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By Israel Drazin
A very knowledgeable reader of my writings wrote to me asking two questions. The first was: do I think religious people should study philosophy or science? The question was prompted by my use of the word philosophy frequently.
I understand that the great Greek and Jewish philosophers Aristotle and Maimonides focused on science. They encouraged people to study the sciences so that they could understand as much as they could about how the world functions. They taught that people should use their knowledge of science when they decide how to act. The two philosophers frequently mentioned the term philosophy because in ancient times the sciences fell under the rubric of philosophy. I agree with their teaching.
Religious teachings are insufficient guides for behavior. They were designed to help the general population and lack the sophistication that science has. Religion is good when it is properly observed, without superstitious additions or mystical obfuscations. But people who want to improve themselves and society, which is also the goal of religion, should take the next step and learn all they can about the world, how it works, how and why people think, and how to improve both.
The second question was: since we know that people cannot learn everything and what they learn today may be proven false by future scientists, why waste time studying science? Yes, it is true that we cannot know everything and that we will make many mistakes, but having been given a mind, we have an obligation to use it, not sit back passively, but strive to be all that we can be. For example, we know that democracy has faults and that because of human nature we cannot achieve full democracy, but these facts are not reasons for abandoning democracy and allowing dictators to tell us how to behave. Most people understand that we should pursue democracy to the best of our abilities because it is the best system for helping individuals and society. The same rationale applies to the study of sciences.