religion and science

“The Doctrine of Joint Belief isn’t evidence of harmony between two systems of thought. It simply offers permission to ignore the clash between them….Saying that the mental lives of a Francis Collins or a Freeman Dyson prove that religion and science are compatible is like saying that the sex lives of Bill Clinton or Ted Haggard prove that marriage and adultery are compatible.”  CLAY SHIRKY in response to The World Question Center’s, “What have you changed your mind about?”

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  1. Bravo. Clay Shirky couldn’t be more right, though my egalatarian side hates to admit it. It hits a tender spot in our society to swing at the masses of moderates who either a) don’t think about it at all, or b) ask, “Why can’t we all just get along?” This is right in line with The Vivid Effect, discussed by Stanovich in “Thinking Straight about Psychology.” The Vivid Effect relates that despite statistics and well-articulated truth (science), most people will fall for personal testimony or experience (religion), rather than accepting a large statistical sampling of fact or opinion that’s more grounded in the actual. I think that we as photographers wield the greatest tool (the camera) of the modern Vivid Effect, with religious leaders/modern prophets coming in a close second. Art and religion are two of our generation’s most personal experiences. The difference is that photography is a sampling of the actual (more a science), while religion is, well, religion. You can fervently pray over your camera all you want, clean your lenses with great reverence, but your output isn’t religious, except in the metaphorical sense (“homage to the world”, maybe).
    Anyway, I think Neil Young expresses it eloquently: “…when the aimless blade of Science slashed the pearly gates” (“Thrasher,” from the album Rust Never Sleeps). Not to say that it’s science that’s attacking religion, but rather that attack is the mode of interaction…how could it be otherwise? Seamlessly reconcile ANY religious belief with science, sans denial, and I’ll happily re-evaluate what I believe (and don’t). Best of luck to you.

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