Jan 19 2014

Science, Religion, Creation Care & Martin Luther King

mag594Over the last couple of days I’ve seen postings on the internet with the following statement: “Stop fighting over who created the world and fight against the people who are destroying it.”  My first reaction to the saying was wholehearted agreement.  It made sense; what is important at this point is not arguments about the origin of things but doing what we can to preserve and protect the world.  Upon further reflection I’ve concluded that it’s not that simple.  The question of origins is very important and even affects how we do approach the environmental crises we currently face.  For me environmental ethics cannot be divorced from theology.

Hazard 862I’m not exactly sure who is “fighting over who created the world.”  I’ve been reading about an upcoming debate between a well-known creationist and television’s “Science Guy” but I’m not sure if that is what is being referred to.  Perhaps it’s not a specific reference at all but instead to the more general, and age old, “battle between science and religion.”  Personally I do not feel that there is a true battle between the two and agree with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s (whose birthday we honor tomorrow) summary statement: “Science investigates; religion interprets.  Science gives man knowledge which is power, religion gives man wisdom which is control.  Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary.”   Science can address how the world came to be; that is within its realm. Religion is not in a position to deal with the “how” of creation but it is able to delve into the questions of “why” and “by whom.” These are for me the far more important questions.

CES_0560Martin Luther King noted that science deals mainly with facts and religion mainly with values.  It is my religion (Christianity) which leads me to believe that the world is good and that this goodness is derived from its divine origins.  Repeatedly throughout Genesis 1 God declares that the world is in and of itself “good.”  It is also my religion which causes me to believe that the world exists primarily for God’s glory, not ours.  These two core beliefs provide powerful reasons to work hard to protect the earth.  If the world was made by God then it is supremely valuable and deserves protection.  If God has declared it to be good then we must resist those forces which would diminish its goodness.   And if the world exists foremost for God’s glory, protecting and preserving it is perhaps our noblest calling.

Dr. King indicated that “science gives man knowledge which is power.”  This power has obviously been used for both good and evil.  At times science has given us what we need to make this a better world but at other times it has given us that which may very well destroy it.  That is why religion plays such an important role when it comes to the environment, it “gives man wisdom which is control.”  We desperately need this “wisdom” today; we desperately need this “control.”

Dual Eagles 4In the end I’d love to see more dialogue (not “fighting”) between science and religion.  Both offer something the other side needs.  I’d also like to see religion (all faiths) working with science to find ways to help us protect and not destroy God’s Creation.  After all, as Martin Luther King reminded us, “The two are not rivals.  They are complementary.”  Working together there is hope, while failure to do so could be devastating.  My suggestion is let’s keep talking about the origin of the world and together do everything we can to prevent its destruction.

–Chuck

(I took the magnolia image at Pikeville, KY, the mountain removal picture near Hazard, KY, the mountain scene at North Cascades NP in Washington, and the bald eagles in Alaska.)