Trail resident Louise McEwan is a freelance writer with degrees in English and Theology.

Trail resident Louise McEwan is a freelance writer with degrees in English and Theology.

Science and religion need not be in conflict

“It’s too bad Payette was disdainful and dismissive of those who do not “live and breathe” science …”

Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada, recently pitted science and religion against each other when she implied that science is rational and religion irrational. While many share this view, I find it narrow and simplistic; both science and religion shed meaning on human experience, and both play a role in shaping the world. Both are tools that individuals and societies use wisely or foolishly.

It’s too bad that Payette was disdainful and dismissive of those who do not “live and breathe” science as she does, whose faith lies elsewhere. It’s too bad she ridiculed those who believe that the mind can play a role in healing, who question the conclusions of climate science, who take astrology seriously, and who believe in a divine force that creates and sustains life.

It’s too bad because much of what she had to say about the role of science in advancing human society rang true. Payette described science as a tool for finding solutions to problems, for developing social policy, and for moving humanity forward. But what Payette overlooked is that religious belief also plays a role in these same things. It is another tool in the toolbox.

Tools are only as good as the person using them. Depending on whom holds the tool, both science and religion embody the potential to benefit or harm humanity. For example, both have played significant roles in military conflict, and both have provided solutions to various forms of suffering.

Science and religion need not be mutually exclusive. At the core of both is the universal human desire to find meaning and to make sense of life. Science relies on the material, with things that are seen, with facts that can be corroborated. Religious belief, on the other hand, is comfortable with mystery, with that which is unseen and which cannot be proven through the scientific method.

Religious extremism can make those who adhere to religious belief appear irrational. Yet, many people of faith are quite comfortable moving within both the scientific and religious spheres, and successfully integrate the two into daily life.

George Lemaître was one of those individuals. Lemaître was a Jesuit priest, an astronomer and a physicist. In 1927, he posited the idea of an expanding universe and the primeval atom, ideas that gained acceptance as the big bang theory.

Many who believe that life on earth is the result of “divine intervention”, an idea that Payette clearly finds ridiculous, accept evolution. The biblical account of creation affirms that divine imagination brought life into being. The theory of evolution offers an explanation, based on evidence such as fossil records, for how life in its amazing diversity developed over time.

Science and religion need not stand in opposition. Both have a place in Canadian society and can provide guidance for people of goodwill who are concerned with the development of human society, as Payette is.

To make science a god of rationality and to denigrate religious belief fails to recognize the goods and limitations of both. To insist on science or religion alone limits the ability to understand the world in which “we live, move and have our being,” to use a Biblical phrase.

Trail resident Louise McEwan is a freelance writer with degrees in English and Theology. Contact her at mcewan. lou@gmail.com

Just Posted

Shoes and toys were placed by the altar at the Circle of Indigenous Nations of Castlegar Indigenous Peoples Day gathering on Monday. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar Indigenous Peoples Day gathering focuses on remembering

Occasion was more somber than previous years

Manager Cora Muellner (left) and employee Rachel Ronson at Buddy’s Place in Nelson. Muellner is among local cannabis retailers welcoming changes to provincial regulations. Photo: Tyler Harper
Nelson cannabis retailers welcome provincial changes to delivery, hiring options

As of July 15, private retailers can deliver their products to your door

Waneta Manor is located on Laburnum Drive in Trail. Photo: Sheri Regnier
New elevator coming to Trail manor this summer, says head manager

The elevator in Waneta Manor has been out of commission since February

Greater Trail barrel racer Hunter Weishaupt will race for a coveted spot in the Calgary Stampede
West Kootenay barrel racer takes run at Stampede

Hunter Weishaupt is inviting sponsors to get on board in her quest to compete in Calgary Stampede

Refusals to wear masks had Trail police called to two separate scenes on Saturday. Photo: Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash
Trail police called to mask confrontations

The Province of BC has masks being mandatory indoors

A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the Number 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021. Human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 denounced by China as “politically motivated” and based on “lies.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Schiefelbein
VIDEO: Trudeau demands truth from China about Uyghurs

PM says Canada has admitted broken Indigenous relationship, unlike China on Uyghurs

CELEBRATING INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY
Council members and witnesses from the Hupacasath First Nation, left, and Tseshaht First Nation, right, prepare to raise their respective flags in front of Port Alberni City Hall on Monday, June 21, 2021. The flags will permanently fly as part of the city’s reconciliation work. See more coverage from the flag raising ceremony on page A5. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Vancouver Island First Nations flags to fly permanently at city hall

Addition of flags are one Port Alberni response to reconciliation

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, middle right, participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honour of the launch of Kelowna’s plasma donor centre at Orchard Plaza Mall on June 22. From left to right: Canadian Blood Services’ business development manager Janna Pantella, Canadian Blood Services’ operational excellence manager Tyler Burke, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Canadian Blood Services’ centre manager Janine Johns. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
B.C.’s first dedicated plasma donor centre opens in Kelowna

The Kelowna location is the third dedicated plasma donor to open in Canada

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk in the classroom and in the community identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

Most Read