Between Scientists & Citizens

Science and religion–and politics

with one comment

Having survived the end of the semester–and being close to surviving two deadlines and a conference–I hope to get back to blogging again in the next two weeks.  Here’s a small start.

The New York Times is only one recent source for speculations on the intersection of religion and the climate science controversies. To me, analogies along the lines of “belief in climate change is like a religious faith” are unlikely to enlighten.  Both science and religion are sprawling enterprises–putting them together is just sprawl squared.

Science and religion do share one characteristic, though:  they both stand athwart politics.  So people interested in the relationship between science and politics might learn something from those who have written about the religion/politics interface.  Richard John Neuhaus, for example.

Here’s a bit from his 1984 classic, The Naked Public Square:

Unless, in sectarian fashion, one pits Christianity against culture, agreement between Christians and non-Christians on social and political issues is cause for celebration rather than suspicion. Suspicion may be justified, however, when a program that is said to be shaped by a specifically Christian vision parallels tout cort the programs of secular parties that are at least indifferent to that vision.  That is a degree of happy convergence that one might have thought is reserved for the kingdom of God.

Neuhaus’ own adopted church shows how a religion can pass his pragmatic test of suspicion.  Holding fast to life as a central principle leads to opposition both to policies that allow abortion and policies that allow the death penalty.

One might transfer the pragmatic test to science, saying that agreement–or even sustained conversation–between scientists and citizens on social and political issues is indeed a cause for celebration.  But suspicion may be justified when a program that is said to be shaped by a specifically scientific vision parallels entirely the program of a single political party.  That is a degree of happy convergence that one might have thought is reserved for a Union somewhat more perfect than our own.

Written by jeangoodwin

May 21, 2010 at 9:23 am

Posted in stray remarks

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One Response

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  1. Welcome back! Glad you survived the tough semester, and look forward to reading more.

    Praj

    May 24, 2010 at 9:11 am


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