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Science, Modernity & Religion - Report on SAIF Meeting on Monday 7 November 2011

This meeting was in the form of a panel of 3 speakers, chaired by Revd Christopher Lamb. Mr Mike Eldridge from Stratford Christian Science Church spoke first, followed by Dr Lim Ho from Stratford Methodist Church with Mr Paddy Vickers from the Baha'i Community speaking last.

Mike pointed out that although Christian Science teaches the illusory nature of the material world there are Christian Scientists with scientific professions. He himself is fascinated by physical sciences. Mike deplored the rise of Creationism in the US and by implication Intelligent Design. This has spread to become a widespread distrust of science, not only in relation to creation and evolution but also to other issues such as climate change.

Another modern issue is that of genetic modification of crops. With the crisis of the explosion of world population to 7 billion it is vital that we find better crops to feed everyone. In the same way medical research for the improvement of people's health and not for the benefit of the pharmaceutical industry should be welcomed. Mike finally addressed the problem caused by the vociferous opponents of religion within the scientific community, such as Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan. They demonstrate a form of atheistic fundamentalism, whereas most people of faith are on a journey full of questioning and doubt, searching for Truth, with a capital T.

Lim introduced himself as a research scientist and a practising Christian. He explained the different roles of science and religion. Science is a pursuit of knowledge of the material world and tries to understand how things work based on testable laws and mechanisms. Religion on the other hand is a search for the meaning of the existence of the cosmos and of life in it. It places emphasis on morality and the importance of dealing compassionately with each other. As a Christian he believes the future destiny of mankind is determined by the way we behave in our relationship with the Creator, with each other and with the earth we inhabit.

So science and faith can be mutually supportive and complementary.  Science needs ethical guidance and faith can be enhanced by scientific knowledge. While the discovery of the atom led to the unethical development of the atom bomb, the scientific knowledge of climate change provides the tool for being good stewards of God's creation.  Lim hopes for a better world where humanity is guided by faith and equipped with the knowledge gained by scientific discovery.

Our 3rd speaker, Paddy Vickers, explained the position of the Baha'i Faith towards science and religion. They have a wonderful illustration of a bird with 2 wings, the wing of religion and the wing of science. Humanity cannot fly with one wing alone. If science is discovered truth and religion is revealed truth they cannot be contradictory.

Science is currently unable to explain the question of the origin of the universe just as it cannot make any statement on the existence of God as the Creative Force. The development of the human embryo is proof of the development of man as a species. Religion and science need to be in harmony in order for humanity to progress and religion should guide science ethically and ensure it is put to good uses rather than bad.

A lively discussion ensued mainly around the dilemma of why humanity is still so focussed on killing each other rather than building a better world.

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