Science and Religion

RELIGION and science are sometimes assumed mortal enemies. To some they appear locked in a struggle of such magnitude that it may seem that one will triumph only by the death of the other.

In one camp are some scientists, such as chemist Peter Atkins, who feel that reconciling religion and science is “impossible.” Atkins says that to believe “that God is an explanation (of anything, let alone everything) is intellectually contemptible.” (as quoted by Russel, 45)

In another camp are religious people who blame science for the destruction of faith. Such individuals hold to the opinion that science as practiced today is a deception; its facts may be correct, but the misinterpretation of those facts undermines the beliefs of the faithful. For instance, biologist William Provine says that Darwinism means “no ultimate foundation for ethics; no ultimate meaning for life.” (as quoted by McGrath, 41)

However, some of the conflict has developed because of false or not provable assertions originating from both sides. For centuries, religious leaders have taught mythical legends and erroneous dogmas that are at odds with modern scientific findings and not based on inspired Scripture. For example, the Roman Catholic Church condemned Galileo because he concluded, correctly, that the earth revolves around the sun. Galileo’s view in no way contradicted the Bible, but it was contrary to what the church taught at the time. On the other hand, scientists are at fault when they teach as fact the ‘not-provable’ theory that life evolved from inanimate matter independent of God. They ridicule religious faith as unscientific. Is it possible, then, to reconcile science and religion? Yes, it is. Actually, proven science and true religion complement rather than contradict each other.

The Similarities and Differences of Science and Religion

BOTH science and religion, in their noblest forms, involve the search for truth. Science discovers a world of magnificent order, a universe that contains distinctive marks of intelligent design. True religion makes these discoveries meaningful by teaching that the mind of the Creator lies behind the design manifest in the physical world. “I find my appreciation of science is greatly enriched by religion,” says Francis Collins, a molecular biologist. He continues: “When I discover something about the human genome, I experience a sense of awe at the mystery of life, and say to myself, ‘Wow, only God knew before.’ It is a profoundly beautiful and moving sensation, which helps me appreciate God and makes science even more rewarding for me.” (as quoted by McGrath, 42-43) What will help one to reconcile science and religion?

Among the basic concerns of both science and religion is the theory concerning astronomy as well as to how the universe came forth. It could be noticed how different both sides are upon seeing the possibilities of the coming forth of an awesome universe which is being studied by science right now. However, recent results on researches in science have paved way to the potential of the so-called ‘religious belief’, which could be in direct connection with what science have discovered just recently.

These are times of astonishment on a scale previously unknown. New discoveries from space are forcing astronomers to revise their views of the origin of our universe. Many people are fascinated with the cosmos and are asking the ancient questions that are raised by people’s existence in it: How did the universe and life come about and why?

Even if people look in the other direction, the recent mapping of the human genetic code raises the questions: How were the multitudes of life forms created? Moreover, who, if anyone, created them? The sheer complexity of the genetic blueprint of humans moved a U.S. president to say, “We are learning the language in which God created life.” (as quoted by Raman, 47) One of the chief scientists involved in the genetic decoding humbly remarked: “We have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.” (Barbour, 21) However, the questions persist—how and why?

Some scientists claim that all the workings of the universe can be explained by rational analysis, leaving no room for divine wisdom. However, many people, including scientists, are not comfortable with that view. They attempt to comprehend reality by looking to both science and religion. They feel that science deals with the how of our existence and of the cosmos around us, while religion deals principally with the why. Explaining this dual approach, physicist Freeman Dyson said: “Science and religion are two windows that people look through trying to understand the big universe outside.”

