By Haden Ringel
One afternoon while driving, I heard a news story on the radio about individuals encouraging scientists within the evangelical community to actively connect the disparate worlds of religion and science. Not coming from a religious background myself, I struggled to understand how anyone could identify as both a scientist and a religious adherent. Personally, I have never understood the conflict between science and religion. To me, they exist in different spheres and serve altogether different purposes. Science relies on facts; religion on faith.
Due to these fundamental differences, today’s societal problems require trusting science and employing empirical evidence, data and logic to reach appropriate public policy solutions. Although some feel religion offers a broader worldview, I ultimately conclude a faith-based framework fails to answer contemporary inquiries and should not be stretched to do so.
Historically, a prominent conflict between religion and science is evolution. Darwin’s theories regarding natural selection directly contradicted the creationist teachings of most religions whose foundational precept is that God is the divine instrument responsible for all natural phenomena. From the Scopes trial almost a century ago to the Kitzmiller trial establishing that intelligent design is a religious teaching only 15 years ago, the United States continues to fight these issues.
The ongoing debate between evolution and creationism proves the contrast between the types of questions and concerns religion and science each appropriately answer. To me, faith fundamentally fails to explain the details and the nuance of the larger questions of the universe and or existence in it. Science explains how things work inside this larger framework; religion helps us examine philosophical and existential concepts of being. I trust science over faith because its rigorous standards of hypothesis, proof and conclusion represent a logical way to think about and try to solve our many intractable modern problems. While I can conceive of religion and science coexisting to answer different questions, ultimately, I believe we must champion a scientific and rational worldview for the resolution of public policy. Religion has its place, but not as a means of dictating policy preferences or outcomes. In the end, I can respect or be friends with someone who believes in creationism, but that does not mean it should be taught in public schools or used as an argument to support political goals. Rigorous enforcement of the separation between church and state and a reliance on science represent the only effective means of furthering a fair, just and humane society for all Americans.
Haden, 17, is from Denver and attends the University of Chicago. “I have always had a keen interest in politics and government,” Haden writes. “I worked on a campaign for governor in Colorado and then interned for a senator in the Colorado state Senate. I also paralleled my political interests with corresponding legal interests and participated in my school’s Constitutional Law Team and served as a student attorney at a local Teen Court.”