Science, religion and new internationalism

By Othman O'Malley

Our exponential leaps foreword in physics, chemistry and biology over the last century have allowed us to live longer, travel faster and look deeper into space. But science has given us more than MRI, vaccines and Miracle Whip. It has fundamentally changed the way in which we engage with the natural world. We can untie our minds from the superstitions of the past and allow our reason to contend with the reality of our natural world. Our understanding of our world is no longer based upon our interpretation of dusty, Bronze Age books.

We don’t have to rely on the priest, imam, rabbi or the nearest man with neat headgear for answers regarding the cause of earthquakes, tsunamis or floods. We don’t have to rely on the purple-faced proclamations of preachers, pirs and pontiffs from pulpits on high, telling us that natural disasters are a result of our sin. We don’t have to believe that women were created from man’s rib, thus justifying, along with verse after verse, chapter after chapter, and sura after sura, centuries of misogyny.

Being human is no longer a religious epithet requiring us to bow our heads before those who claim to cleanse us of our sin.

We live in a world where our fealty to our man-made gods, and the men who derive power from their claim to know him is entirely optional. Today, we find that reason is the best arbiter between competing world views, not religion. Our minds and lives have been liberated by our own, very human efforts. It is done, and it is good.

Science has challenged our religious outlooks, but it has also challenged our societies, politics and economies. Technologies derived from science have forced our societies to adapt.

We are communicating faster, traveling farther and trading more with each other than ever before. Our economies are more integrated than they have ever been. International bodies like the World Trade Organization are affecting the way we live in a very real and increasingly profound way.

Our local spaces, along the incubators of our economic identities as producers and consumers, are shrinking in the face of global production and global consumption. The American farmer, the archetype of the American home and hearth, is much more in tune with globalization than many of us in the University community are. They must contend with how droughts in Australia or surpluses in Russia affect the prices of their crops and adjust their behavior accordingly. The dynamics of our local spaces are increasingly being affected by global events and policies.

The most compelling aspect of this global integration is the increasing necessity of a global culture that is born out of our interactions with each other. What I see emerging is a set of universal, secular beliefs that are based on human solidarity and human rights.

These are beliefs that, unlike the tribal origins of monotheism, affirm and defend the right of every individual to live in dignity and peace no matter what their origin or perspectives. We are in need of global institutions that help us navigate our way through the global landscape.

We are in need of international policies that deal with oppression wherever it exists. I am not advocating superficial hand-holding. I want individuals wherever they are to recognize that humans share a common destiny and as a result, we need to form a common identity.

Reactionary isolationism is not the answer to global integration. Thus, efforts at stemming scientific research to accommodate the sensibilities of the religious right only means that other individuals will outpace us.

Teaching creationism in schools only means that we will be leaving ourselves out of the international scientific, technological and economic discourse.

We must be at the forefront of embracing the change that is occurring and incorporate it into our economic and personal identities.

By engaging global integration, we can have a hand in determining its course.

Science, technology and how we incorporate them will determine our futures. Let us embrace the new internationalist future.

Othman is a senior in political science and reads The Economist.