Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM


BRYAN, Jonathan R., Natural Sciences, Northwest Florida State College, 100 College Blvd, Niceville, FL 32578,

Nearly twelve years teaching Issues in Science and Religion has resulted in a method that seems to help students develop a worldview that takes seriously both the empirical discoveries and theories of science, and the imperatives for personal and metaphysical answers to questions which science is incapable of providing. Most discussions of science-religion or creation-evolution are stuck in the rut of using one to discredit or intimidate the other. But the most fundamental problem is the conceptual difficulty in making any meaningful links between the insistent methodological naturalism of science, and an equally stubborn religious impulse that rightfully resists the implications of a thoroughgoing materialistic philosophy (scientism).

The course has three parts: (1) introductory and historical issues; (2) survey of major discoveries and theories in science that inform and challenge religious belief; and (3) the meta-scientific vision of religion, using the work of Mircea Eliade as a centerpiece (The Sacred and the Profane). Eliade takes religious experience at face value (does not explain it away), noting the commonality of numinous experience, and the idea of the sacred or the holy, to all religious belief and practice. This is enormously helpful because these otherwise religious experiences are operative at some level in all human intercourse. To illustrate, objects (an heirloom, an American flag, a Crucifix), actions (a handshake, a salute, a baptism), and words (“I love you…”, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”, “This is my body…this is my blood…”), are objectively pointless (“profane”) unless they are understood and believed to be the carriers of real (not illusory) and irreducible meaning, value, or beauty. They are material manifestations of transcendent realities (“sacred”).

Nature must likewise be so endowed if it is to have religious meaning. Because scientific explanations cannot address immaterial qualities, they are incomplete, and therefore too simple. A fuller account is needed of our world and experience. Unless a compelling connection can be made between nature and spirit, the dualistic debates will never end.