Two weeks in a row now God has made it into the pages of Time magazine. You’d think he was Rick Perry or something (no insult to God intended). This week’s Commentary, written by Harvard physicist Lisa Randall, argues for the importance of believing what science forces us to conclude. The world is warming up, ice caps are melting, and those in low-lying regions are in hot water. I am fully in agreement with her sentiments, but it’s the practicality that bothers me. Not the practicality of listening to science—that’s just common sense—but the practicality of doing so in a world where religion reigns. Despite cries of oppression and suppression and repression—just about any pression you choose—religions dominate the world. What particular brand you prefer does not matter; the fact is most people are religious. Randall believes that religion and science must learn to live together. Her problem is that she is looking at it rationally.
Science has given us excellent leads on tracing the origins of religion itself. Between psychology, anthropology, sociology, and biology we’ve got a fair idea how religion came about. The same brain that shows us the way, however, has evolved with religion still intact. In short, it has learned to accept the unlearned. With our brains acting like dogs chasing their own tails, is it any wonder that as a species we are confused? We see only what we choose to. In the great, artificial landscape of Manhattan many very wealthy people traverse the streets. Every day I see suits that would cost my entire paycheck casually strolling up Madison Avenue. I also see the beggars in the same doorways day after day, blending in with their surroundings. The solution of choice is to pretend they aren’t there, to not accept the evidence of our eyes. The wealthy have a knack for it, it seems. And when they work their way into politics their vision doesn’t improve much.
The problem that Randall points out is very real and deadly serious. Trouble is, those who pretend not to see are among the best actors on the planet. Faced with incontrovertible evidence the rational mind has no choice but to acquiesce. Religion, however, offers the perfect escape clause. If global warming discomforts you too much try fanning yourself with a Bible. Soon the excess degrees will simply melt away. And when the religious enemies of science find themselves sitting on the ocean floor like the victims of the Titanic, they too will have the satisfaction of knowing that they were privileged above all people for the time they had on earth. Everyone wins. The insatiably greedy and the abjectly poor both share a spot on an overheated planet. And if the pattern holds true we’ll evolve eyes to read under water, along with our gills, so that we can continue to read our waterlogged Bibles to find out what’s coming next.