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How Science Is a Resource and a Challenge for Religion: Perspective of a Theologian

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Religion is characterized by the attempt to create a worldview, which is in effect the effort of worldbuilding. By this I mean that religion aims to focus on all of the elements that make up a person's world or a community's world and put those elements together in a manner that actually constructs a total picture that gives meaning and coherence to life. In this activity of worldbuilding, science and religion meet each other at the deepest level. Science makes a fundamental contribution to this worldbuilding effort and also poses a challenge. There are good grounds for this twofold role of science: (1) scientific knowledge is basic to any worldview in our time, and (2) science and its related technology engender new and often confusing experiences that require inclusion in any worldbuilding.

The challenge of science is that its contribution does not easily accommodate worldbuilding because of the factors of chance, indeterminacy, blind evolution, and heat death that are ascertained through scientific knowledge. Science is a resource for us in that the features of its knowledge can lend actuality and credibility to worldbuilding.

Religion needs science for its worldbuilding if its interpretations are to be credible and possess vivid actuality. Science needs religion because, unless its knowledge is incorporated into meaningful worldbuilding, science forfeits its standing as a humanistic enterprise and instead may count as an antihuman methodology and body of knowledge.

Keywords: religion; science; unity of science and religion; worldbuilding; worldview

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Professor of Systematic Theology Emeritus at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science, 1100 East 55th Street, Chicago, IL 60615–5199;

Publication date: 2002-03-01

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