Atheists for Jesus, or Really a Debate Over Whether Religion and Science Can Get Along

Over the past two days, NPR’s Fresh Air has devot­ed two pro­grams to inter­ro­gat­ing whether reli­gion and sci­ence can co-exist. On Wednes­day, air time was first giv­en to Richard Dawkins, the famed Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty schol­ar of evo­lu­tion who, with his recent pub­li­ca­tion of The God Delu­sion, has launched a vig­or­ous defense of athe­ism. As you could well imag­ine, Dawkins (iTunesfeedstream) is hard­ly will­ing to make accom­mo­da­tions for reli­gion, and he’s com­fort­able liv­ing in a world where Dar­win­ist thought solves prob­lems that reli­gion itself usu­al­ly tries to sort out — that is, the basic hows and whys of exis­tence. It has been said that Dawkins comes off as being as zeal­ous in his athe­ism as his reli­gious coun­ter­parts are in their faith. But no mat­ter how you look at him, you have to admire his abil­i­ty to make an art­ful argu­ment .… and also his sense of humor. Yes, he claims half in jest to wear an “Athe­ists for Jesus” t‑shirt. (See a pho­to here.)

Next, on Thurs­day, Ter­ry Gross invit­ed Fran­cis Collins (iTunesfeedstream) onto the show. Collins is a geneti­cist, and not just any one. He is cur­rent­ly the direc­tor of the Nation­al Human Genome Research Project, and he most notably led a team that cracked the human genome back in 2000. He is also an evan­gel­i­cal Chris­t­ian, and, again, not just your aver­age one in that he accepts the valid­i­ty of evo­lu­tion. Hav­ing recent­ly pub­lished a new work, The Lan­guage of God: A Sci­en­tist Presents Evi­dence for Belief, Collins is sub­tly look­ing to steer a mid­dle course, to find ways to let reli­gion and sci­ence co-exist and not let the one under­mine the integri­ty of the oth­er. How well the argu­ments hang togeth­er is an open ques­tion. But it’s nonethe­less gen­uine­ly inter­est­ing to hear how he’s think­ing things through. And cer­tain­ly it’s worth lis­ten­ing to Dawkins and Collins’ inter­views side by side. This is NPR at its best, and, yes, I’d gen­tly chal­lenge one of our read­ers to find any­thing on Fox News that’s on an equal­ly intel­li­gent plane. (See the user com­ments at the bot­tom of this page.)

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