Composing and comprised of

2011-05-14 18.36.08

“Science takes things apart to see how they work; religion puts things together to see what they mean.”

 

-Rabbi Sacks

 

In general, the approach of science has been to take things apart in order to understand how each part works. Tissues and cells are taken out of the body and studied in isolated systems. Even specific proteins are extracted from cells to study how they interact with individual proteins outside of any outside interference. Data is compiled and then analyzed from many angles to try and delineate meaning.

 

True, some fields such as epidemiology study large systems, but even in these fields the basic line of reasoning has been to take apart complicated systems and organisms to isolate and study individual elements.

 

Perhaps the most concerning implication of this approach is the underlying premise that an organism, including people, are only the sum of their parts.

 

Conversely, the general approach of religion has been holistic, inclusive, and focused on the system or whole organism. The closest that most faiths have to investigating the components making up to the individual is to speak vaguely and generally about the “essence” of an individual, such as that making up the spirit or soul.

 

Perhaps the most concerning implication of this approach is the seeming indifference to the role components making up a system.

 

Perhaps this is why both faith and science are important: providing a varied approach to understanding who we are, what we are, and why we are here. Alone scientific or religious explanation is inadequate. Accepted as complementary, they can become a powerful tool for understanding our place in the universe.

 

To provide an example, consider a car. We must be concerned both with the components and the car in its entirety to get a good understanding of the purpose and capabilities of the car. Components tell us how the brakes facilitate stopping of the car, how the accelerator is tied to increasing speed, and how the steering wheel moves the front tires. However the components cannot tell us how it will feel to drive the car or much about the inventor of the car. For an understanding of these, they require personal experience behind the wheel and an interaction with the inventor. As J. Lennox reasons, one cannot say that either Henry Ford or the combustion engine are responsible for the car; rather both Henry Ford and the combustion engine are responsible for the car.

 

Using faith and science in tandem as powerful mechanisms of pursuing truth, we can better understand our role and our place in the grand scope of the universe and the astounding adventure of human life.

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