Thursday, August 5, 2021

New Atheism

***Editor’s Note: This story has been revised due to a misquote April 5.***

When a student hears the phrase “quantum physics,” a person might not associate it with religion.

Award-winning columnist, minister, peace activist and expert on progressive Christianity Robin Meyers will give this year’s Cron Lecture on the impact of scientific discoveries on our understanding of God April 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Newman Center.

The Cron Lecture Series has been a tradition since 1997 that has brought nationally-renowned scholars to the Plattsburgh State campus for guest lectures, class sessions and studies on topics of religion and culture.

This year, Meyers will take on quantum physics and the complexity theory and explore the idea that everything is connected in some way, as well as the impact of new atheism.

New atheism is a social and political movement that began in the early 2000s that promoted the idea that religion should challenged and criticized, according to an article by CNN.com.

With the Cron Lecture approaching, PSUC students will be challenged to think about the conflict between science and religion.

PSUC Anthropology Assistant Professor Gillian Crane-Kramer said there has been a history of conflict between science and religion.

“The majority of people who believe in a higher being have reconciled their faith with modern science in this way,” she said. “The exception to that rule are a minority of religious practitioners who believe in literalism.”

Religious literalism is the view that the contents of each religious text should be seen as the literal truth, as opposed to being interpreted as allegory, literature or mythology, according to Dictionary.com. Crane-Kramer said if people believe in the literal translation of the Bible, the Quran or any other sacred text, their interpretation doesn’t correlate with many assertions of modern science, such as the Big Bang Theory, evolution by natural selection or an Earth that is 4.6 billion years old.

“If you, for example, believe in a higher power, higher than you are, most scientists would say they don’t have a problem reconciling belief with science or, in particular, the theory of evolution… or the Big Bang Theory,” she said.

She said most people can compromise ideas of science and religion unless they believe in literalism.

Crane-Kramer said that these practitioners cannot separate the difference between science and religion, and they are typically in the minority. However, she said this group is vocal to the point where the minority seem bigger than it actually is.

“These students have an obligation to reflect on how these two realms of knowledge impact upon their lives, and that it is essential that they allow these to be two complementary and important realms of knowledge that are not in competition with each other,” she said.

Crane-Kramer said many students come from religious backgrounds and encourages all students to attend the Cron Lecture.

“Our students can be people of faith,” she said. “However, they must also live in the modern world and are the futures of the sciences.”

PSUC junior biology major Laura Garcia is Catholic, and she said her religion isn’t normally discussed in the classroom. She said she doesn’t like mixing religion with school in general.

“I feel uncomfortable talking about religion because not everyone is from the same religion, so everyone has their own opinions and views,” Garcia said.

During her sophomore year, Garcia took an evolution class that opened her mind further than her Catholic belief. She said she had to read a book, and it explained how evolution was what made the world.

“When you read the bible, it says that God was the one who created the world,” Garcia said. “I just didn’t like that lecture just because it was going against my beliefs.”

Garcia said she agreed with the ideas of new atheism and said it would be beneficial for students to learn more about. She said many people have misconceptions about different religions.

“I think it’s a wonderful topic, and I’m glad we’re getting the perspective of a religious practitioner. I teach an evolution class, and I’m addressing that topic from a scientific perspective,” Crane-Kramer said. “Science is part of the modern world. It shows that there can be an easy and fruitful dialogue between practitioners of both realms.”

Email Kavita Singh at kavita.singh@cardinalpointsonline.com

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