In recent years, public debates about creationism in the secondary curriculum have highlighted what seems to be an insurmountable divide between science and religion. This week, I’m discussing this divide with theologian Dr. John Haught. He’s a senior fellow in Science and Religion and the
For Haught, the idea that religion and science can’t fit together reflects a misreading of both. As he explains, the problem is not – as I had always assumed – about whether we read the creation story literally but about the religious implications of the key concepts of evolution. As Haught explains in our interview, and in the texts that you can access from his webpage, the apparent challenges to faith rest in the idea of a deity who could create a mutable world, especially one in which randomness and natural selection would play major roles. Yet, he suggests, these concepts do not necessarily contradict the core beliefs of Christianity.
Further, and even more interesting, is Haught’s claim that we might view science as another type of faith. The idea that we can only believe in what can be proven through material evidence and that nothing beyond that can possibly exist is itself an article of faith for scientists. So, he suggests, the conflict over evolution and creation is a conflict between two faiths.
As for how to resolve the conflict, Haught emphasizes the importance of education – not merely education in science or religion but education that examines the relationship between them. This should happen in schools but also among scientists and theologians. He believes that dialogue can be the first step to reconciliation.
Haught’s ideas reflect a complex and crucially important dialogue going on in American culture today, as we wrestle with the place of religion in public and private life. This is not simply a theological or philosophical debate; rather, it is a debate about what it means to live in a pluralistic society in which religion has almost always been at once contested and central, diverse and influential.