Are Science And Religion Compatible?

In today’s society, science and religion are often framed as being at odds with each other. It is often assumed that religion, which relies on faith in a higher power, and science, which advances through proven, verifiable steps, are fundamentally different and cannot be reconciled.

And yet, some of the most acclaimed and successful scientists have been deeply religious people. For example, Isaac Newton, who made great strides in mechanics, mathematics, and optics, also wrote religious tracts interpreting Bible passages.

Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘Are science and religion compatible?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘What are you waiting for?’

On the other hand, religion has sometimes stood in the way of scientific progress. Perhaps the most famous instance involves Galileo, who was placed under house arrest by the Pope for declaring that the earth travels around the sun and not the reverse.

Returning to today, scientists sometimes feel under attack from some political or religious groups. 2017’s March for Science, centered in Washington, D.C. but with protests around the U.S. and the world, was in response to these attacks. Issues like climate change are controversial and generate polarized views.

It can’t be argued that science has been beneficial to our society. Many of the advances that are available in our modern world, from improved medical procedures to smart phones and the Internet, came about because of applications of science. Religious and non-religious people alike share in the benefits of those advances.

Religion, also, has benefits to society. Churches provide a place and a reason to come together to foster a sense of community and establish shared values. Many religious organizations contribute to or run charities, to help those in need.

Efforts have been made to reconcile the two systems of beliefs. Some people suggest that science and religion operate on different planes, with science a useful tool in understanding the physical world, and religion dealing with the spiritual side of life. It may be that the two are not just compatible, but in fact are dependent on each other. The excesses of each could be curbed by the other.

So which is it? Are science and religion inherently in conflict with each other, or can a way be found for the two to exist side-by-side? Are science and religion compatible?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? When is doubt helpful? How can we encourage debate? What makes a community?

18 thoughts on “Are Science And Religion Compatible?”

  1. First, let me provide a bit of personal context. I am a spiritual atheist. While I don’t believe in a “Creator” as some higher power, I do believe that there is something bigger than ourselves: a collective journey for a more just and sustainable world. I don’t use a religion to provide me the guideposts for that journey, even though I acknowledge many religious texts provide others with a decent beacon for living justly.

    I should note that I was raised a Christian. I once deeply believed in the “Thou shalt nots” of the Ten Commandments and the “Blessed are the” tenets of the Beatitudes. While there may still be considerable overlap in what I currently believe as just with these texts, my doctrine comes from a secular reflection on human rights and environmental viability.

    I also believe in science, or more specifically, the scientific method, that is “a method or procedure … consisting [of] systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses” (Oxford dictionary).

    I do believe that if you read ancient religious texts as literal, science, the scientific method, and religion collide. For instance, I once believed in an Adam and an Eve and the Bible’s creation story. I once believed in miracles. I also once believed in an afterlife. These things no longer make any sense to me, nor do I see how they make any scientific sense.

    True, many religious people these days don’t read their sacred texts as literal. If that’s the case, I guess I’ll agree that science and religion can “operate on different planes, with science a useful tool in understanding the physical world, and religion dealing with the spiritual side of life.”

    What I can’t reconcile is the belief in a god and a devil, angels and demons, and/or miracles. Here, I believe, science and religion do collide.

    I welcome any questions or challenges other readers of this blog want to send my way.

      1. I will respond on this site if people are interested, otherwise we can email back and forth to have a conversation about it. In any case, let me think about my evolution to atheism for a day or so. I want to provide a full answer to you, my friend.

          1. Three beginning notes:

            1) This is a response to Cecily on how I became an atheist.
            2) I mean no disrespect towards those who have faith in a god. I see how religion can be a great motivator to be and do good in the world.
            3) The post below is solely meant to describe my journey.

            My transformation from Christianity to atheism took quite some time, but was solidified in one crystalizing moment.

            First about my Christian background: The first church I remember being a part of as a young child was a Full Gospel church in North Minneapolis. Church involved a lot of excited “Amens” from the pews as the preacher preached. And when the music started, so did the clapping and dancing in the aisles. It was a fun experience for me as a little boy. But for reasons unbeknownst to me (or perhaps I simply can’t remember because I was so young) my family stopped going to that church.

