Friday, August 31, 2007


Freight Lines

Alan L. Contreras, administrator of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, has an interesting article at Inside Higher Ed. He begins with the assertion that:

Religion and science are in different families on different tracks: science deals with is vs. isn’t and religion, to the extent that it relates to daily life, deals with should vs. shouldn’t.
After noting that most scientists have, until recently, either ignored religion or quietly practiced their own, "Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris have decided to enter the ring and fight religion face to face." But, according to Contreras:

The contrapuntal force to religion, that force which is in the same family, if a different genus, speaks the same language in different patterns regarding the same issues. It is not science, it is philosophy. That is what our teachers need to understand, and this distinction is the one in which education colleges should train them.
Contreras finds that, contrary to popular notions, not all philosophy is "dense, dismal texts written by oil lamp with made-up words in foreign languages, and far beyond mortal ken." Which is a good thing, given that it is his opinion that we need to "introduce more religious studies into our K-12 schools ... if people are ever to understand each other’s lives [and] the family of learning into which they must go also contains philosophy." That will necessitate that:

The shoulds and shouldn’ts that are most important to the future of our society need to be discussed in colleges, schools and homes, and the way to accomplish this is to bring religions and philosophies back to life as the yin and yang of right and wrong. That is the great conversation that we are not having.
I have some doubts about the absolute separateness of science and religion or that, whatever interface there is between them, is as insignificant as Contreras would have it:

It is true that a portion of religious hooting has to do with is vs. isn’t questions, in the arena of creationism and its ancillary arguments. However, this set of arguments, important as it might be for some religious people, is not important to a great many (especially outside certain Protestant variants), while the moral goals and effects of religious belief are a far more common and widespread concern among many faiths.
Still, it is hard to argue with his contention that more knowledge is a better thing than less, especially when this is becoming such a public ... and contentious ... debate.

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