In 1925 something happened, and to quote General Maximus, “what we do in life echoes in eternity“, and it is certainly true for this American life—that something was The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, otherwise known as The Scopes Trial or the Scopes Monkey Trial. For the sake of brevity, I am going to assume that you all passed American History in High School and not provide any sort of detailed accounting. Suffice to say that a school teacher, John Thomas Scopes, violated what was called the Butler Act in the state of Tennessee and was brought to trial, setting the stage for the creation vs. evolution debate to take a place of prominence in the American civil discourse from then on. In a sense, this is at the heart of the cultural/epistemological wars. What they were missing then and many still miss today is the difference between the narrative of existence and the scientific explanation of what is before us.
As preparatory, here are two definitions:
The systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
For the this purpose, the grand story of existence.
Narrative knowledge produces a prescriptive impulse whereas the form that scientific knowledge embodies is fundamentally denotative. Though science can tell us the what, it can never move from empirical to moral. Science will always fail to tell us the why and the what for of existence, only the moral or prescriptive narrative can provide that. Thus science/fact is unable to create a cognitive matrix on it’s own that explains it’s own existence. So science, real science, is inherently non-religious, neither for or against, because science can produce no ethical impulse. Because the why is the narrative. The empirical only substantiates or disproves belief and or speaks ontologically when contextualized by the narrative. Science can never give you the why because it then would move from the descriptive to the prescriptive, from the empirical to the religious. That is why atheism is as religious as theism. Both purport to explain what is back behind what is.
But, and there always is a but, we mustn’t allow ourselves to imply or propagate the belief that the empirical can be found in the narrative in an embryonic state; there is no proto-science within the creation/fall/redemption narrative; science does not find itself subjugated to the narrative as its source of meaning as a practicum, but rather as the handmaid to the story. It is only when science attempts to become the narrative that it loses it’s legitimacy The real, modern tension between science and religion, Christianity specifically, arises when they are illegitimately juxtaposed and, being found insufficient to the task, are unnaturally inflated in order to achieve hegemonic status. It is only when they are seen concursive elements in the engagement of the creational and the revelational can they create a dramaturgical picture of existence that does not rely so much on paradox or Faith or Reason, as the common agreement of interaction.
Christianity and science are not at odds and they are only made to be when, well meaning but extreme, fundamentalist, both Christians and Atheists, abuse and confuse their claims in the dramaturgy of what is. Science is not liberating nor redemptive and Christianity, which is both liberating and redemptive, was not and is not intended or sufficient as an empirical compendium or encyclopedia. That I believe one is intrinsically more necessary than the other goes without saying and is the topic for another time.