In the fall, I led a course for high school students to read, discuss and study issues related to science and religion. They all read excerpts of Krista Tippett’s book Einstein’s God: Conversations about Science and the Human Spirit.
And over the course of the semester, we read and discussed the words of a lot of contemporary scientists, talking about such things as the relationship between body and mind, body and soul, the relationship between evolution and religious traditions, the limits of mathematics and science, and many other topics.
I was interested to know from all of these students whether and how the experience of doing this with their peers has changed, perhaps challenged, their views on science and religion, which are often seen to be antagonistic to one another.
So here are our teenagers, sharing about the effects of this class, and how it influenced them.View Transcript
Well, in the past, I’ve really tended to think that science and religion were pretty separate concepts. Science tends to believe in the Big Bang, and Adam and Eve was a religious concept, and those were pretty antithetical, in my view. But now we talked about Deism, and different views on how God affects the earth and our planet, and I really can see that the way that Albert Einstein thought about God, among other scientists, is a really important way to be able to reconcile these two concepts, and that maybe God is in everything. And maybe God and science are really one and the same, and that their forces combine to create the world as we know it today.
My name is Ryan Graffman. So before taking this class, I believed that science was one entity and religion was another one, and that they kind of had bridges and similarities, and they crossed in certain aspects, but in general, they were very different. But after this semester taking this course, I’ve learned a lot, and now I realize that instead of being two separate entities, I really think that they’re, while not the same, deeply rooted within each other.
I’m Avital. Before studying this book and before studying in this class, I thought that the mind and spirit were two completely separate things. I thought that the mind was more scientific and the spirit was more religious. But after reading one of the chapters in the book, I saw that the mind and spirit are actually connected and do work together.
My name is Max E. Friedland. So before taking the class, I had imagined religion and science as two completely separate entities. But I also imagined that people who discussed them to be kind of on opposite sides of disagreement. But after reading many chapters and getting the viewpoints from a scientist, I realized how, like, a full understanding of both concepts, where [each side] lacks, you can fill in with the other, and you kind of make a more complete picture, so when you only, you know, devote yourself to listening to the ideas of science, there are a lot of gaps you can’t explain that, maybe, possibly, there’s a list of people that have a more religious viewpoint that you can fill in. Then you can share answers and overall other come together and complete each other’s pictures of the world.
Hello, I’m Josh Ezra. So it’s common belief that religion and science are two separate things entirely, and that there are people who believe that science explains the world, and that there are people who believe that religion explains the world. However, after I took this class I realized that both science and religion explain separate aspects of the world, and science can explain what can be explained, and what can’t be explained can be understood via religion – that there are some things that are just so great and so powerful and so mysterious that we don’t understand them right now, and we may never understand them.
Hi, my name is Alisa Waxman. And I feel like, originally, I felt that science and religion didn’t have a connection. Well, they do come to similar conclusions. For example, how the world came to to be – the ending conclusion is the same. But I feel like they don’t have a connection. I feel like it can be complicated, and that somewhat, maybe, can coincidentally interact, but I feel like they are very different.
(This post is part of Sinai and Synapses’ project Scientists in Synagogues, a grass-roots program to offer Jews opportunities to explore the most interesting and pressing questions surrounding Judaism and science. This post is from Temple Israel Center, a Conservative Congregation in White Plains, NY).