If you’ve never listened to a Podcast, well let me make a recommendation. Talk of the Nation’s Science Friday, on NPR, began releasing their shows in Podcast (mp3’s) a few weeks ago. I grew up watching Ira Flatow on Newton’s Apple, and I love getting to listen to the grown up version today. Well, last week’s show, was two hours devoted to discussing Science and Religion. I had a couple of posts last week on Religion (one of which was worth reading), so this seemed somewhat timely for me.
The first hour was with three physicists (a Presbyterian, a (hardcore) atheist, and a Hindu) and a Roman Catholic theologian. This was the most responsible conversation on the topic of the duality of science and religion that I have ever heard. After speaking to their individual backgrounds in personal religion, they dealt with the obvious question: is the question actually science versus religion, or do they co-exist? They all go on to discuss the roles of religion and science in personal choices as well as society. One of the most enlightening discussion is on the answer to questions on “why?” I even found the individuals who called into the show as contributing a great deal to the discussion (which is so rare, even on a show I respect as much as Science Friday).
The second half of the show is dedicated to how religion effects the ethics of science and to what extent it should play a role in the process. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are all represented. Further (and at least one of the guests speaks to this), the discussion is put forth in the framework of wanting to discover and understand. The arguments that science is somehow inherently evil are all kept very much to a minimum here, which is refreshing. It’s a shame to see that somehow coverage of that attitude is representative of being fair and balanced.
My favorite part, I think, came from not one of the scientists, but from the theology professor, who described “layered explanations”, in getting to the why. His simple analogy is this: a pot of water boiling on the stove. Science explains the boiling as excited molecules. However, stepping back, the water is boiling because one turned on the stove. From an even wider perspective, this is because the individual wanted a cup of tea. This explanation reminds me of the (very wonderful) Powers of Ten book, which also is all about perspective. The guest concludes that religion and science are not at odds, as they do not work at the same level. The why to which they speak are not the same, even for the same phenomenon. This wonderfully encapsulates a portion of my own world view. I would personally describe the two at perfect right angles: overlapping, but not opposing.
This isn’t to say that I agree with all of the guests or callers, as I most certainly don’t. However, their discussion is enlightened and refreshing in the age of cable TV shouting heads. If you want to see just how cool podcasting can be, and listen to some great conversation on some profound topics, take a couple of hours in your car or at work and listen.
Until iTunes 4.9 is available, you should use iPodder to grab your podcast feeds. Get iPodder 4 here and find the Science Friday Podcast here. I also subscribe to SciFi Wire, Engadget, and Make Magazine podcasts, if you’re interested.