life that is joyful, meaningful and energizing.
Another approach is to compare inductive and deductive ways of knowing. While science is primarily inductive, faith is primarily deductive. One makes an act of trust in the sources of God’s revelation. Faith then is obediential. One accepts as true what God has revealed, first through the great teachers of Israel, then through Jesus Christ. But there is also an inner witness (Christians would call this the Holy Spirit) which corroborates the external testimony. Thus the ‘knowing” emerges from an inner assent to divine revelation.
Just as scientists look at the same data and come at times to differing conclusions, so there are differing interpretations of the sources of revelation. Just as there are “schools” of scientific interpretation, so the Christian denominations can be understood as interpretative approaches to the Scriptures. My Catholic faith, at least in its best moments, sees no conflict between scientific and religious knowing. We believe that the God who created the universe is the same God revealed in Scripture and tradition.