            Fast forward some years. A divorce and my mom’s new marriage, brought my mom, my sister, and me to rural Wisconsin. And with that move we decided to join a Lutheran church with a small membership because it was the closest church to our home. There were no “Amens” shouted from the pews and definitely no dancing in the aisles. Also, I remember an interim pastor telling me to stop saying, “Geez” because it was short for “Jesus” and, thus, I was using the Lord’s name in vain. Guilt washed over me.

            Separately from my church instructions, I tried reading the Bible as a something I would do start to finish. I tried to do this several times, but I rarely made it past Exodus. And when I tried starting my reading with the New Testament, I rarely made it through Acts. Sometimes I skipped to Revelations and got really scared.

            Also as part of my upbringing, I remember being exposed to some fire and brimstone people and reading materials. Teaching began with Hell, not Heaven. And it seemed like I had plenty of reasons to fear I was bound for “H,” “E,” “double hockey sticks.” I got even more scared. I remember trying to memorize a Bible verse every night and praying long prayers to God as a part of my compulsive actions each night.

            Fast forward to my college days. Early on I was recruited to an evangelical church and was mentored by two men just a bit older than me. I was, again, convinced I had plenty to worry about. I seemed Hell-bound. And so, try as I might, I could not fit into the community I was searching for in that church. I soon left feeling extremely guilty about turning my back on God.

            Partially to fill my spiritual void, I joined a social justice group on campus. I convinced myself that doing good was a much better use of my time than feeling guilty all the time about how I feel short of what God wanted of me.

            From then and for many years I struggled with Christianity. I could not reconcile the Old Testament and New Testament versions of God. Nor could I reconcile the lives and actions of people who considered themselves religious but consciously and with joy did things that were clearly hypocritical when put up against their supposed religious beliefs.

            For different reasons I started to think of “doubt” as a virtue. Slowly, my relationship with God withered away.

            I also started taking a big interest in astronomy, the Big Bang, and the long progression to what would become our solar system. I loved learning how galaxies formed, how stars died, and how only 4 percent of the universe could be deemed as “seeable” mater. The rest were the two strange forces called dark matter and dark energy.

            If anything seemed close to what a god might do — a god who took very little interest in humans — It/She/He would be dark matter, an unseeable thing that as best as I can tell “tries” to keep the universe together. And the closest thing to a devil is dark energy, a force that is slowly stretching the universe thin and even more vacuous than it is right now. (I don’t believe these things are actually gods or devils, in truth. It’s just a fun concept I think about that would make me a Great American Novelist someday.)

            Anyhow, my fascination with science and astronomy replaced my obsessive attitudes toward religion. I began to feel better about myself in the process. Less guilt, more happy wonder and more time doing social justice work.

            I spent a little time defining myself as agnostic toward religion; a friend commented that I was a “hopeful agnostic.” But I also remember thinking that perhaps I was an atheist.

            And then a strange thing happened. I listened to a sort of gospel song, U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” I remember thinking that the uplift I felt in listening to that song (as well as uplifting social justice songs) gave me the same excited happy feeling I once felt as a kid in that Full Gospel church. But I did not equate that feeling with God, or Jesus, or anything religious. I realized that the uplift of music, other art forms, as well as the victories in the realm of social justice made me feel the inspirational and aspirational way that I wanted to feel while part of a church.

            Yes, listening to a U2 song crystalized my transformation into an atheist. Bono, a professed Christian, would be shocked, I’m sure.

            I’ve never turned back. I’m fine with there being no afterlife. I’m fine identifying with secular values to try and live a good life. And I am fine with doing social justice work as my part in trying to make the world a better place.

  2. One dislikes caviling over premises, but in this instance, I hope you will tolerate a slight objection: “It can’t be argued that science has been beneficial to our society.”

