Science and Religion

Sunset at Sand Dunes, Outer Banks, NC, on January 20,2011

Ever since my college years, about 50 years ago, I have embraced the worldview of modern sciences, especially in the two areas of astronomy and evolution.  I have tried to follow new advances in sciences and figure out the meanings of life and death from that perspective.  That has been an important part of my adventures in religion and philosophy.

All major world religions have to come to terms with modern sciences one way or another in order to remain relevant.  Since modern sciences have developed in the Christian world, Christianity has responded to the challenges for the longest time.  Other world religions are bound to face similar challenges sooner or later.

One major reason that I have become fascinated with Unitarian Universalism is its whole-hearted embrace of scientific knowledge, with the understanding that sciences are never perfect, but they are making unbelievable discoveries about the universe in which we live and die and have our religions.  In the broad sense, evolution includes evolutions of the physical world, the biological world, and the social/cultural/religious world.

While sciences will pose great challenges to all historical world religions, the scientific understanding of the universe may one day become one of the basic common languages among all major religions when they have to to come to terms with the scientific worldview in some way.

Sciences can help us understand and provide better answers to all the six basic religious questions being discussed in this website, either directly or indirectly.

The Great Courses

I have found that one of the best ways to learn about both sciences and religions is to use about 600 wonderful courses offered at the Great Courses by some of the best lecturers and experts in the United States.  The courses cover from astronomy, cosmic history, geology, philosophy, religion, to Old Testament and New Testament.  One can choose any of the courses.  Do not pay at the regular price, because there are many sales. One should pay only with at least 70% of discount.  Once you establish an account with the Great Courses, you will receive frequent sale emails. Some of the courses are also available at most libraries.

It is easier to learn when one can see and hear the lecturer’s expressions, actions, sounds, words, and very useful illustrations in graphs or pictures.  It is also great to experience the lecturer’s passion, inspiration, and role in the exploration of the mysterious universe.

How the Universe Works

A wonderful series of presentation about our currently known universe has been provided by the Discovery channel and then the Science channel.  It is called "How the Universe Works."   The presentation is inspiring for any reflection about religion and philosophy.  Incredibly, most of the videos are freely available on the Internet.  To find them, first go to:

Then in the Search box type "How the Universe Works" and search.  I have been learning more and more about the universe in which we live.

Through the Wormhole

There is another excellent and, to me, more mind-boggling series of programs on the Science channel, called "Through the Wormhole."  It covers many important and recent researches and speculations about our universe, ranging from macro-universe to micro-universe, from galaxies, stars, planets, cells, DNA, brain, particles, black hole, dark matter, dark energy, quantum mechanics, to the ideas of "parallel universes," "cosmic computer," and "living universe."  Amazingly, these videos are freely available on the Internet.  To find them, first go to:

Then in the Search box type "Through the Wormhole" and search.

It has been and will be an unforgettable journey for me to peek into the wonderful and still very mysterious universe.

My Favorite Universe

I have found a set of lectures on "My Favorite Universe" very informational and fascinating.  It is given by Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson of New York Hayden Planetarium and Princeton University.  The set of lectures on two DVDs is one of the courses offered by the company The Great Courses.  Dr. Tyson is a very inspiring and enthusiastic lecturer, eager to share with us his understanding of the universe.

Dr. Tyson has recently produced another Great Course, called "The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries."  He explores more mind-boggling issues.

Closer to Truth

There is a website that provides a great number of videos on the three big questions of cosmosconsciousness, and God.  Well-known scientists, philosophers, creative thinkers, and theologians have been asked to discuss one or more of these questions in depth from different perspectives.  All these videos are available online at:

    Closer To Truth

The videos are also aired on PBS regularly.

Human Origins

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has the "Human Origins Initiative" devoted to the research of human evolution.  Click the following link for its website:

    Human Origins

Confucianism and Modern World

An important philosopher who took up the challenges of modern world in China was Hu Shih (胡適), 1891-1962.  Please go the “Confucianism” page for the article that I wrote about him in 1985 or click here.  It could serve as a good example how different world religions and philosophies have tried to find themselves in the new brave world.

Evolutionary Christianity

There are many responses to the theory of evolution in the Christian world.  One recent response that has attracted my great interest is Michael Dowd’s movement called “Evolutionary Christianity.”  His best known book, Thank God for Evolution, advocates that it would be an exhilarating religious and Christian experience if we would embrace evolution as the greatest gift from God and understand and experience God from that perspective.  In that process, we may understand God in a very different way, but that understanding could be closer to the true “God” (or the “ultimate reality” in the broad and non-dogmatic sense) than most, if not all, beliefs that have been taught by major world religions in the past or present.  Dowd has organized a series of seminars, inviting well-known theologians, philosophers, scientists, and cultural leaders.  The seminars are available on the Internet.  For more information, please go to the following links:

    Thank God for Evolution

     Evolutionary Christianity


DNA and Human Migrations

As I mention in the webpage about the Taiwanese American Senior Society, the Life Enrichment Club has embarked on a series of discussion on DNA since May 2010.  As a result, I have become fascinated with the subject of DNA and human migrations.  In the past, the subject of human migration is very much limited to what we can learn from archeology.  With the unbelievable advances in genetics and DNA sequencing, we have learned dramatically more about human migrations from Africa.  

It is generally agreed among scientists that modern humans (Homo sapiens) might have emerged in Africa about 200,000 years ago, but it was about 150,000 years later that humans started to migrate from Africa to the rest of the globe.  They left Africa only about 50,000 to 60,000 years ago!  It’s an exhilarating, yes, a deeply religious, experience for me to realize that all humans on earth are Africans under our skins and we are all cousins in one way or another.

In order to find visual presentations of the human migrations, I have found the following incredible videos.  It is hoped you will find them fascinating.  The videos are available online.  The links to these videos are provided below.  If the links do not work, you can use Google to search for the videos or related books.

  Dr. Spencer Wells’ presentation in “The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey,” produced in 2002.  The following YouTube link is the first of 13 parts.

   The Journey of Man

  Dr. Spencer Wells’ presentation in “The Human Family Tree,” produced in 2009, as a product under the Genographic Project of National Geographic.

    The Human Family Tree

  Dr. Alice Roberts’ five-part BBC presentation in “The Incredible Human Journey,” produced in 2009.  The 4-hour documentary can be watched at the following link.

      The Incredible Human Journey

The Negrito Peoples

The “Negrito" refers to several ethic groups who inhabit isolated parts of Southeast Asia. Their current populations include Adamanese peoples of the Andaman Islands, Semang peoples of Malaysia, the Mani of Thailand, and many peoples of the Philippines.  They might represent an early split from the southern coast migrants from Africa.  See the following Wikipedia article:


It is interesting to note that one group of Negrito might have inhabited Taiwan before the current Taiwanese aboriginal tribes reached Taiwan thousands or tens of thousand years ago.  See the following article about the Saisiyat tribe (賽夏族):

     Saisiyat tribe

It must be recognized that much of these groups of people must be further investigated.

My Paternal and Maternal Ancestry

Fascinated by the videos listed above and by Dr. Spencer Well's books, I decided to participate in the Genographic Project of National Geographic.  The results are so overwhelming that I have decided to create and add a new webpage to present and discuss the test results from my Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) samples.

Please go to My Ancestry webpage on this important subject.

© Sung-Peng Hsu 2011