Maybe it’s a sign of advancing age, but I am ever less inclined as a scientist to be self righteous about the debate over science versus religion and the quest for “truth.” I kind of lean to Frank Sinatra’s mantra, “I’m in favor of anything that will get you through the night.” Or, in this case, anything that will get you through this life. Personally, I prefer only to push those “truths” that will do some good, though if somebody else tries to bully me with their “truths,” I’ll fight back.
To me, the dark side of the science/religion debate is about something more than the truth. There is also a “political” power and influence struggle going on between two entrenched enemy camps, and some of the antagonists view it as being a zero-sum game. Since, in the end, we are still stuck with the problem of how to co-exist in a fragile, interdependent world, maybe “diplomacy” and a live-and-let-live attitude is the most “adaptive” approach. I won’t force my science on the Christian right if they don’t force their religion on me. As for dealing with our common problems, democratic processes seem to be the fairest way to resolve our differences.
I know Catholic doctrine is not held in very high esteem after all the recent scandals, but I recall the conciliatory tone in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Fides et Ratio, where he sought to portray faith and reason as two “wings” of a bird that is seeking the truth. Each wing represents a complementary way of understanding what is known and what is not known about the universe and the human condition. Or consider Pope Benedict XVI’s statements acknowledging the scientific evidence of evolution and rejecting the Creationist view that evolution represents an implacable threat to the belief in a Creator. So there is a middle ground view among some influential Christians. It is the ayatollahs of Christianity (and Islam) (and science, for that matter) that we have to fear.