UU and Scientific Discoveries

When generally accepted scientific research findings and the doctrine of a religious tradition are inconsistent, many faiths urge congregants to believe their scripture.

Not at the Sedona Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.  Several congregants are retired scientists who would make the opposite choice.  This orientation goes back centuries.

Joseph Priestley was both a renowned scientist, who discovered oxygen in 1774, and a Unitarian clergyman.  He saw his intellectual and spiritual commitments as quite compatible.

It was only after Charles Darwin, also a Unitarian, published On the Origin of Species that the perception of science and religion to be at odds grew widespread.  Many traditional Christians, including some Unitarians and Universalists, were initially dismayed by the theory of evolution.

However, it didn’t take long for leaders and theologians in the UU community to fully embrace Darwin’s theory, and, along with it, the value of reason and the scientific method in examining even the most cherished religious beliefs.

In the twentieth-century, Unitarians and Universalists began to explicitly view scientific discoveries as religious “texts.”

In 1985, the general convention of the Unitarian Universalist Association recommended to their congregants six sources of wisdom for guiding understanding of the world we live in.  Three of them are:

  • Wisdom from the world’s religions to inspire us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which remind us to love our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.

Therefore, most Unitarian Universalists today consider scientific discoveries to be an essential tool in their search for truth and meaning.

[published December 8, 2023]