The Lab, the Temple, and the Market: Reflections at the Intersection of Science, Religion, and Development

The Lab, the Temple, and the Market: Reflections at the Intersection of Science, Religion, and Development

The Lab, the Temple, and the Market: Reflections at the Intersection of Science, Religion, and Development

The Lab, the Temple, and the Market: Reflections at the Intersection of Science, Religion, and Development


What do faith, science, and the world of international development have to offer one another? Current international development discourse is starting to look at how religion affects globalization, peacebuilding, and the environment, for example. But how do the roles, approaches, and world views of science, religion, and international development intersect? And how does this intersection express itself in different cultures? The Lab, the Temple, and the Market tackles these complex questions in four separate essays. Each essay meshes a discussion of development issues and processes with a different system of religious belief: Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bahá'i Faith. The authors — each a scientist as well as a person of faith — show how religious belief and personal faith can be deeply motivational and strikingly fruitful in scientific pursuits. Further, they emphasize how their faith has brought them a profound understanding of interconnectedness and compassion, and thus a wider perspective and greater sense of personal meaning to their research. Fifty years of "international development," has produced some remarkable advances in health care, communication, and agriculture. But, for many, poverty continues to worsen, as the Earth suffers from the social, economic, and environmental consequences of the consumption-based model of human progress. The Lab, the Temple, and the Market furthers the search for a more "people-centred" model of development and for a scientific practice that supports tolerance, sustainability, peace, and justice for all. It will appeal to development practitioners and researchers, bilateral and multilateral policymakers, academics, religious leaders, and those who feel that current models of (and approaches to) human progress are constructed on a too-narrow definition of humanity.


Only the most ingenuous or wilfully blind would pretend that after a half century of sustained effort and many, many billions of dollars, international development agencies have at last “got it right.” If anything, there is a pervasive sense that, in some very real way, we have failed. True, there have been tremendous achievements: thanks in large part to the programs of these agencies, the dedication of their staff, and the advances of modern science and technology (S&T), more people today have more food, better health, longer lives, more access to education, and faster communications than ever before.

And yet, more people than ever before are living in extreme poverty — physical, social, and moral. Education, health, and employment systems have collapsed in much of sub-Saharan Africa. the Earth is choking in the poison and filth we have generated through everincreasing industrial growth justified by models of human development that focus on consumption. Population levels outstrip the capacity of many countries to meet basic human needs, let alone the growth in social demand for conspicuous consumption. Both developed and developing countries are facing waves of social disintegration, with crime, corruption, and violence as only the most visible features. the global shift in sociocultural value systems, characterized by Westernized pop culture and the deterioration of collective bonds of community and kinship, has deprived whole societies of their traditional spiritual and cultural reference points and bred disturbing patterns of social and spiritual alienation.

I am not implying that all of these problems can be laid at the door of international development agencies and models. These issues do suggest, however, that somewhere along the line we lost sight of something or that we never saw it in the first place. Most, if not all, development agencies are inspired by a scientific, technological, economic, and positivistic worldview; perhaps, we have been unable to listen to what people outside our agencies and worldview have been saying.

Most people situate themselves, their day-to-day decisions, and their hopes in the context of moral and religious belief systems that have traditionally been seen by development agencies as outside of — if not opposed to — our development models. As an institution with a 30-year history of looking at how S&T can be applied to resolve the development problems of the South, the International Development . . .

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