Courtesy of Cornell University

Professor David Lodge, ecology, was the speaker who concluded the Cornell Climate Change Seminar Series on Monday afternoon.

May 9, 2017

Rise of Christendom ‘Enhanced’ Science, Professor Says

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“Why bring up religion in polite scientific company?”

Dr. David Lodge from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Climate sought to answer this question during his seminar on the intersection of science and religion.

Throughout his presentation for the Cornell Climate Change Seminar, Lodge stressed that examining scientific processes through a religious lens is neither a novel concept nor necessarily controversial.

“Science at best paints the perimeter,” Lodge said. “But around the information that science provides, if you want to think about policy that might help mitigate or adapt climate change, there’s going to have to be a lot more at the table than merely scientific information.”

The idea that scientific thought is “threatening” to Christian tradition — or that there is an “inexorable” rift between science and religion — is a  more recent and “uniquely American” phenomenon, he claimed.

Lodge specifically pointed to A.D. White, the co-founder of Cornell, as one person who helped widen this rift. Criticizing White’s  perspective for being too simplistic, Lodge said White saw theology and science in “absolute conflict.”

“It’s much more complicated than that, and that of course there have been many conflicts that were framed in religious terms,” Lodge said. “But there have also been many times, as many historians have documented, when the rise of Christendom actually enhanced the development of science.”

Arguing that religion should not be seen as anti-science, Lodge said that Christianity can be used to promote social consciousness about topics like climate change when framed as a component of religious responsibility.

Elaborating on this point, he referred to Pope Francis’ Encyclical regarding climate change, a papal letter sent to the Catholic Church in 2015. Paraphrasing the Pope’s  argument, Lodge said, “The common good, does not just include all the people who are alive now, it also includes the people who will be alive in the future” and that “nature has value independent of humans.”

Lodge asserted that because of this intersection, scientists and religious activists alike can come together to formulate the policy that is urgently needed in the face of climate change.

“We have to engage in ways that understand and recognize where other people are coming from,” Lodge said. “And so it’s possible, I think, to reach the dialogue that would lead to increased understanding, which I think will lead to more realistic policy conversations.”