As a scientist, I am often astounded when theologians and other scientific laypeople speak about science as a means of “proof.” Far to the contrary, science is a process of expanding human knowledge through the testing of hypotheses, minimizing of bias, and respecting of statistical boundaries. In no sense does science “prove” anything; proof is for mathematicians and logicians, but not for those who traffic in the necessary complexities of empirical exploration.
As a Secular Humanist, I welcome the fruits of the scientific process, which have raised our standards of living (particularly in developed countries) to levels not previously imagined in human history. It’s worth pointing out that no number of prayers to any variety of deities has ever accomplished in the realm of minimizing hunger and curing disease the achievements of a coordinated, dedicated effort on the part of scientists over the past 100 years. If modern believers are unsatisfied at the comparison of their (usually Bronze Age) religious beliefs to modern scientific advances, can they really be blamed?
But the criticism that modern life eschews non-literal understandings of reality is well-placed. The soul of Western society has been sold (for various reasons), and what has been lost is this: we don’t appreciate the value of Myth anymore. Any student of Dr. Joseph Campbell knows that the stories of all religions are part of a human myth-cycle that has been retold throughout the centuries, giving different names to the same characters, and weaving the same threads into new patterns. By insisting that Christianity (or any other religion) is a “true” myth, believers sacrifice the real Humanistic meaning of a sacred story for a needlessly historicized, pedantic labyrinth of dogma and doctrine that brings us no closer to an appreciation of our own humanity.
Fortunately, science is also becoming a fertile breeding ground for a new set of storytellers who can appreciate and tap into our human Mythic heritage. The late Dr. Carl Sagan was a master at combining reverence for scientific knowledge with the human desire to understand our place in the Cosmos, and our drive to find happiness in a complex and often hostile world. His legacy includes modern scientific storytellers like Dr. Lawrence Krauss and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, who continually excite and inspire their audiences, not because of a dogmatic insistence on literalism, but because they understand that science is at its heart the story of humanity itself.