Science, Technology, and Religion

Conventional wisdom holds that religion and science stand in opposition — with religion oppressing science in the past and science undermining religion in modern times. Today, many scientists and believers are wary of attempts either to reduce science to religion or religion to science; there is good reason to distrust those who seek to prove religious truths scientifically or to read religious scriptures as science textbooks. But the relationship is not simply antagonistic. Religious institutions have in many cases supported scientific inquiry. The rise of science depended in part on metaphysical beliefs with religious roots, and arguably on certain religious virtues. Religious belief, in turn, has been enriched by scientific insights into the natural world. And technological innovation has been essential to the spread of religious ideas.

The authors of this symposium each examine some aspect of the relationship between religion, science, and technology. Writing from different religious traditions, their essays touch on history, theology, and philosophy, and they explore how modern science and innovation affect religious practice and faith. Charles T. Rubin considers the lessons that can (or cannot) be drawn from the Jewish legend of the golem. Joseph Bottum argues that the Catholic sense of wonder can survive the disenchantment of the world. Timothy Dalrymple makes the case for appreciating tools and using them for Christian evangelism. Imad‑ad‑Dean Ahmad criticizes pseudoscientific readings of the Koran. Varadaraja V. Raman suggests that ancient Hindu thought, while not scientific in the modern sense, anticipated various recent scientific debates. Martin J. Verhoeven pushes back against the view that Buddhism and science are in simple harmony. And Peter Morales describes the Unitarian Universalist search for truth and meaning through science and faith.

Editor’s Note

The publication of this symposium is supported by a grant from the Religion and Innovation in Human Affairs Program (RIHA) of The Historical Society.

Header image by Roland and Sabrina Michaud / akg-images