    By “beneficial,” I would ask for clarification in which sense, and for this reason: we are prone to confusing technological progress, which is on its face inarguable, as you say, with putative improvements in human beings per se. Are people “better,” morally, than 500 years ago? 1000? We are inclined to say, yes, no? And perhaps this is true. If it is, then, this implicates the use of the concepts “better” and “worse,” and with them, communal (if not objective) standards of good and bad. Something — in this case, the human being, can be judged to be better or worse compared to a previous state. We cannot perform this comparison, however, in the same way we might evaluate the improvement or degradation of a car, home, or computer: for that is merely a comment upon its material, empirically-verifiable condition. Moving from an observation of the type “his wrist will never improve, it is worse than before” to a “we are worse” or “we are better” than previous iterations of the human involves a categorical shift we must be attentive to: from a material, empirical observation of, e.g., rust, to an abstract judgement upon the state of a person’s or society’s “morals” or “ethics.” Perhaps these are emergent properties, but at this point neuroscientists have not provided the land bridge of Beringia, so to speak, that would serve as an irrefutable filament between the material and non-material in the fashion of Descartes’ pineal gland. So: apart from physical enhancement, can we be said to be morally better, either individually or tout court? And if so, the first principles of such an argument cannot be the same as those of the technological one, lest they rely upon material premises to make non-material observations about human conduct, which includes reference to these non-reductive, permanent notions of good and bad.

    If this is the case, then these standards of good and bad must contain within them an element of permanence. It is not by the standards of 2018 that we are better than those in 1018 — for that is merely superiority by chance, presentism, by rank chronology (we will be better tomorrow, and the day after that, and after that…we know this to be false) — but by something else that we might point to that one day — perhaps in 2038 — we will use to evaluate 2018. It is possible that we may decline a bit (we do not know), and will make the only rational judgment at that time (“we were better off in 2018”). Note, however: the standard will be waiting there for our cognitive use. Of that we are confident. Should be also be confident in stating that we possess that standard now? Or must we wait for the procession of time to provide us with those new, improved standards of “good” and “bad,” ones that might — for we must be fair and allow all possibilities — in fact *contradict* the very ones we now hold so dear? And if this strikes you as objectionable, then the question now is: whence have you arrived upon your permanent notions of good and bad that you use to evaluate not only past time, but present and future? What gives us what Thomas Nagel called “the view from nowhere,” the promontory that is free from the gravitational pull of current human things, giving us the evaluative insight to observe history from outside of it?

    [In Whit Stillman’s 1990 film, “Metropolitan,” there is the following exchange between two characters: “Mansfield Park, and nearly everything Jane Austen wrote, is near-ridiculous from today’s perspective.” His interlocutor replies: “Has it ever occurred to you that today, looked at from Jane Austen’s perspective, would look even worse?”]

    This is the great prejudice that conflating scientific progress with moral progress must, at least initially, be avoided philosophically — the assumption, without actual evidence apart from vague personal sentiment that one’s moral code would, if placed side-to-side with that of one’s great-great-grandparents, be superior — that are we are more enlightened, progressive, kinder, and the like by dint of being born late. We simply do not know this, and to truly “know thyself,” we cannot close the book, ever, on this question of personal moral character.

    Beyond the individual, there are also, of course, other modes of human cooperation that can be critiqued: institutions and social relations that are regnant at one time or another, and produce beneficial, harmful, or indifferent effects according to whichever standard of goodness or badness one may have in mind. If this is so, however, it must be a comprehensive assessment of technology’s benefits and shortcomings: we must be open to the possibility that there are other areas of human activity — social mores, manners, conventions — which were better in past times, producing a more cohesive and rewarding polis and associated culture — and upon which technology pays no heed apart from those activities being useful to its ongoing project, or pop up only as irritating hindrances to be removed (often religious and other folks beliefs). These would be hard to identify without introspection, however, for they lie in the dark — modernity blinds us to what it has left behind on the ash heap of history. It tells us those things were at the very least useless, and at worst, evil. There is no sense in paying further mind to them; they are behind us forever.