“Science deals with the measurable, religion deals with the immeasurable,” suggested author William Rees-Mogg. (as quoted by Raman, 22) He said: “Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, any more than it can prove or disprove any moral or aesthetic proposition. There is no scientific reason to love one’s neighbor or to respect human life . . . To argue that nothing exists which cannot be proved scientifically is the crudest of errors, which would eliminate almost everything we value in life, not only God or the human spirit, but love and poetry and music.” (as quoted by Raman, 23)

It is fitting to have proper respect for scientific knowledge and achievements. However, many will agree that while science involves a way of knowing, it is not the only source of knowledge. The purpose of science is to describe phenomena in the natural world and to assist in answering how these phenomena occur.

Science provides us with insights into the physical universe, meaning everything that is observable. Nevertheless, no matter how far scientific investigation goes, it can never answer the question of purpose—why the universe exists in the first place.

“There are some questions that scientists can never answer,” remarks author Tom Utley. “It may be that the Big Bang happened 12 billion years ago. However, why did it happen? . . . How did the particles get there in the first place? What was there before?” Utley concludes: “It seems. . . clearer than ever that science will never satisfy the human hunger for answers.” (Russell, 47)

Scientific knowledge gained through such inquisitiveness, far from disproving the need for a God, has only served to confirm what a fantastically complex, intricate, and awe-inspiring world we live in. Many thinking people find it plausible to conclude that the physical laws and chemical reactions as well as DNA and the amazing diversity of life all point to a Creator. There is irrefutable proof to the contrary.

If there is a Creator behind the universe, we cannot expect to comprehend him or his purposes by using telescopes, microscopes, or other scientific instruments. Think of a potter and a vase that he has formed. No amount of examination of the vase itself can give an answer as to why it was made. For that, we must ask the potter himself.

Molecular biologist Francis Collins explains how faith and spirituality can help fill the void science leaves: “I would not expect religion to be the right tool for sequencing the human genome and by the same token would not expect science to be the means to approaching the supernatural. However, on the interesting larger questions, such as ‘Why are we here?’ or ‘Why do human beings long for spirituality?’ I find science unsatisfactory. Many superstitions have come into existence and then faded away. Faith has not, which suggests it has reality.” (as quoted by Russell, 45)

Functions of the Scientific and Religious theories

In an overall context, it could be considered that both Science and Religion play a great role in the human society. Their existence in the society makes it possible for man to understand things that are occurring around him. Certainly, it could then be identified that both sectors could be considered as functional factors for the human life.

How?

Science continues to discover ways by which man could understand the system of things that evolve around him, along with this, the ability of Science to uncover the mysteries that man used to misunderstand has helped humanity progress a lot with

regards to the new inventions of technology, which are patterned from the different theoretical claims of Science.

On the other hand, Religion functions as a social regulator. The Bible, which is known to be the basis of most existing religions in the human society, also uncovers the mysteries behind life and creation, which dated back much earlier than science. Hence, most Scientists consider the Bible fallacious because, according to them, the Bible does not provide much strong evidence to its claims. However, upon discovering reality through the processes that scientists believe t be authenticated, they finally understand that what the Bible claims to be true is indeed real since the evidences which they find out pertain to the claims of the Bible.

This fact could be regarded through the progress. By the ninth century, Arab scientists were fast becoming the leaders in matters of science. Particularly during the 10th and 11th centuries—while Christendom marked time—they enjoyed a golden age of accomplishment. They made valuable contributions to medicine, chemistry, botany, physics, astronomy, and above all, mathematics. Maan Z. Madina, associate professor of Arabic at Columbia University, says, “Modern trigonometry as well as algebra and geometry are in considerable measure Arab creations.” (as quoted by Eliade, 41)

Much of this scientific knowledge was original. However, some of it was based on the broad foundation of Greek philosophy and was brought about, strangely enough, by religious involvement. Comparatively early in the Common Era, Christendom spread into Persia and afterward into Arabia and India. During the fifth century, Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople, became embroiled in a controversy that led to a schism within the Eastern Church. This led to the forming of a breakaway group, the Nestorians.

