About the Educator’s Guide.

Educators can use the program and this guide to help students think about the relationship between faith and reason. The guide has been developed to provide teachers of different content areas - science, religion, or philosophy -with a gateway into this important discussion. It provides contemporary contextual information and a brief summary of the program’s approach to four critical areas in which science and religion intersect, along with suggested group activities. The program and this guide, which are best used together, will hopefully spark discussion, debate, and thoughtful dialogue about the issues.


Evolution.

"This Christian theist would have to say that god created man through the process of evolution".

Nancey Murphy - Christian Philosopher, Fuller Theological Seminary

More than any other area of science, the theory of evolution raises profound challenges for people of faith, particularly in a Christian context. Ever since the publication of Charles Darwin's book, some Christians have believed that evolution robs humanity of its dignity. But from the beginning there have also been theologians who did not see a conflict between their faith and Darwin's science. This view is supported by the classical theological argument that Nature itself was God's "other book.” According to these thinkers, since Scripture and Nature have the same author it is impossible that the two should conflict. Recently the Vatican sponsored a conference on the subject of evolution which brought together scientists, theologians, and philosophers from around the world. Participants expressed very positive views about evolution; for them it is the way that God goes about being creative within the world. Rather than feeling threatened, participants at the Vatican conference believe that evolution can enhance their understanding of God and hence contribute to their faith.

Group Activity.

Individually, in groups, or as a class, create a chart listing humans and other animals on one side, and then a series of categories that characterize them across the top. (Examples of categories might be : able to experience feelings such as sadness or anger; learn; communicate, etc.) When the chart has been completed, ask students to consider whether we need to think of humans as separate from other animals and what makes humans unique or different.

(In preparation for this activity, assign the group to read Inherit the Wind or The Panda’s Thumb by Stephen Jay Gould.)

Genetics

“Some people want to say that DNA is sacred. Now I disagree with that.”

Ted Peters, Theologian, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary

At present scientists are in the process of deciphering the 100,000 or so genes that make up the entire genetic code of humans. Known as the Human Genome Project, this effort has been called the biological equivalent of putting a man on the moon. As scientists learn more, they gain the power to cure diseases and alter genetic makeup of humans, plants and animals. Some people fear that humanity is gaining the power to "play God." Is DNA really something sacred, something that humans should not tamper with? One genetic technology that has particularly worried some religious believers is cloning. Ever since the announcement in 1997 of a cloned sheep named Dolly, some people have been concerned that this technology could be put to use in ways that might lower the value of human life, grow test tube babies as organ farms or permit a dictator to try to create a dynasty by cloning himself.

Group Activity

Ask the group to consider what characteristics they would want their children to have if it were possible to make genetic alterations. After thinking and writing down their responses individually, ask them to share the characteristics with the group. Make a list on a chalkboard. Now ask them to discuss what the world would be like if people had only those characteristics. Now ask the group if cloning might be appropriate in some cases, such as if it is used to help some infertile couples to have children. (In preparation for this activity, assign the group to read Brave New World or Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World, by Lee M. Silver)

Cosmology and Purpose

“God traditionally has not meant an abstract set of equations, it has meant an interested personality.

Steven Weinberg, Theoretical Physicist, University of Texas

According to the book of Genesis, God created the universe in six days. But according to modern cosmology the universe began with the explosion of the Big Bang, evolving from there by natural laws into billions of galaxies. When the theory of the Big Bang was first put forward, many physicists were actually against the idea because they thought that it suggested a moment of creation and therefore smacked of religion. If the universe had a definite beginning, they felt, then it must have had a creator. Ironically, the shoe is now on the other foot. Today some physicists think that science can explain the Big Bang through the mathematical laws of nature and therefore have no need of God to account for the origin of the universe. They argue that these laws will reveal a universe without any purpose at all.

Group Activity

Ask the group students to write down an example from their own lives when something extraordinary happened or when they think there was “divine intervention.” Ask each one to share his or her experiences and for the group to consider what other explanations are possible for the events that occurred.