    These are difficult notions to consider, as they run up our general sense that we Moderns — to use a phrase from Nietzsche — are “good people.” The diminishing of apparently-arbitrary religious authority over our lives, and its replacement with social contract theory and a type of quantitative utilitarianism that lies behind our mass political and economic choices (namely, what can produce the most “happiness” for the most number of people, however they choose to define it [typically in terms of “rights” and “freedoms”], with the proviso that the pursuit of such “happiness” not interfere with the happiness of others as they define it for themselves that hour), must accept some responsibility for the conflict and division around us. This is not all superstition’s doing. Far from it.

    That is to say, human beings did this, not a god, God, or gods. And this is the hardest pill to swallow. People of a particular disposition might discuss — in private, away from the wrong ears — the truth about the idea of a “god.” Those who know, know. But in prior times this knowledge was not shared widely, and if we are to proceed without too much prejudice, we must grant those people the charity of trusting that they had good reasons for staying silent on these sacred questions. Rip away the veil once, and what was behind it can never be hidden again — or even said to be hidden.

    We must handle these questions of scientific progress, the status and necessity of myths in human civilization and culture, and whether pure rationality alone is sufficient to human cooperation and mutual respect– that is, reason as explicable in naturalistic, material terms — carefully. It must not be simply assumed unless one truly desires to begin again at a Year Zero, and all that would entail for the living.

    For wise — in the zetetic sense — men and women have lived among myth-driven, symbolic cultures for millennia, and for reasons only they know, stayed silent. They, like their books, cannot answer our queries. We are on our own. It is trivially true that they feared exposure for reasons of persecution, such as Spinoza. But we know that this never changes; exposure of the truth is rarely greeted with equanimity, and proclaiming it in the streets is nearly always a royal road to ruin, even in pluralistic societies that today especially seem to struggle with certain types of speech once regarded as essential to intellectual inquiry. No, fear of punishment from authorities for proclamation of the truth — as if such declarations do not typically open one to the threat of the gallows, guillotine, or stocks and pillories of social media — does not capture of the breadth and entirety of the thoughts of dissenters: political, scientific, technological, philosophical, irreligious, and religious. We should study these lives of great intellectual richness, exploration, and wonder at the world, with their perennial openness to rival explanations of human life and organization. If one is not capable of that, at the least one might ponder whether our modern prejudices toward the past — and its dogmas and darkness– blind us to the unforeseen consequences of the technological progress we hold in high regard, and which one day might present to those who follow us the very same benighted face of past irrationality that so repulses us now. We will not appear so progressive, or enlightened, on that day.

    Reconciling science and technology would take, I believe, a fundamental re-examination of what it means to be human, and upon the words, concepts, and activities we hold up as exemplary, valuable, and worthy of emulation by the young. One can entertain the likelihood that we are need of such an accounting; we seem to be struggling. It is an unfortunate fact of our times, however, that the increase in certainty that a liberal-democratic order inculcates in the citizenry — that ever-more numbers of reforms will, with time, effort, and education, lead to *the* very best ordering of human life and things that will ever be possible — makes such a discussion nearly impossible. This is a temptation of all regimes, naturally, and when combined with the optimism of the Enlightenment, offers a nearly-irresistible ambrosia of moral goodness to the living.

    Nevertheless, like Circe offering the cup to Ulysses, we should always be cautious as to what spirits we imbibe.

    1. If the Internet has taught us anything at all, it would seem to be that there is no accurate way to end any sentence that begins “It can’t be argued that….”

    2. This is a fascinating discussion. And while I find it incontrovertible that my life is better than a similar life 100, 500, or 1000 years ago (I know more, have access to more knowledge, can communicate and collaborate with more better-educated people, I have access to more experiences, I have the ability to go more places, I live longer, and have a better standard of living, among others) it’s not clear that a life 100, 500, or 1000 years from now will be correspondingly better.