In the seventh century, when the new religion of Islam burst onto the world scene and began its campaign of expansion, the Nestorians were quick to pass on their knowledge to their Arab conquerors. According to The Encyclopedia of Religion, “the Nestorians were the first to promote Greek science and philosophy by translating Greek texts into Syrian and then into Arabic.” (Raman, 41) They were also “the first to introduce Greek medicine into Baghdad.” Arab scientists began building upon the things they learned from the Nestorians. Arabic replaced Syrian as the language of science in the Arab empire and proved to be a language that lent itself well to scientific writing.

However, the Arabs gave as well as took. When the Moors moved into Europe through Spain—to stay for over 700 years—they brought along an enlightened Muslim culture. Moreover, during the eight so-called Christian Crusades, between 1096 and 1272, Western crusaders were impressed by the advanced Islamic civilization with which they came in contact. They returned, as one author put it, with “a host of new impressions.”

Beginning in the 12th century, the flame of learning that had burned brightly in the Muslim world began to dim. It was rekindled, however, in Europe as groups of scholars began forming the forerunners of modern universities. In the middle of the 12th century, the universities of Paris and of Oxford came into being. The University of Cambridge followed in the early 13th century and those of Prague and of Heidelberg both in the 14th. By the 19th century, universities had become major centers of scientific research. (Russell, 47)

Originally, these schools were strongly influenced by religion, most studies centering on or slanted toward theology. However, at the same time, the schools accepted Greek philosophy, particularly the writings of Aristotle. According to The Encyclopedia of Religion, “the Scholastic method. . . throughout the Middle Ages. . . was structured according to the Aristotelian logic of defining, dividing, and reasoning in its exposition of the text and its resolution of difficulties.” (Russell, 48)

One 13th-century scholar intent on combining Aristotelian learning with Christian theology was Thomas Aquinas, later called the “Christian Aristotle.” Nevertheless, on some points he differed with Aristotle. Aquinas rejected, for example, the theory that the world had always existed, agreeing with the Scriptures that it had been created. By holding “firmly to the belief that the earth and the entire creation is an ordered universe that can be comprehended by the light of reason,” says The Book of Popular Science, he “made a valuable contribution to the development of modern science.” (Raman, 41)

For the most part, however, the teachings of Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Galen were accepted as gospel truth, even by the church. The aforementioned reference work explains: “In the Middle Ages, when interest in scientific experiment and direct observation was at low ebb, Aristotle’s word was law. Ipse dixit (‘He himself said it’) was the argument that medieval schoolmen used to prove the truth of many a ‘scientific’ observation. Under these circumstances the errors of Aristotle, particularly in physics and astronomy, held up scientific progress for centuries.” (Raman, 56)

One who challenged this blind adherence to former views was the 13th-century Oxford friar Roger Bacon. Called “the greatest figure in medieval science,” Bacon was almost alone in advocating experimentation as a means of learning scientific truths. It is said that as early as 1269, clearly centuries ahead of his time, he predicted automobiles, airplanes, and motorized ships.

Yet, despite foresight and a brilliant mind, Bacon was limited in his knowledge of the facts. He strongly believed in astrology, magic, and alchemy. This demonstrates that science is indeed an ongoing search for truth, always subject to revision.

Although scientific investigation appeared to lie dormant in the 14th century, as the 15th century neared its end, mankind’s search for scientific truth was far from over. In fact, the next 500 years would far overshadow what had preceded them. The world stood on the threshold of a scientific revolution.

The details broken down in this paper regarding the developments of Science have contributed so much on the social progress of the human generations which also depends on different religious advances as well.

Conclusion

As it could be seen, Science and Religion are two interconnected social factors that pertain to a single theme, to make it easier for humans to understand how their world evolves and how the systems could affect their lives. Directly, both social factors influence people’s beliefs and views on living. Hence, it could be noted that the theories and beliefs created by both studies and affiliation creates mass knowledge of the essential understandings that the human civilization should know.

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