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Combine religion and science in education

Kristen Larsen | Tuesday, November 21, 2006

In 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik into space, sparking a fierce space race that pushed the United States towards further scientific development and advancement. Unfortunately, this effort has lost momentum throughout the past five decades. This is evident in falling math and science scores, resulting in our country being ranked below average on various international tests.

Who ranks first you ask? Japan and Singapore, in both math and science and throughout all grade levels. There are various reasons that can explain the decline in math/science skills in America, including an overall lack of ambition in the States to adhere to the strict discipline forced on East Asian students. However, instead of trying to concern ourselves with the discipline level in our schools, I think we should focus on the status that religion has in our society.

Like in many cultures, religion in America has a large effect on many aspects of life. Encouraged by the family, it instills many of the values and morals that people will exercise with all their lives. However, it seems that religious fervor in America is decreasing along with our math/science skills, something that is easily forgotten in such a spiritual atmosphere as Notre Dame. This is evident in the slipping church attendance rates, with less than a fifth of the population attending weekly. Many have noted that those who do claim to go to church just do so on religious holidays. This is unacceptable, especially when one considers what a strong faith can contribute to one’s education.

We can no longer consider religion and science as being mutually exclusive; rather, we must recognize that they support each other, as Pope John Paul II said, “like two wings on which the human spirit rises to contemplation of the truth.” The intellect is the most godlike aspect of humanity and one that honors God through the vigorous exercise of the mind. One must study the book of scripture, but also the book of nature, as God’s plan is evident in both of these resources. Faith reveals the questions in which we look to reason for the answers. Therefore, in strengthening one’s faith, one will also be more motivated to inquire into the wonderful world that God has made.

For this reason, I am proud to be a student here at Notre Dame, “a place,” as Father Jenkins would say, “of higher learning that plays host to world-changing teaching and research, but where technical knowledge does not outrun moral wisdom.”