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In Theory:

Separating science, religion?

April 02, 2010

Francisco Ayala, a former priest who is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Irvine, has been awarded the 2010 Templeton Prize. It goes to “a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension,” UCI officials said.

Ayala is against mixing science with religion but has called for mutual respect between the two. He has asserted that both science and faith are damaged when either invades the other’s proper domain, such as teaching the theory of creationism alongside the theory of evolution. Yet, even as he warns against religion’s intrusion into science, Ayala, a former Dominican priest, also champions faith as a unique and important window to understanding matters of purpose, values and the meaning of life, UCI officials said.

“If they are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters, and each is essential to human understanding,” Ayala has said.

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What do you make of his approach?

Ayala is right insofar as science and faith cannot be mixed.

Although no one can be prevented from trying to create yet another new religion, based on night visions, disappearing golden tablets or whatever, whenever science is infused with religion, it simply no longer qualifies as true science. But as far as Ayala’s claim that religion is necessary to understand matters of purpose, values and the meaning of life, since all the various religions come up with different answers to such things, it does not seem that they provide any true help on that score. The simple application of the golden rule makes more sense in determining proper behavior, and who said that life has to have a meaning? The pretense of some significant meaning in life is simply that, just a pretense to boost the ego. It actually just happened, like moss growing on some trees.

Jerry Parks

Member, Humanist Assn. of Orange County

The resurrection of Jesus, which people of Christian faith will celebrate this weekend, will never be provable beyond doubt by science. Likewise, religion cannot clarify sensate mysteries in laboratory test tubes as science may. So, hooray for professor Ayala!

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