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The Exhilarating Connection Between Science and Religion

by Chet Raymo

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8027-1338-6
Publisher: Walker

Another in the recent spate of arguments that scientists and theologians should pay attention to each other, by a latter-day Deist. Boston Globe science columnist Raymo (Virgin and the Mousetrap, 1991; Honey from Stone, 1987) joins fellow authors John Polkinghorne, Ken Wilbur, and Gerald Schroeder, among others, in tackling the subtle and often strained relationship of science and religion. Raymo’s scientific arguments do not approach the likes of Polkinghorne, whom he quotes freely, and his contributions to religion are even more trite. Raymo relies heavily on anecdotes, avoiding the abstract jargon of some science writers. He considers himself a skeptic (his opposing categories of —Skeptic— and —True Believer— are a bit too neatly dichotomous); the God that Raymo feels most comfortable with is one who doesn—t disturb the natural laws of science. Raymo should realize that he has embraced Deism, a fashionable intellectual position of the late 18th century. Discussing the Ebola virus, for example, Raymo credits the abatement of the outbreak to the intervention of medical personnel, not to the prayers of the Belgian nuns standing by. Fair enough, but Raymo wants to argue that God never performs miracles, stating that —God has no role in the micromanagement of viruses and bacteria.— What is even more deistic is the God he offers in the place of the miracle-worker: the distant creator. Like the famous watchmaker, Raymo’s God set the universe in motion, then left it to its own devices. So while Raymo sensibly attacks biblical creationists, UFO enthusiasts, and relic-obsessed Marianists—easy targets all—he fails to offer anything substantive in their stead. It’s too bad Raymo wastes his energetic prose on such hackneyed notions and that for him the two disciplines can only coexist if religion is the handmaiden and science the master.