Editorial – God and Science

    LAST UPDATED: 30 Nov, -0001 @ 00:00
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    God and science

    Victor Hugo once said "There
    is in every village a torch – the teacher: and an extinguisher – the clergyman.
    "
    His words reverberate today, and nowhere more so than at Granada University
    where Archbishop Francisco Javier Martinez has withdrawn eight seminarians
    (students sponsored by the Church) in protest at the teaching of bioethics. The
    archbishop was not merely protesting about the inclusion of the subject
    material in the undergraduate course, he was reacting against the very idea
    that ethics could be taught outside of a religious framework.

    His actions have attracted criticism
    from more progressive voices in the Church and yet they draw attention to the
    schism that exists between what many see as two opposing poles: science and
    religion. The subject is a hot topic at the moment. From suicide bombers in
    Iraq willing to sacrifice themselves  in
    the belief of an instantaneous entry into paradise, to  ‘pro life’ anti-abortionists and a resurgent
    belief in guardian angels among Americans (78% of the population), the belief
    in a supernatural outside power is driving people to commit ever greater acts
    of faith.

    And on the ‘other side’ ever greater
    numbers are turning their backs on organised orthodox
    religion, happy to allow science and reason to explain their existence. The
    British popular fiction writer Richard Dawkins makes no apology for his full
    frontal assault on religion in his new book "The God Delusion"
    (Bantam Books, ISBN 0618680004). In it Dawkins makes the case that religion has
    enjoyed an exclusive position of "privileged immunity against
    criticism" for millennia and that there is no place in this advanced age
    for such “superstitious nonsense”. The renowned geneticist goes on to argue a
    theory of "religion as an accidental by-product – a misfiring of something
    useful" to explain how religion is able to spread "like a virus"
    across societies. He objects vociferously to terms such as ‘Christian children’
    or ‘a Muslim child’ –  wondering how a
    young child could be considered developed enough to have an intelligent and
    considered view of its and by extension humanity’s place in the wider cosmos.
    And his message is not falling on deaf ears – Dawkins’ book has occupied the
    top spot on the Amazon bestseller list since its publication last month.

    It was not meant to be so. The very
    word ‘religion’ comes from ancient Greek and means literally re-attachment (lig=to attach, as in ligament). The ancient
    Greeks saw religion or theology as the discipline of considering our places
    within the vastness of the universe. The lines between science and religion (as
    we now know it) were not clear cut and indeed a degree of holistic
    contemplation was encouraged rather than derided. It is surely only in
    relatively modern times (since the birth of Christ) that the different
    religions and their teachings have become so aloof from criticism. Thomas
    Jefferson couldn’t have put it better when he said "The priests of the
    different religious sects…dread the advance of science as witches do the
    approach of daylight, and scowl upon the fatal harbinger announcing the
    subdivision of the duperies on which they live
    ." 

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