So, you’re walking down a corridor in the Rayburn House Office Building one day thinking about how your boss wants an amendment to a draft bill that she really cares about when your thoughts are interrupted by a conversation you overhear between two people walking a little ahead of you.
The duo appear also to be Hill aides, but they are debating an arcane topic – which is “better” for understanding reality, science or faith?
One of them tells the other he “doesn’t think there should be any conflict between science and faith because they really aren’t opposed.”
To which the other person responds: “Well, I think they are fundamentally opposed to each other, always have been and always will be. But tell me three reasons why you think they aren’t.”
Then you find yourself wondering how you would respond to that challenge. When you realize you can’t, you uneasily dismiss the thought but it keeps nagging at you in the back of your mind the rest of the day.
Tired of the nagging? I have just the thing to stop it — Travis Satterfield. Who is Travis Satterfield? He’s a high school teacher and the writer behind the always thoughtful, always provocative blog “Here’s The Thing.”
Satterfield is a very smart guy with a lot of questions about why things are the way they are and how did it happen. He’s found a lot of answers, but he’s still got lots of questions, which he writes about frequently on his blog.
Yesterday, he offered three reasons why he thinks the battle between scientific reasoning and religious faith is the war that never should have been.
Without giving away the whole store, let me tell you the three reasons he discusses: They include, first, from a philosophical perspective, “the fight is superficial;” second, from a theological perspective, “the fight is artificial,” and, third, historically, “the fight was manufactured.”
Just to give you a small sample of Satterfield’s case, on the third point, he writes:
“For example, it is commonly believed that medieval Christianity believed that the earth is flat, ignoring and forgetting Ptolemy’s discovery in the second century. The misconception of a widely believed flat earth is a myth in itself.
“Regardless of the political censure he received, Galileo was not tortured, much less executed.”
“But, the accusation that the medieval church was to blame is particularly mythical. Science historians David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers write, ‘there was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge [Earth’s] sphericity and even know its approximate circumference.’”
And of course, there is Galileo, about whom Satterfield writes:
“He is commonly seen as an intellectual martyr for proposing that the earth rotates around the sun. Sparing the details, Galileo was interrogated by church officials and threatened with torture. However, the conflict was more about political control than scientific understanding.
“For example, anyone in that era would have found themselves in hot water after calling the Pope ‘Simplicio,’ meaning ‘simpleton’ or ‘buffoon,’ as Galileo did. Regardless of the political censure he received, Galileo was not tortured, much less executed.
“Instead, he lived out the last nine years of his life after the trial, continuing his studies … in his own home … in Florence … with a pension from the Roman Catholic Church.”
Now, How About Some Coffee And Conversation?
Did the post above make you think of some uncomfortable questions ? Make you mad? Or maybe deliver a gut-punch to your intellectual or faith solar plexus? Let’s talk about it. Coffee is on me. Totally off the record. See the “Office Hours” in the sidebar to the right.