Science, Religion, and the Human Future

Leon R. Kass
Hertog Fellow
Leon R. Kass
Western civilization would not be Western civilization were it not for biblical religion, which reveres and trusts in the one God, Who has made known what He wants of human beings through what is called His revelation--that is, through Scripture. Western civilization would not be Western civilization were it not also for science, which extols and trusts in human reason to disclose the workings of nature and to use the knowledge gained to improve human life. These twin sources of Western civilization--religion and science (or, before science, philosophy), divine revelation and human reason--are, to say the least, not easily harmonized. One might even say that Western civilization would not be Western civilization without the continuing dialectical tension between the claims and demands of biblical religion and the cultivation of autonomous human reason.

In the United States today, the age-old tension between science and scriptural religion is intensifying. Recent debates over stem-cell research and the teaching of evolution are but small skirmishes in a larger contest of worldviews, a contest heating up especially because of the triumphant emergence of the new sciences of genetics, neurobiology, and evolutionary psychology. As the findings of these biological sciences are elevated into scientistic challenges to traditional understandings of human nature and man’s standing in the universe, religious teachings are increasingly under attack and suspicion. Biblical religion finds itself intellectually on the defensive, in the face of assaults from an aggressive scientific and intellectual elite eager to embarrass it.

Make no mistake: the stakes in this contest are high. At issue are the moral and spiritual health of our nation, the continued vitality of science, and our own human self-understanding as human beings and as children of the West. . . .

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Leon R. Kass, M.D., is the Hertog Fellow at AEI.

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