In a surprise move, the 2000 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion was recently awarded to Freeman Dyson - a physicist. Never in its 28-year history has the highest award for "advancing the understanding of God or spirituality" been given to a scientist. In one book, Dyson wrote, "Religion lies closer to the heart of human nature and has a wider currency than science."
No doubt many have questioned the Templeton group's decision. But it should raise the question among both theologians and scientists as to the legitimacy of retaining firm boundaries between two fundamental perspectives on the nature of life itself. Is it possible that, in their purest forms, science and religion aren't as far apart as originally thought?
Viewing religion and science as not mutually exclusive may lead to increasing a person's commitment to the Ten Commandments (see Ex. 20:3-17) and the Beatitudes (see Matt. 5:3-12). These have to do with rules of conduct that constitute God's law in action. One definition of law is "that which governs or has a tendency to rule; that which has the power of controlling."
Along these lines, consider how differently most people practice a science, as opposed to a religion. In the case of chemistry, we insist on precision in a laboratory experiment for fear of inconclusive results. We likely take solace in knowing the laws that govern the experiment can be trusted. Yet, in the case of religion, we often attempt to gain the approval of a God who is perceived as somewhat fickle. We too often flippantly excuse our digressions from His law with comments such as, "I'll try harder next time," or "A person has got to have some vices." This sets aside the Commandments and Beatitudes as archaic or as in direct conflict with our freedom.
Yet, there are great benefits to each of us in following God's law, a law that is farther-reaching and more powerful than any physical law. Central to a connection between science and religion is a view of God as divine Principle, rather than as humanlike. If one views God in human terms, he or she limits God's capacity. However, if God is seen to be infinite Principle, then God has no limits or boundaries. And it is incumbent on the individual to prove the existence of that Principle, just as he or she would in science.
This is really easier than it might seem. The divine Principle is Love itself (see I John, chap. 4), and it follows that when one truly loves, expansively and inclusive of all humanity, he or she is living according to the law of God. Thus, one is proving or demonstrating the Principle called Love practically.
Dyson is one in a long line of thinkers to explore the relationship between science and religion. The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, gave careful consideration to the interconnectedness between the two, particularly as it pertains to Christianity. In her most important book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she wrote: "It has been said, and truly, that Christianity must be Science, and Science must be Christianity, else one or the other is false and useless; but neither is unimportant or untrue, and they are alike in demonstration. This proves the one to be identical with the other. Christianity as Jesus taught it was not a creed, nor a system of ceremonies, nor a special gift from a ritualistic Jehovah; but it was the demonstration of divine Love casting out error and healing the sick, not merely in the name of Christ, or Truth, but in demonstration of Truth, as must be the case in the cycles of divine light" (pg. 135).
The most recent Templeton prize helps keep the door open to a debate that should serve all parties well. Both science and religion will gain in credibility and substance through recognition of their inseparable relationship.
O Lord, thou hast searched me,
and known me.... Thou hast
beset me behind and before,
and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful
for me; it is high, I cannot
attain unto it.
Psalms 139:1, 5, 6
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society