Science and Religion: featuring the Religious Scientist

science_of_religionCatch yourself up on Part 1 and Part 2 of the three-part series “Science and Religion.”

The future of the relationship between religion and science may depend less on how we treat evolution and more on how we treat each other, according to Jordan Steel, a fifth year graduate student in the department of microbiology.

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“I do feel like religion is very much an individual thing and we just need to respect each other for it,” Steel said.

At CSU, Steel researches ways to stop viruses from spreading infection. He is also Mormon. He said he sees people being put off by science because they are afraid science aims to displace God, but that’s not the way he sees it.

“If we feel that science displaces God, that’s a lack of understanding. God is all-powerful, but God uses the laws of nature and of science,” Steel said. “I use science to see how the creation took place…. with science I learn more about creation the process, but with religion I learn more about the Creator.”

Causing the conflict is extremism on both sides of the argument, according to Steel.

“There’s science extremists, there religious extremists, those are the people that make this undeclared ‘war’ on religion and science,” Steel said.

Steel said there is a resistance to religion in the scientific workplace and this attitude can hinder discussion.

“They aren’t willing to even think about things that you can’t prove with hard-fast data,” Steel said.

There is a similar resistance to science among the older religious generation, but Steel said that conflict may not be as prevalent as it seems in the media.

“I feel like the cultures are changing where people are excited about science and want to know how it can apply to their faith,” Steel said. “In reality there’s a lot of people that I feel benefit from both.”

According to Dr. Jeffrey Kasser, assistant professor in the philosophy department, the terms science and religion sweep together important issues into umbrella terms, which forces people to choose sides.

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“Even to start as if there’s team science and team religion does a lot of violence to the facts on the ground,” Kasser said.

Dr. Aaron Sholders, a biochemistry professor at CSU, said he feels that his faith is based more on a relationship with God, and not as rules set down by an institution.

“I don’t even like the word religion, in terms of how I perceive Christianity. It’s not necessarily a religion — religion gives us a set of rules and regulations by which we order our lives behind, more of an ethical thing, whereas … the way I understand Christianity and the way I approach Christianity is as a relationship with a living God,” Sholders said.

Sholders said as part of his faith he is compelled to help others to the truth, but that he does not feel it compromises his values if others choose not to believe the same.

“We respect each other as we both have a high view of human beings and therefore treat each other with the dignity that a human being deserves,” Sholders said.

Dr. Stephen Stack, a biology professor, said that accepting any story without evidence is just being naive. He adds that the reason the world religions have been popular throughout history is that they advocate for peace.

“World religions have been successful because they mostly advocate for loving your neighbor,” Stack said. “Evolutionarily, world religions are the result of natural selection.”

Science and religion may not always see eye-to-eye but, according to Steel, that does not mean they have to live in conflict.

“That’s why I love being a religious scientist, because as I’m at the bench doing experiments, I’m learning more scientifically about how the world works, and my faith is growing about his plan for us,” Steel said.

Collegian Science Beat Reporter Remi Boudreau can be reached at news@collegian.com.