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Examining the Mystery

Krista TippettNPR host Krista Tippett

Krista Tippett started her Witherspoon Lecture remarks noting she was "happier in an exchange than in a monologue."  If more people felt the same, her call for dialogue across the religion-science divide might not be needed.

The self-proclaimed "professional asker of questions" spoke to a packed Dana Auditorium March 18th on the need to approach life's mysteries with wonder.  Scientific and religious modes of thinking are "complementary ways of looking at the world," Tippett said.

Drawing on examples from her interviews as host of NPR's On Being and her book Einstein's God, she questioned a common perception that science and religion are on opposing sides of an argument.  For instance, she noted, "Darwin did not argue against God.  He argued instead against a simple understanding of God."

Our society likes debates, she noted at the Center for Ethics and Religion event. "We explore every issue in terms of for and against...[but] this kind of point-counterpoint is also, by the way, entirely unwinnable."

Viewing these two fields of inquiry as "incompatible makes no sense at all," she said. "These are two separate spheres of endeavor," that may ask different questions and gain different answers, but "contradictory explanations can exist." 

What is most important, she proposed, was to continue seeking to understand the "extremely complicated nature of human action, human nature, and human being" and to show "persistence in asking seemingly unanswerable questions."

Fielding questions from the audience, Tippett encouraged her listeners to engage in conversations around science and religion.  "They are too important to let sit there as something that divides us," she said.

"We are very good at creating spaces and discussion in this culture that send people into the corners," Tippett said.  "We have to reform the way we encounter each other as human beings...to create new spaces to be vulnerable in together."

Junior Unuel Webster was open to that idea.  The elementary education major from Lylesville, NC, said he felt challenged now to, "be open for invitations and definitely not go in a corner whenever there is a debate."

Faculty members will host post-lecture discussions of Tippett's book on Sundays in April.

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