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Piero Morandini pm1 at imiucca.csi.unimi.it
Wed Feb 18 11:31:31 EST 1998

I have been attracted by the Evolution dispute and particularly by a
sentence from Ross:

>We can't be preaching any one kind of religion, but I think
>we must teach enough ABOUT religion for students to be
>able to distinguish belief based on faith vs belief based on
>evidence.  It is important for us to lead students into
>deciding when it is important to choose science instead of
>religion for a particular question, and when we must choose
>religion instead of science for another.

I feel it somewhat misleading since I assume that faith too is based on
evidence.  May be not all the times, may be a different kind of evidence
but it is an evidence that provokes faith.

Just two comments:
let's for the purpose read about Lazarus' resurrection.
If one reads the gospel, then it seems as if the writer was present while
the whole was happening.  Therefore for him IT WAS evidence and it provoked
more faith.  For somebody else (the pharisee) it was the reason to condemn
Jesus to death but they could not deny it did happen.
Similarly for science:  we do see a fact (and experiment, a paper, a
natural event...) and then this propmt us to formulate an explanation, an
interpretation.  Not everybody would see it and interprete it the same way,
but this depend on our education and sometimes how honest we are with
(as an example see the acid growth theory and the story of expansins...)

The second point is that we heavily rely on somebody's else data and we
trust them until we have evidence for the contrary.  Every paper we publish
contains 20-30 may be more references: some are for the backgroung on the
problem, some on the techniques, some for the interpretation, some...
We trust this stuff.  We do not say "hey, today I better confirm water is
made up of hydrogen and oxygen and then that the dissociation constant for
water is 10 exp-14".  We would not be able to make the slightest step
forward with this attitude in mind.
Trusting others until there is evidence for the contrary is also integral
part of faith.

To summarize, science and faith have much in common because the man is a
unity and so his "ground" attitude towards reality is the same.  I strongly
believe we can teach in a way to make students put science and faiths to
the test.  Of course, we need to make distinctions and we are requested to
be honest with our minds, too.

On this subject (unity of man aatitude towards reality) there is an
interesting book from L. Giussani "The religious sense" which is printed by
McGill University press (haven't got the exact reference now, but anybody
interested could email me)

>Getting to the roots of science...decision making based on
>evidence rather than on faith...is some of the most important
>teaching we do, IMHO.  Sometimes we miss this important
>lesson because we are so bogged down in the findings of
>science (hypotonic, hypertonic, isotonic; hypogynous, epigynous,
>perigynous, etc.).  I'm coming around to the conclusion that
>in our introductory course, we need to have a unit on what
>IS science? How do we DO science? When should we USE science?
>and so on.

and then the next questio will be:  when we do not use science, what are we
going to use?  and what is the foundation for it?
Will we be able to escape this question?  The difference between students
and teachers is that the latter category are usually less open to question
of this kind...

After writing this bit I read the email from F. Percival, who wrote:

>I think that a better way to
>distinguish science and religion is on the basis of the types of evidence
>each uses.

with whom, of course, I agree.

Hope I did not bother too many and that this is appropriate for the newsgroup.
I also apologize for any mistake in English language.


Piero Morandini
Biology Department "L. Gorini"
Plant Physiology and Biochemistry Section
University of Milan
Via Celoria 26,  Torre 4C,
Milan 20133    Italy

tel:  +39-2-2660-4394         Email:  pm1 at imiucca.csi.unimi.it
fax:  +39-2-2660-4399

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