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TEXAS FAITH 41: Is science leading to a new literalism?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

British theologian and Anglican cleric Keith Ward contends that the growing role of science in the world, where countries depend upon scientists and inventors to drive their economies, has led to a growing literalism.

Or so reports Michelle Boorstein on the Washington Post's On Faith blog. Writes Boorstein;

"Keith Ward, a British philosopher who was for years the canon of Oxford's cathedral, argued that the rise of science has led in the Judeo-Christian world to two things: literalism, because people no longer value things they can't prove, and secularism, because critical thought can tend to shift people to look at the Bible like any other book.."

(For more about Ward's thinking, you can read the lecture he gave in 2009 about science and religion at this link.)

Let's put aside the secularism point and focus on the scientific angle. We certainly live in a world where science and technology are on the rise. Many of us benefit from that reality, whether through advances in health care, being able to say hello to friends and family around the world through new technologies or learning more about the origins of our universe.

But does Ward have a point?

?: Has science, with its emphasis on empiricism, led to a new literalism, where we value things we can prove more than things we cannot?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

The attraction to modern science is its practicality. Put some food in the microwave, turn it on, and the food comes out hot. No belief, just practical results. Similarly religion is not supposed to be based on belief but rather its ability to produce practical results. The foremost of which is happiness.

Religion without philosophy is simply sentiment or fanaticism and science and philosophy without religion is simply mental speculation. Real faith is attained with practical results.

Therefore I feel that they problem is that religious groups have moved away from practical experiences of a spiritual connection to the realm of blind faith.