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 (iTunes – feed – stream) 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 (iTunes – feed – stream) 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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