Can we make a world where science and religion, those ugly sisters, both work to influence policy and help us all to flourish?
One Saturday at the end of March, I joined eleven like-minded souls at Sarum College, Salisbury, for a one-day course on science and religion. Led by Barry Jones, professor of engineering and Methodist local preacher, we took a critical look at these "ugly sisters in a suffering world?". That subtitle neatly distils the discussions that we had, and having only a few words to talk about a day's work, let me pick on just three talking points that arose.
I remain fascinated by the relationship between science and religion. For me, after all, it is a lived reality. I'm a scientist and engineer by education and profession; and I'm a Christian. Although I find no inherent conflict in this, I recognise that, for some, science and religion are like oil and water.
- We noted the importance of trust and the lack of trust in both science and religion: what (and who) do people trust today? And why?
- We also looked at the widespread ignorance of both science and religion, and the difficulty of encouraging a spirit of enquiry that is not blindly accepting, but able to critically benefit from centuries of learning.
- Finally, we thought about what the future of work (in a more mechanised world) means for the earth, for low-income countries, and the marginalised.
There are no easy answers, of course. We live in a world where a vocal minority on both sides of the science and religion debate seem interested only in attacking each other. We also live in a world where science and religion both see big challenges: climate change; injustice and poverty; and many hard choices about the future.