      And while many of the improvements can be attributed to science, it’s not clear if these are permanent or temporary improvements. If the ability to go anywhere on the surface of the earth makes my life better, is it worth it is the end result is a changed climate that ultimately makes life more difficult? Is it worth it if the increase in plentiful, available food becomes possible because of pesticides that disrupt the ecosystem? Is the human race’s wants and desires take precedence over other species that are faced with shrinking habitats, dwindling numbers, and threatened extinction?

      So it is not clear if science paints an entirely rosy picture of the future.

      But the picture religion paints is not so great, either. While I think that many of the lessons that are contained in the various religious texts, like compassion, tolerance, and acceptance, are laudable, I think religion can be very easily subverted to advance the interests of the greedy, power-hungry, and short-sided. I’ve seen it when studying history, and I see it in today’s world as well. I have no reason to think that it will improve in the future.

      But to get back to the main point of the question, while the merits of science or religion can be debated, both play a large role in today’s world, in this country as well as around the world. Finding a detente, or even a way the two can work together and not against each other, would seem to be an imperative. Individuals have figured out a way to make that work, it seems to me, but cultures as a whole haven’t.

  3. I submit here a link to a brochure about creation

    I absolutely believe that science and faith in God and the bible are compatible, if fact, I think science proves the existence of the intelligent design of our universe. The Bible make statements of scientific facts, long before they were discovered, as well. Science itself requires an immense amount of faith. Faith to believe in a theory and to pursue the proving it, often in the face of opposition. The Bible describes faith wonderfully at Hebrews 11:1
    “Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen”

    I also believe that all religions are not approved by God. Any religious organization that persecutes, or encourages those in authority to persecute another religion, organization or people cannot have God’s approval. Any religious organization that condones acts of violence or acceptance of behavior contradictory to the Bible’s teachings, or promotes false teachings and non biblical traditions as canon, cannot have God’s approval. Any religious organization that promotes the worship of people, animals or other “idols” cannot have God’s approval.

    Finally, I believe in every individuals right to choose who or what they will believe in.

  4. I think certain parts of the bible are literal such as the people who lived at those times and the events they experienced. Some parts of the bible are prophetic and have ancient parallels. Lastly, some portions of the bible are figurative.

    Here is an example of compatibility of science and scripture.
    In Genesis it says that the universe was created in 6 “days”. Nowhere does it say that this was literally six 24 hour periods. Other parts of the bible tell us that a “day” can refer to an indeterminate period of time. Hence, we can determine that the creative “days” were periods of time, likely consisting of millions or billions of years, in which certain parts of creation were made. This is proven by the scientific evidence that shows that the earth is more than 4 billion years old.

    1. Who gets to decide which parts are literal and which figurative? Isn’t this exactly the cause of the splintering of Christian sects? If some of it can be figurative, can it be argued that _all_ of it is figurative?

      It seems to all come down to a matter of personal belief.

      1. That’s where discernment comes in. If a biblical passage is literal, then there is often historical, physical and/or scientific evidence to support it. Where there is none of those things then we can discern that the passage is likely figurative or prophetic.

        1. Most of that evidence was only discovered in the last century. So were the faithful misinterpreting the the bible before 1800? If we discover future evidence, will that suddenly make parts of the bible we thought were figurative suddenly literal?

          And because a book mentions real world events does not make the rest of it true. Harry Potter mentions many commonly known places, but that doesn’t make it a history book.

          There is no physical/scientific evidence to support a flood or descent from a pair of first parents, so are these parts that are figurative?

          1. I would like to point out that we also know more now, scientifically, than we did in the 1800’s. Just because someone misinterprets doesn’t mean that the text or scientific facts are wrong. It means that the knowledge of the day is incomplete.
            Yes, when and if new evidence is discovered that shines new light to show figurative interpretation was actually literal, or vice versa, then the truly faithful will believe the proof before them.

            I believe there actually is scientific evidence that the biblical flood was based on a real event. Many cultures also have oral histories that tell of a catastrophic world changing flood. There is also strong genetic evidence that we all descend from common ancestors. Science supports that.

  5. In order to answer your question I believe it requires a certain stripping away of the many, many stories and lessons of religion down to its basic kernel which is the idea of a creator and the idea of a life beyond the universe that we live in. Is this possible?

