It’s a magical experience watching fireflies rise from the ground at dusk and blink their way high into the trees, performing their light show against the night sky.
When I learned the science behind how the bugs make their light – a process called bioluminescence — it didn’t make them any less magical to me. Rather, my new insights made me appreciate them more.
Understanding the science behind our daily miracles doesn’t make them any less miraculous. It should do the opposite.
This goes for not only blinking bugs but all of creation, including ourselves. Learning about how things work should broaden our appreciation and inspire more awe about the deep sacredness of everything.
Our growing knowledge also should inspire us to find better ways to care for the environment and for each other.
Unfortunately, many people have tried to separate science and the sacred over the centuries. They’ve constructed an imaginary wall between religious belief and scientific method, when in fact the two are meant to work together and lead us forward.
Much of the responsibility for this problem falls upon self-described religious people. Over the centuries, they deemed science a threat rather than an aid.
Meant to work together
They rejected the truth that the universe is billions of years old, the Earth is round, and the sun – not our planet – is the center of the solar system. They insisted people got sick not because of germs and unsanitary practices, but because they were being punished by God.
Science’s discoveries upended those ideas and opened ways for new ones. Religion tried to close the door and cling to old, inaccurate ways of thinking. Religion lost its way.
Science has lost its way as well. In response to the antagonism of religious leaders, many scientists pushed faith away entirely, declaring that it has nothing to say to their pursuit of understanding.
Ironically, science has fallen into the same trap, allowing itself to be twisted and misused by the rich, the powerful and the self-interested. Often, science has cast its lot with those who seek bigger profits at the expense of all else.
Scientists signed on with tobacco companies that would bury any findings about the danger of their products and prevent researchers from speaking out and saving lives. Oil companies use scientists to advance their interests, regardless how the planet is affected.
Science sold its soul to the highest bidder, just as religion sold its soul for a place at the table of power. We need to reform both of them.
Needing each other
Real faith will challenge scientists to work for the good of all people and all creation. Real science will guide our faith into a deeper understanding of creation and ways to serve one another.
We need faith and science unshackled from those who pervert and misuse them. We need an active curiosity about creation and meaningful encounters with the Creator.
Science and religion are complementary, two sides of one thing. Science seeks to understand how creation works. Religion tries to provide an experience of how the creator works.
Both are limited by human understanding – we’ll never fully grasp the universe or the One who made it. In their inexact ways, science and religion are meant to lead the way in bringing us new, helpful insights.
Science without religion? Religion without science? Neither way works. That’s like thinking we can have creation without a creator, God without love, or a firefly without bioluminescent light.
They always go together. We try to separate them at our peril.