Have you ever had two friends - or relatives perhaps, people you really cared about - who simply couldn't get along with each other, two people who seemed determined to misunderstand and misinterpret everything the other said? Sad, isn't it?
This is the way I feel when I read the various letters and columns that pit religion against science in a pointless debate about the origin of life. These two fields of exploration are at the very heart of what it means to be human. They seek the same ends but speak different languages.
Both science and religion struggle with the same mysteries: Who are we? Why are we here? How do we help one another?
One deals in facts and numbers, the other in philosophy and metaphysics - in other words, the material vs the mind.
Certainly, we need both, so why the argument? Why the hostility? I think it is a kind of sibling rivalry.
The worst, the most painful battles are waged within families, and sibling rivalry is as old as Cain and Abel. Critics of science have accused its proponents of making science their religion, and to an extent, this is correct. In a way, science is a holy profession. It seeks the truth, but it is a very different kind of truth than that sought by theologians, and its criteria are of very different natures.
Science makes observations, gathers facts, develops hypotheses, conducts tests and draws conclusions. When other individuals deal with the same facts, perform the same tests and get the same results, the hypothesis becomes a theory — an explanation of the phenomena in question. But note: this is a process dealing almost exclusively with physical matter.
Religion, while it deals with the physical, is concerned with the nonphysical, the relationship between mankind and that force that lies outside of time, space and the physical world.
Religion and science are two very different fields of inquiry, but they agree on one basic premise: All life on this earth had a single source.
Whatever an individual's nationality, language, blood type or skin color, men and woman are a single species. We are related; we are brothers and sisters. For the religious, the point of origin, the Creator, is God the father.
Science does not use this terminology. Instead it links humanity together through the process of evolution, a series of small changes over time, but the relationship still exists.
When proponents of one side or another argue over evolution, I see siblings vying for attention and control. Religions shouts, "I'm right, and you're wrong 'cause Daddy says so."
Science replies, "I've learned Daddy's secrets so I can prove I'm right." The unspoken implication is "... and you're not."
Juvenile? Yes, but that is exactly the point. It doesn't matter who's right or who's wrong. What matters is the degree to which these two belief systems nurture humankind, and while both science and religion do perform this task, both have failed at their most important job.
Religion has failed to promote anything approaching world peace. Squabbles between and within various religions have killed millions, while science for its part has produced the weapons that have done the killing.
Politicians proclaim loyalty to the nation while they fight one another to advance their own party. Nationalism turns otherwise good people into barbarians, and unscrupulous leaders use fear to overturn the law of the land.
Because the great majority of Times readers are Christian, I am going to use Christian terminology and talk about God the father. What does any parent want from his or her children? Many things, I'm sure, but above all a parent wants his children to love and support one another.
The parent who loves his children recognizes that they may have different talents, different ways of expressing themselves, different needs and ambitions, but they are still the beloved. When children fight among themselves, when they seem determined to misunderstand and misinterpret one another, it hurts the parent.
There are no winners when one group tries to impose its language and its standards on another. Religion should not attempt to teach creationism in a science class any more than science should take over the teaching of theology in a church, mosque or synagogue.
In the end, human origin is beyond our understanding: a divine mystery whether it happened in an instant or over millions of years.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears on alternate Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.