Religion, Science, and Economics in the Contemporary World.

Matt Banever suggested we take a look at this discussion with an astrophysicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson, who advocates for the need to continue space exploration. Isaac Kramnick, in The Portable Enlightenment Reader  wrote, “If religion was the principle villain of the Enlightenment, science was its hero.”

Fareed Zakaria GPS: Neil Degrasse Tyson makes case for space

Dr. Tyson uses an economic argument to advocate for the necessity of scientific exploration and discovery. The philosophes of the Enlightenment needed no such justification, but they didn’t reject the economic motive either. Rene Descartes, the great mathematician wrote,

“I knew that the languages which one learns there are necessary to understand the works of the ancients; and that the delicacy of fiction enlivens the mind; that famous deeds of history ennoble it and, if read with understanding, aid in maturing one’s judgment; that the reading of all the great books is like conversing with the best people of earlier times; it is even studied conversation in which the authors show us only the best of their thoughts; that eloquence has incomparable powers and beauties; that poetry has enchanting delicacy and sweetness; that mathematics has very subtle processes which can serve as much to satisfy the inquiring mind as to aid all the arts and diminish man’s labor; that treatises on morals contain very useful teachings and exhortations to virtue; that theology teaches us how to go to heaven; that philosophy teaches us to talk with appearance of truth about things, and to make ourselves admired by the less learned; that law, medicine, and the other sciences bring honors and wealth to those who pursue them; and finally, that it is desirable to have examined all of them, even to the most superstitious and false in order to recognize their real worth and avoid being deceived thereby”
René Descartes, Discours de la Methode pour Bien Conduire sa Raison & Chercher la Verité dans les Sciences plus La Dioptrique et Les Meteores qui Sont des Essais de Cete Methode

 

Was religion the enemy of science during the Enlightenment? Descartes also provides us with his own observations:

“Before examining this more carefully and investigating its consequences, I want to dwell for a moment in the contemplation of God, to ponder His attributes in me, to see, admire, and adore the beauty of His boundless light, insofar as my clouded insight allows. Believing that the supreme happiness of the other life consists wholly of the contemplation of divine greatness, I now find that through less perfect contemplation of the same sort I can gain the greatest joy available in this life.”
René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy

 

Thomas Jay Oord offered a long and thoughtful commentary on the current relationship between American evangelical Christians and science. You can read it in its entirety on his blog. But Oord admits, “I’m optimistic about the future of the Evangelical theology and science dialogue. But I’m not naïve to think that the dialogue will flow with ease into every Evangelical nook and cranny. Plenty of warfare has occurred and will occur.”

Will America revert to a position that science cannot be reconciled to Christianity?

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