Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and pluralism: The advantage of holding multiple worldviews

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After UCS posted an image with a quote from Dr. King on its Facebook page, all hell broke loose.

The quote in question?

“Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.”

Indignant replies started flowing almost immediately. “Science and faith are polar opposites,” wrote one person. I won’t quote the rest, but in essence, a number of commenters opined that there was no place in society for religion, that religion simply exists to justify man’s misdeeds, that scientific organizations should not acknowledge the credibility of religion, and that science-minded people think and religious people don’t.

They may have failed to read the blog post, and reacted emotionally to the quote on the image.

My own view is that completely dismissing the worldviews of others doesn’t do anyone any favors. It also doesn’t allow us to solve our world’s most pressing challenges. We live in a pluralistic society with problems that need pluralistic approaches.

And people of all perspectives should embrace skepticism. Ubi dubium ibi libertas. Where there’s doubt, there’s freedom.

Encouragingly, several UCS Facebook fans picked up on this theme. One participant provided this insightful comment:

“Disagree as much as you like–disagreement is the essence of being an American. I am not religious, but [Dr. King] was religious. It’s natural that he would see religion in this light. The fact that he was religious does not detract from his wisdom. The fact that he sees no dichotomy between his religious views and science is an indication of his wisdom. He has as much right to be religious as you and I have not to be religious. That too is essential to the nature of a real American. As Jefferson said: “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Dr. King was able to hold multiple worldviews and extract the best from each. So should we. To do otherwise is a failure to live up to the pluralistic society for which Dr. King so ably advocated.

About the author: Michael Halpern is an expert on political interference in science and solutions to reduce suppression, manipulation, and distortion of government science.

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