November 30, 2004
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Science Not Hostile to Religion
BRENT RONINGEN, Bismarck
Re. Daniel Gruver's Nov. 17 letter, "The huge leap is by Darwinians":The writer, a physician, says he could not comprehend his college class on natural selection, although he received an A. I hesitate to call it "evolution," because of the negative connotation that has been connected to this word by a group that sees it as an affront to their beliefs.
But the goal of science is not to address the beliefs of any people. Science is not based on beliefs. It is an attempt by humanity to exercise the gifts that God has bestowed upon us.
Curiosity, and the ability to try to satisfy this curiosity, is a gift unique to humans. We have the ability to explore this world -- and other worlds -- because of our physical and mental attributes. The sin occurs when we fail to use these gifts to solve the problems that we identify or create.
The ultimate goal of science is to understand how the universe works. Science strives to unravel these mysteries on levels from the subatomic to the galactic. Some of these findings contradict statements found in certain historical documents upon which people base and interpret their beliefs. An example that required a remedy was when Copernicus ascertained that all heavenly bodies do not revolve around the Earth.
Scientific findings have given us hope for a cure for cancer. The goal of science is to help us; if we allow, it can free us. It is not the goal of science to discredit religion. The responsibility to provide harmony lies upon the shoulders of the religious -- to interpret the word of God so that it meshes with our ongoing and accumulating knowledge. Religion should not serve as a roadblock to discovery because we fear that science has a goal to discredit. It does not.
The documents that make up the library of scientific knowledge are based on experiment, empirical observation and the interpretation of these results. Religion is based upon the interpretation of historical documents. The difference between science and religion is that science encourages debate on the interpretation.
Every scientific discovery will be challenged, questioned and tested, over and over. If it "holds up" -- if it can't be disproved - - it will continue to be accepted as a theory. Religion is a belief. We do not try to prove or disprove it -- it just is. It gives us strength, a moral code to live by. It is the fiber that binds our American society.
Much like the Middle Ages dilemma posed by Copernicus, religion must now deal with the theory of natural selection. My view is that natural selection was the tool by which the Lord speciated this amazing planet.
With the great gift of human observation was also bestowed upon us a great responsibility -- to protect this planet. Here is where we are falling short. We do not acknowledge the warning signs that have begun flashing, uncovered while implementing our gifts of observation.
It scares me that we dwell on things that are. We worry that we may have come from a "lesser animal." All animals, to me, are works of art and beautiful. We say that science is not true because it makes us uncomfortable, it does not fit into that pre-formed ideal we employ to conceptualize our existence.
When this happens, we risk being stunned by the greatest force of inertia facing our civilized species -- close-mindedness, which damns us to extinction.