Spirituality for Today – July 2013 – Volume 17, Issue 12

Apples To Oranges

Rev. Raymond Petrucci

A photo of green apples and an orange

Soon after Barak Obama was elected president, he announced that he intended to put science in its "rightful place." Just what place is that? It appears that he wants that place to be above ethics and religion. We have seen the Catholic Church targeted in a number of governmental policy decisions. Questions of First Amendment violations and limitations on religious liberty have brought religious leaders before congressional committees and sent laity and clergy alike scurrying to the gates of the White House to protest administration policies. Is it fair to drag scientific investigation into the political arena? Too often science is forced to be at the beck-and-call of politicians as well as corporate advertisers. We all have heard the phrase, "Scientific studies" reveal or suggest this or that about some product. The pressure placed on scientists to "prove" that some product accomplishes what a particular political party or a major corporation wants to hear is enormous. Over 80% of studies published in renowned scientific journals have had to be modified or removed. Too much is expected from scientific theorists and their thoughts wrongfully are employed by those with an agenda. This point is illustrated by these excerpts from Christopher Clausen's article [The Wilson Quarterly, September, 2012], Left, Right, and Science:

Nobody disputes that both sperm and ovum are alive and human as their hosts. The moral question of the stage at which a fetus becomes entitled to the legal protections accorded human beings has no possible scientific answer. These examples betray a common instinct to use science as an assault weapon in political combat even when it really has little or nothing to say.

And further:

But the controversy of over birth control and health insurance has little to do with scientific questions. It involves differing convictions about religious freedom, sexual behavior, and government control over personal or medical decisions. Similarly, when Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius overruled a Food and Drug Administration recommendation last December that the "morning-after pill" be made available without prescription to girls younger than 17, both she and the FDA couched their disagreement in scientific terms, though the issues were really moral and political. Scientists are no more qualified to pronounce on these matters than anyone else, and to believe otherwise is to confuse different realms of thought.

Fair or unfair, scientific research will continue to be used to bolster claims about a product or to validate a particular political party's ideology. Albert Einstein felt that religion and science had benefits for each other and can help each other in proclaiming truth and morality. I would suggest that the God-given gifts of mind and spirit join in helping improve the state of the human condition. Therefore, comparing science and religion might be like comparing apples to oranges, but together they would make an interesting fruit salad.