These days, the Enlightenment project finds itself in a tense cultural competition with religion. Go around the US and ask, “how did we come to be?” and you will get different answers. Some, appealing to science and reason, the children of the Enlightenment, will look to evolution for answers. Others, with a religious bent, will refer you to the Bible or intelligent design — which is another way of saying, God is behind it all.
Is the Enlightenment
project nearing an end? Can science and reason eventually reassert themselves, perhaps as powerfully as religion recently has? Or, can science and religion at least co-exist and address different questions?
Earlier this month, an impressive list of scientists and philosophers got together at the Salk Institute for a conference called, “Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival.” The presenters ranged from Richard Dawkins (Oxford’s well-known evolution theorist), to Joan Roughgarden (a Stanford professor who recently wrote Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist), to Craig Venter (who helped decode the human genome). Thanks to The Science Network, the so-called “C‑SPAN of science,” you can watch the videos of the different conference presentations for free online. (Note: To watch the videos, you’ll need QuickTime. If you don’t have it, you can download it for free here.)