Monday, November 30, 2020
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Physicist Warns of ‘Idolatry in Science’ – ‘Religion & science are complimentary paths to knowledge, not opponents’

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Among scientists who attend to matters of religion, one of the most famous quotes from the 20th century is this couplet by Pope John Paul II, circa 1987:

Science can purify religion from error and superstition;

Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.

I doubt that many scientists have ever thought much about the word “idolatry”; the typical reaction would be “who, me?”  In science, it’s hard to imagine what the word “idolatry” could possibly mean.

Separately, “The Teaching Company” publishes CDs and DVDs on a wide assortment of course materials, including one cluster on world religions, which contains a set of lectures on Hinduism. Within that, there is a remarkably concise definition of idolatry:  “confusing your own concept (or model or image) with the actual reality.”

Whether in Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism or any other religion, that’s a pretty clear warning not to think that your own understanding of God is fully accurate. When the 10 Commandments prohibits making graven images, we immediately think of physical objects like a golden calf standing in for a god. Of course we see the folly of that, and take the warning seriously. Several faiths disapprove of any images at all, lest those inferior representations become the object of worship.

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