The Marriage of Science and Religion
We are living in a technical age. Many are convinced that science and technology hold the answers to all our problems. We should just let the scientists and technicians go on with their work, and they will create heaven here on earth. But science is not an enterprise that takes place on some superior moral or spiritual plane above the rest of human activity. Like all other parts of our culture, it is shaped by economic, political, and religious interests.
Science is a very expensive affair. A biologist seeking to understand the human immune system requires laboratories, test tubes, chemicals, and electron microscopes, not to mention lab assistants, electricians, plumbers, and cleaners. An economist seeking to model credit markets must buy computers, set up giant databanks, and develop complicated data processing programs. An archaeologist who wishes to understand the behavior of archaic hunter-gatherers must travel to distant lands, excavate ancient ruins, and date fossilized bones and artifacts. All of this costs money.
During the past 500 years modern science has achieved wonders thanks largely to the willingness of governments, businesses, foundations, and private donors to channel billions of dollars into scientific research. These billions have done much more to chart the universe, map the planet, and catalogue the animal kingdom than did Galileo Galilei, Christopher Columbus, and Charles Darwin. If these particular geniuses had never been born, their insights would probably have occurred to others. But if the proper funding were unavailable, no intellectual brilliance could have compensated for that. If Darwin had never been born, for example, we’d today attribute the theory of evolution to Alfred Russel Wallace, who came up with the idea of evolution via natural selection independently of Darwin and just a few years later. But if the European powers had not financed geographical, zoological, and botanical research around the world, neither Darwin nor Wallace would have had the necessary empirical data to develop the theory of evolution. It is likely that they would not even have tried.Read MoreClose