Technology and the Future

“The two world views of science and religion are breaking down because scientists are asking questions.”

Robert Russell, Physicist/Theologian, Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.

America is becoming ever more technologically sophisticated. But along with the marvels of technology also come occasional problems. How can technology be used wisely and well? Religious people can bring their faith to bear in considering what to do with science and technology. In order to do this, they need to really understand what is happening in these fields. With technologies like modern pharmaceutical medicine, satellite communications, and the Internet spreading rapidly around the world, questions about science and technology will increasingly pose challenges to people of all religious faiths. Looking to the future, what will shape the relationship between religious and scientific communities?

Group Activity

If you could decide how the federal government’s scientific research budget should be spent, what priorities would you set? Which challenges would you focus on and why? As you think about each priority, consider:

  • Who will benefit and who might be harmed by the research;
  • What research methods are available;
  • How can religion influence scientific exploration?

Resources

  • Religion and Science: History, Method, Dialogue.
    ed. by W. Mark Richardson and Wesley J. Wildman,
    An excellent set of essays introducing topics in science and religion today.
    Rutledge, 1996
  • God and Nature, ed. by David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers,
    an excellent collection of essays on the history of science and religion.
    University of California Press.
  • Visit Faith & Reason on-line at www.pbs.org/faithandreason for more information.
  • Also see the science and religion web site at www.counterbalance.org.

About the Television Program.

Faith & Reason is a one-hour PBS documentary about the interaction between science and religion. Through engaging interviews with leading scientists and theologians, Faith & Reason looks at history and at a growing movement of experts in both fields who today believe that faith and reason can support one another. Around the world there are now a dozen centers devoted to this science-religion dialogue.

Faith & Reason reveals, contrary to popular opinion, that for most of history, science and religion have been deeply entwined. Even the famous trial of the astronomer Galileo by the Roman Catholic Church turned more on Galileo’s arrogance toward church officials than on his science. The notion of a conflict became popular in the late Nineteenth Century after the furor over Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Before then, most scientists were people of faith. Many, such as Isaac Newton and Nicholas Copernicus, saw their science as an offshoot of their theology. Today this tradition continues with some physicists who believe their work illuminates the divine creative process. Some biologists see evolution as God's way of creating life on earth, giving us a fuller understanding of the ongoing divine process of creation.

The United States of America is a religious nation. In opinion polls more than 95% of Americans say they believe in God, and almost 60% say they attend church regularly. At the same time, America is a highly scientific nation, with an economy that relies on the products of modern science. Americans depend daily on science and technology, from the satellites that transmit our phone calls, to the genetically engineered crops that stock our farms, to the new materials that make up our cars and appliances. Yet many people have been led to believe that religious and scientific views of the world are incompatible. Faith & Reason challenges that belief and presents an introduction to the ways in which science and religion can inform and even support one another.

With religious fervor on the rise around the world, the interface between faith and reason will become ever more important. By raising questions and presenting views not often heard, this program challenges viewers to reassess an interaction that has profoundly shaped modern Western culture. The program focuses on Christian thinkers because they comprise most of those currently working in the field; however, questions raised by science ultimately affect people of all faiths.


Credits

This guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan, Media Education Consultants. It was written by Margaret Wertheim with input from advisory board members: Lauren F. Goldberg, consultant; Jim Miller, Senior Program Associate, Program of Dialogue between Science and Religion, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Marion Rice, Director of Education, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and David F.T. Rodier, Chair, Department of Philosophy and Religion, American University.

Faith & Reason is a production of New River Media in association with Five Continents Music. Ronald Bailey and Andrew Walworth are executive producers. Ronald Bailey and Cameron Allan are producers. Margaret Wertheim is writer and host.

Funding is provided by The John Templeton Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Counterbalance Foundation, and Lyn and Norman Lear.

For information about purchasing the special educational version of this program, call Films for The Humanities and Sciences toll-free at (800) 257-5126 or visit their website at www.films.com.

Educator's guide design by Nancy Lynn Goldberg and Christopher McKaughan.

New River Media & Five Continents Music.