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Interesting article on science and religion (from Lemaitre first proposed the modern big bang theory.

Are science and religion inseparable twins or hostile strangers? Could a third party–philosophy–act as a bridge between the two?

“There were two ways of arriving at the truth. I decided to follow them both,” declared Georges Lemaître, one of the fathers of modern cosmology and also a Catholic abbot1. “Nothing in my working life, nothing I ever learned in my studies of either science or religion has ever caused me to change that opinion. I have no conflict to reconcile. Science has not shaken my faith in religion and religion has never caused me to question the conclusions I reached by scientific methods.”
What relations are there between modern science and theology, understood as a rational explanation of a religious tradition? Are the two entirely separate, do they overlap or are they just complementary?
Lemaître, a defender of “dissonance” between the disciplines, argued that the approaches of science and religion were completely separate and insulated from each other. Because they belong to totally different areas of knowledge, he added, science and theology not only do not overlap, but are so far apart they cannot even influence one another.
This conclusion is not upheld by other supporters of dissonance. According to the NOMA (Non-Overlapping Magisteria) principle proposed by U.S. palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould2 and others, science and religion supply magisteria–fields of knowledge–that do not encroach on each other, but are not entirely separate; an intimate dialogue is possible between them. Gould uses the metaphor of oil and water, two elements that do not mix but can remain in very close contact. The contours of their separation are complex and fluid, since both can move back and forth into places occupied moments before by the other. Science and religion, in short, are inseparable but radically different, friends but never partners.

Transcendental gaps
Not true say the supporters of “correspondence,” who base their viewpoint on the notion that scientific data can be directly useful to religion. According to this approach, concepts in these two fields can link up or even agree, so that theories of the big bang and Creation may interact to their mutual advantage. But this position raises a host of questions, particularly over the nature of knowledge: is science not impoverished or cheapened by confusing all or part of it with religion? Does a concept such as Creation not mean very different things in different religious traditions and in the mouths of scientists, for whom it has a precise technical significance?
The essential weakness with this approach is evident in the concept of a “God particle.” Since scientists have no quantum theory of gravitation to describe what happened in the first few moments after the big bang–there is a scientific gap to be filled–the initial creative impulse is attributed to divine power. But God provides no explanation at all. Reduced to a simple physical cause within other physical causes, God also loses his divinity to become just another element in the material world.
Dissonance avoids this trap by allowing a calm dialogue between scientists and theologians that respects each other's independence of thought: they agree not to exploit bits of each other's field of knowledge to advance their own. But is this division perhaps too radical, depriving each side of elements that could be useful for their own thinking?
Thus the need for a third position that rejects all blending of science and theology advocated by supporters of correspondence, but establishes an indirect dialogue between them via a go-between–philosophy in the broadest sense. The dialogue is also asymmetrical, since it encourages theological debate on the basis of scientific knowledge rather than the other way round.
This perspective begins by recognizing that science inevitably raises philosophical questions which it cannot answer, such as ones about meaning and ethics. Philosophers can then draw on religious traditions among other resources to search for answers. These answers are of little use to scientists in their everyday research, but may help them deal with the kind of questions every human being runs up against. And theology in turn can benefit from philosophical work inspired and fertilized by science. This pathway from science towards religion is thus the fruit of work that has to be carried out continually as scientific knowledge advances: questions are raised, and philosophical responses generated that must at some stage take account of religion.

Unravelling the beginnings
Let's go back to the example of the big bang. A scientist from the school of correspondence could say it was equivalent to Creation in the theological sense. But this assertion would not be scientifically legitimate: physics is based on natural causes alone, while Creation comes from divine and therefore metaphysical intervention. As a result, the issue of the purely physical origin of the universe “remains entirely separate from any metaphysical or religious question,” according to Lemaître. The theory of the big bang hence does not presuppose any special religious belief, contrary to what some scientists thought in the 1950s.
Dissonance, which rules out all dialogue between cosmology and theology, is no more satisfactory. But an intermediate philosophical discussion about the meaning of the big bang as the physical origin of the cosmos can help theologians unravel the links and differences between notions of physical beginning, metaphysical beginning and divine Creation, and see more clearly the purely theological meaning of the latter.
Creation in the theological sense can mean the sudden physical appearance of the world for divine reasons, but it can also mean a relation that God uses to keep the universe in existence by giving it physical shape. This “sudden appearance” cannot be regarded as the start of a process in physical time because it is itself the origin of space, time and matter.
Furthermore, this “Creation link” cannot be seen as a physical cause because it is in fact the cause of all physical causes. New theological ways of describing the relations between time and eternity, between God and the world, can flow from this philosophical clarification. It also makes for better understanding of the range and limits of science.
For some, science and religion are inseparable but very different friends. For others, they are friends only linked by a third party. For get others, they are friends that are in fact true twins. And finally, they are viewed as two people who are not friends at all because they never meet. In short, a set of bonds running all the way from fusion to fission.
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