switching places

As a thought experiment, consider a world in which the roles of religion and science are switched.  One would ascribe to a particular branch of science the way we currently connect ourselves with religious sects, often with a binary attitude:
"I used to be a laser physicist, but now I'm a non-denominational physicist."
"I'm a hydrologist, but I grew up as an astronomer and converted in college."
"I know that Mathematics is True."
"Everything Neuroscience taught me was a lie."

Similarly, we would explore religion in the context of all the other religions:
"I really want to major in Christianity, but I know that I need to study Judaism first."
"I'm a Buddhist, but I geek out about Hinduism."
"I'm really struggling with this Lutheran problem.  Do you know any books on Protestantism that could help?"

Some newly established or more social-science-y disciplines might be regarded as cults. We already see things like psychology being dismissed as not a "real science."  As an aside, did you know that Genetics is younger than Mormonism?  Take a look at this Google N-gram: (The scientology/neuroscience and Unitarianism/Zoology ones are interesting too.)

So what can religion learn from science?  That each approach is a different perspective of the divine to be respected and explored, and understanding other disciplines or denominations only improve the comprehension of your more narrow path.  And what about the other way around?  Science can learn that no matter what the topic, there are emotional biases in humans based on what is familiar to them. Ironically, folks get very passionate about logic. This human side needs to be remembered as not all knowledge comes from books.


Gwen said...

This is really thought provoking. Well done. And I think you are right about the "cultish" attitude of some disciplines. People may believe that soft sciences are "not really science" or all that important at discerning truth, but I think anybody would prefer to do science in a country that is stable, with a strong economy, and that promotes freedom of thought/expression. The soft sciences promote all of those things more than physics or astronomy, IMO.

P.s. I am making progress in knitting. I may even have something to show you on Sunday.

ajbc said...

Thanks! I think the social sciences are more impactful on society (hence "social" science), and thus everyday life. Some natural sciences like physics end up landing closer to philosophy in some areas, in that they shape our world views, but only make incremental changes to our lives.

I look forward to seeing your knitting whenever we stop being ships passing in the night!