Faith, Reason, and Unreason

My second semester in college, I took an Honors Program class titled “Thought and Science.” Another appropriate name for this class would have been “The Philosophy of Science.” The class focused mostly on the philosophical underpinnings of the scientific method, how it works, and some of the common problems (such as researcher bias, which can even be unintentional).

Towards the end of the semester, we got onto the topic of pseudosciences and the difference between a pseudoscience and actual science. During this discussion, our professor, Dr. Holt, spent a lot of time discussing evolution and the debate over evolution and literal 7-day creationism. His lectures were fascinating, and I found much of what he said quite compelling and informative. I came out of his class with a much better appreciation for science and evolutionary theory even though I was a creationist at the time.

The most memorable event in the class took place during our lab period of the semester. During that lab, Dr. Holt decided to talk about and demonstrate the things that he felt made humans stand out from the rest of the animals: culture and art. He brought in a tape of various styles of music — most of them traditional songs from around the globe. When the second song began, he mentioned that there was a traditional belt dance that was associated with this new song. He then proceeded to demonstrate that dance.

We spent the next hour watching our professor — who had spent the previous few months educating us about observation, inductive reasoning, and many similar topics — perform and talk about several different dances from various parts of the world. It was a fascinating and amazing class, one that had a strikingly different tone from the rest of the semester’s lessons.

The main idea that I took from that experience and have since expanded upon from that point is that there is more to this world than science and what can be observed and rationally dissected through it’s methods. I learned that science can explain the interaction between light and atmospheric particles that create a colorful sunset, but it takes a poet’s soul to be able to express the sense of awe and beauty that comes from watching it. Some things about the human experience move beyond the rational and are even irrational at times. These things are by definition beyond science.

To me, religion encompasses the rational, the trans-rational, and even the irrational. In effect, it brings together and sums up the entire realm of human experience. This is something that science cannot do.

At its best, religion builds upon science. It takes the observations and rational explanations of science and merges them with the wonder of emotional and spiritual experience.

This post is part of an interfaith synchroblog on the topic of religion and science. Please check out the other participants’ contributions to this event:

5 thoughts on “Faith, Reason, and Unreason”

  1. Jared – loved the illustration about your teacher – it made me think that whether it is science or religion we need to look beyond the obvious. I often find that many religious people see facts and precepts and principles but miss the beauty. And on that note I also believe that there is so much beauty to be seen through science. Perhaps we should be looking at both science and religion with poet’s eyes.

    I am leaving here and going to add your link to my synchroblog post.

  2. Oops I was going to contribute to this synchroblog but I have too much to say on the topic, having just done a dissertation on it, and I don’t want to give my research results away before publication. Also I haven’t been following the mailing list so didn’t see the announcements / reminders.

  3. Thanks, Liz. And I totally agree with you about viewing science through the eyes of a poet — though preferably not while actively conducting scientific research. 😉

  4. Yewtree: Steve and I both wondered what happened to you. Your absence was quite disappointing, especially considering the topic was your suggestion. 😉

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