UUs and Science

Sometimes, Sedona Unitarian Universalist Fellowship members discuss whether science and spirituality complement or contradict each other. They explore where hope, love, and human values fit into a universe of quarks and quasars. In a world seemingly governed by relentless physical laws, how does science co-exist with religion?

Rev. Gary Kowalski, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Taos, New Mexico, responds by reminding us that many Unitarian forebears, including Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, expanded the horizons of both scientific and religious inquiry.  They knew that knowledge, like faith, evolves. Beliefs change. Yet, however far scientists expand the limits of understanding, room for amazement, curiosity, and humility remain.

Another Unitarian, Richard Wolfson, a physics professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, tells about a colleague who began attending his UU congregation, “After several weeks, he approached me at the end of a service and said, somewhat perplexedly, ‘This isn’t a religious society. It’s a moral society.’

“I asked him what religion was, and he mumbled something that included the word God. I said that, to me, religion is about my relation to the universe, and that every UU service I ever attended was, in that sense, religious.”

Wolfson adds, “I’m a life-long scientist, and science is also about my relation to the universe. Although my scientific work is oriented toward discovery and knowledge, it also informs my personal, religious relation to the universe. So I feel no conflict between my religion and my science–they’re closely related…

“The more science informs me about the universe and its workings,” he continues, “the more I feel awe, appreciation, and reverence…There’s no need for a creator, a guide, or even a greater purpose.

“Regarding personal mortality, for me it’s enough to have participated, however briefly, in the unfolding cosmic drama. I’ve been here, I’ve done what I’ve done, and when I’m gone there’s nothing that can undo those deeds. I’m content to have been host to atoms that, for my lifetime, have had the privilege of participating in the miracle of consciousness.”

[published September 15, 2023]