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.
Knowledge of physical science and religion are perfectly compatible. When there is incompatibility it is always due to human’s shortcomings and lack of understanding. Physical science is a quest to understand the greatness and perfection of creation and then deploy it in service of mankind. Religious knowledge provides the tools of the heart and mind needed on this quest. The balance between the two produces most benefit for humanity.
Taking either one to an extreme while ignoring the other will end in disastrous results. When science moves with no regard to religious morality and ethics, it will result in arrogance and God-complex for the individual and destructive inventions to humanity. Scientists may deny God altogether and trust only in the physical realm. They have to come up with many “theories” to fill in the gaps when the human mind is unable to contain the vast knowledge and power of the divine.
When religious knowledge ignores the progress of science, it will appear backwards and out of touch with reality. People will lose confidence in religion and move away from God due to ignorance of man. The earth is a globe and it rotates around the sun regardless of clergy’s understanding of science or God.
The perfect balance is when religion enlightens science and not opposes or ignores it; and science commits itself to the ethics and morals of religion, discover the tools God placed for us and use them to serve His creation, and explore the marvels of the Creator.