GOD ONLINE: Exploring media spirituality

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Science and religion: mates or mismatch?

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What beautiful designs — one from a church, one from our DNA — and how similar. Why do so many people think we have to choose between them?

DNAThat’s the question posed in the article that the pictures illustrate: Can Science and Faith be Reconciled. Part of the Pew Research Center, the article gathers an eminent scientist and a perceptive journalist to sort out the issues.

First up is Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project. He discusses the basic questions of “why there is anything at all,” and, in the words of Eugene Wigner, a Nobel laureate in physics, why mathematics makes sense. He goes on to explain the unlikely fact that many “constants,” like gravity, are independent yet work together to make existence possible. His conclusion: God is more likely than not.

That would be a consolation to conservative Christians, but Collins’ firm belief in evolution might not be. He says that genetic findings of the last few years alone make the evidence for evolution overwhelming. He also calls the Intelligent Design idea both bad science and “questionable theology.”

Francis Collns

Geneticist Francis Collns

The rest of the article has NPR correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty discussing her research into spirituality and brain science. She notes that scientists have pinpointed the temporal lobe as a source — or perhaps a conduit — for mystical experiences. They can even create transcendent experiences by stimulating the brain, electrically or chemically.

What’s happening there, she says, depends on “whether you think of the brain as a CD player or a radio.” But she asks: “Why are we wired for mystical experiences in the first place?” After all, she suggests, if there were a God who wanted to communicate, wouldn’t he build in a mechanism to do it?

Pregnant thoughts, all. But Pew has other food for thought.

According to a new study, most Americans like science but don’t rate American scientists as among the best. More disturbingly, a third can’t think of anything outstanding that the United States has achieved lately.

Finally, you can test your own Sci-Q with a 12-question Science Knowledge Quiz. that compares how well you score against the general American public. How’d I do? Well, I don’t like to brag, but . . . (grin).

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Written by Jim Davis

September 14, 2009 at 4:55 am

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