« Who Lost Iraq? | Main | Irreligious Intolerance? »

December 2, 2006

Religion and Science -- 8

Richard A. Shweder, writing in the New York Times, notes triumphantly that:

Science has not replaced religion.

If he means that lots of people in the world still attend mosques or churches, including even some people in Paris, well okay. It's true: Belief in God, has declined dramatically in Western Europe and certain other cosmopolitan redoubts, but it remains undead. And in some places -- southern Afghanistan, the White House -- it is frighteningly vibrant.

But it is absurd to claim that there hasn't been an astounding switch among much of humanity from religious explanations of the universe, of life, of disease (including mental disease), of human purpose -- a switch that has occurred since Copernicus, since Newton, since Jefferson, since Darwin, since penicillin, since Einstein, since education rates have skyrocketed and information technologies have flourished. No these lesson may not have sunk in yet in Kandahar or the West Wing, but even lots of churchgoers now believe the earth revolves around the sun and we descended from monkeys.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at December 2, 2006 11:23 AM


I'm recalling reading Matthew Arnold's _Culture and Anarchy_ in grad school reading this post. Arnold, responding to the rise of the working class in 19th century England by fearing the loss of the 'glue' of common culture based on religion, as science and industrialization (and more education for those who had been easily led by the elite) eroded those religious values, attempted to establish literature as the new social 'glue.' This was the birth of the literary canon -- that only the 'best that has been thought and said in the world' should be the subject of education, to instill 'proper' morals and responsibilities as citizens, etc. This was, in other words, the dawning of the importance of narrative (have commented in a different thread on this more extensively) as the stabilizing structure for the Anglo-American tradition. No surprise that it did not take root in western Europe to the same degree, no surprise either that the power of narrative was challenged much earlier in France etc. through deconstruction, post-structuralist theory, etc. As usual, America is playing catch up...

Posted by: JM at December 3, 2006 12:36 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)