ScienceRE - And believe it or not ..

16th November 2012 at 00:00

What it's all about

Faith and science can be an explosive mix - creationism and the battle over evolution come to mind. But how should we deal with faith versus science in our teaching? asks James Williams.

Moral and ethical questions impact on science and scientific research but ethical working practices apply regardless of religious belief.

The palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould came up with the idea of non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) in 1997. His position was that religion and science have their own teaching "domains" and that the authority of one domain cannot be imposed on the other. Some people see NOMA simply as a diplomatic way of avoiding confrontations between science and religion. But for Gould it was a principled position adopted on moral and intellectual grounds.

An easier way to look at the differences between science and religion is to look at purpose. Science is about explanations of natural phenomena. Science may explain how gravity operates, but religion addresses the question "Why are we here?"

A good approach for addressing religious matters is to look at the issue from the perspectives of acceptance and belief. A common question is whether or not you believe in evolution. But evolution, like all other concepts in science, is not about belief. Science works on evidence and the evidence is either accepted or rejected. Evolution, gravity, atoms and even the Higgs boson are not matters of belief in a religious sense. They are about the acceptance of evidence.

What else?

Explore the creationism debate from religious and scientific perspectives in rebeccanstothers' lesson, bit.lyCreationismDebate.

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