Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Harvard Crimson: Science and Religion Drive Divinity Professor

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Science and Religion Drive Divinity Professor:
"A self-proclaimed hippie with a never-settled quest for religious understanding, Philip Clayton—a visiting professor this year at the Harvard Divinity School (HDS)—has spent the past year encouraging the exploration of the delicate balance between the study of science and the study of religion, an interest motivated in part by his own uncertainties of faith.

“I’ve met religious people for whom religion is no conflict—it’s as obvious as the air you breathe, or your own name, and I was never one of those people,” Clayton says. “It was always an intellectual struggle.

“Science and religion was the field in which that struggle expressed itself,” he added."
This guy has had an interesting trajectory, coming from an atheistic family, joining a church at 14, and studying "the areas of tension and sometimes harmony" between science and religion. He had a particularly humorous anecdote about the problems in telling his parents that he had had a conversion experience. (You can follow the link and read the whole article.)

Clayton had some interesting things to say about the human tendency to place God in the gaps of our scientific knowledge -- i.e. phenomena that we can't explain can be neatly filled by God. The problem is the gaps are constantly shrinking and where does that leave our concept of God?

As for Harvard's recent dropping of the "religion and reason" course requirement for undergraduates, his response was:
"Tragic. Tragic. If Harvard’s goal is to train the men and women who will be leaders across all branches of American culture, and internationally, then these have to be people who are knowledgeable in the fundamental cultural conflicts of our day."
I have to admit, I find the use of "academic speak" just a bit jarring when I hear or read about my religion, but I suppose it can be no other way for professors in secular universities. At least there are people who are still dealing with it at our educational institutions, which is better than the alternative...

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