Can Faith and Science Work Together?

Previously I've explored differences between certain interpretations of faith and science by looking at emphases on orthodoxy versus orthopraxy, the role of doubt, and the beginning of man. But now, I want to look at possible and exciting areas of convergence, confluence, and synergy between faith and science. Here is my short list.

  • The Environmental Question - Scientists, especially ecologists, have understood the interconnectedness of plants, animals, and the environment. Though progressive strains of Christianity have led the way, more and more religious groups are moving from a strictly anthropocentric view of creation to a more universal view of creation and are beginning to see God as a god working to preserve, restore, and save all created plants, all animals, and the entire environment from ecocide.
  • Climate Change - On June 15, 2015, Pope Francis issued his second encyclical, "Laudato si'" on climate change. In it, he advocates for "an intense dialogue fruitful for both" science and faith and reminds us that a vast majority of climate scientists conclude that average global temperatures are warming and that a large portion of this effect is due to anthropogenic causes (man-made). Scientists conclude that we must do something, and science policy currently works on both adaptation and mitigation strategies to address climate change. Increasingly, this matches with a religious view of humans as stewards of all creation and the earth, who must continue to actively preserve, manage, and sustain it, just as the earth preserves and sustains us.
  • Food and Nutrition Practices - In 1989, Wendell Berry wrote that "eating is an agricultural act. If there is a food politics, there is a food aesthetics and a food ethics, neither of which is dissociated from politics." Food is another subset of the environment. The food choices we make affect water usage and sustainability, ecological homeostasis, and even the wages of workers, just to name a few. Since our food choices and practices affect not just us but the environment around us, it is an environmental issue. On one side, faith groups are becoming more and more concerned about taking proper care of the environment as part of their fiduciary responsibility under God. At the same time, science is used to determine various methods of growing healthy food in abundant amounts, adapting food to various climates, nutritional science, and determining which animals are threatened and endangered. Combined with our values of environmental sustainability, it is another area for faith and science to join forces.
  • The Poverty Question - In January 2015, the Southern Education Foundation published a report saying that starting in 2013, a majority of US public school students are in poverty. Income is correlated to a host of other indicators, so tied into this question of poverty are problems of hunger, homelessness, disease, and, in this example, education. With the rise of the social gospel which proliferated especially after Walter Raushenbuch's book "Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st Century" (new edition) in 1907, more religious groups have put an emphasis on social work and social care throughout the 20th century. All religious traditions I have studied and all three Abrahamic traditions have faith pillars related to giving alms and good treatment of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the stranger. Simultaneously, science is working on ways to boost and decentralise food production, reduce food miles, create better shelters especially in post-disaster situations, and treat, prevent, and cure diseases. Specifically in the case of essential medicines for neglected tropical diseases, we already have the medicines but the patent and economic systems in place prevent it from getting to the people that need the medicine. This leads to another question.
  • The Economic Question - Starting as early as December 2007 and going into 2009, the 8 trillion dollar housing market bubble burst causing the Great Recession. This has reawakened an old desire within us to find better economic systems. Strangely, we teach students about various economic theories written by famous scholars and practitioners, but we do not teach students how to create new economic theories or systems themselves. However, the need for new economic systems and theories is appearing stronger than ever in the wake of repeated financial collapses within the Western (U.S.) version of "free-market" capitalism. Tied to this is the strong social concern and social justice tradition within religious traditions like Christianity in the abolitionist movement, the worker rights movement, women's suffrage, and civil rights. Additionally, religious scholars have studied theological imperatives, implications, and examples for other possible economic systems. This is an opportunity for faith and social science to work together for a more stable and equitably prosperous system for all that avoids dependence and independence, and instead forges interdependence.
  • The Security Question - On Friday, the 26th of September 2014, the British Parliament voted to participate in airstrikes in Iraq which is the third time in the past 25 years, it will have used military force in Iraq. Whether science or common sense is used to crunch the data, it is plain: we keep going through the same cycle of conflict again and again. At some point, someone needs to say "If we keep doing the same thing, we will get the same result. So let's do something different." In addition to what statistics show, different religions and religious groups advocate for different types of pacifism, peace as a preferred option, justified war as a last resort, etc. Even groups who view God as a warring God still have a peaceful end in mind. This faith-based desire can be combined with statistical data, negotiations science, sociology, anthropology, and anything we can use to work for peace. For the entire history of man, it remains an unresolved issue, an unsolved problem and one of the greatest challenges facing us today.
  • What areas would you suggest or add to the list?