    On one hand someone might gesture to the stars and say wherein is this so-called promised land? Where is heaven? Heaven is not part of the observable universe and therefore fictional. God is also not observable and therefore fictional.

    On the other hand I give you the story of “flatland.” Imagine a world in only two dimensions. It exists like a sheet of paper with the inhabitants only observing and existing within those two dimensions. Along comes a person like us, living in the third dimension. We can see all of the land, even inside the two-dimensional people living within it. We could talk to them and they could hear us but not see us. Only if we, say, touched the surface with our finger would they see a two-dimensional slice of us at all.

    Anyway, you’ve probably already heard this story, but couldn’t the existence of something outside our observable universe also be possible? I don’t ask for proof since the people of flatland would also have no observable evidence with which to prove that the third dimension and a being within it exists by any tool or measurement that they can take.

    Here’s a better way to extend that idea into the third dimension. Say, sometime in the future, that we create a computer simulation of a physical reality. We set up everything and let it go. Particles collide, and a simulation of actual reality occurs, granted at a slower rate than in the real world. Now extend that idea forward. We create an AI. A single-celled organism which reproduces itself within the simulation. We create plants. We create a bug. We create a dog. We create a “person.” Now this person exists within this simulated universe. They see no evidence that anything exists outside of three dimensions and outside of time. In fact it will be many, many years before they can observe things beyond which they can see with their naked eye. “Good,” we say, “that will save us rendering time for the rest of this.” I jest of course.

    But imagine our interaction with that world and those persons. We could look at their code to “look inside them.” We could heal them without touching them. We could speak to them, make objects appear by typing in some code. We could do miraculous things.

    As you’ve probably already guessed my next question is couldn’t this be the case for us? Couldn’t life exist outside of our observable universe in a similar manner? That there is a reality outside of reality? That a creator could reside in a space we cannot see and have access to powers we cannot have access to because we are within and they are without?

    I have no evidence of this and smarter people than me have argued both sides. But, for me personally, I don’t think the idea of a creator is at odds with the observable universe. It is only when you get into the idea of “god did this” that I think you run into trouble.

    All too often people have been quick to attribute occurrences in everyday life to the direct intervention of a creator. To attribute their own thoughts to such a being, even. In the vast, vast majority of those instances it should be recognized that this is simply wishful thinking. A projection. God didn’t let you be first in line at the Starbucks today when you were in a hurry. God didn’t let your team get that touchdown during the big game. And I think you see this sort of projection in religious texts too.

    Loving thy neighbor and doing no harm to others may be wisdom, and sure it could have been put forth by god. But it could be that it just makes sense to improve society and that it’s a wholly human idea. An idea that’s attributed to god since it’s a good one. Anyway, it’s okay for an idea or an occurrence to be beneficial without it coming directly from the mouth or will of god.

    Most religious texts end up being a collection of history seen through the eyes of those who would attribute good fortune and beneficial ideas to god. And they end up being a historical collection of a society’s good ideas at the time. Which slowly change over time as conditions for what is good for that society change. Going from “An eye for an eye,” when it’s a struggle for your life to even survive encounters with another society to “turn the other cheek” when there’s the possibility for peaceful coexistence. Depending on the situation both can be seen as wise and unwise.

    Maybe putting your faith in science to fix the ills of society is necessary because scientific advances have begun to harm the environment and they must be curtailed through greater advances in our understanding. Maybe putting your faith in religion is necessary because societial boundaries are changing so rapidly and the suffering that comes from societal clash must be healed in what is traditionally an inward-looking, spiritual way by finding a new good idea and a new norm. Maybe you need both the best of scientific intelligence and religious compassion divorced from their worst exclusionary ideas of “only the ideas within this circle of thought are good and correct” to bring about the next good thing.

    In short I feel that there could be a creator, but that their interaction with our reality is far more limited than we tend to want to believe. Maybe that there is a creator and that they don’t intercede are both true. That both religion and science, in a way, have it right. Maybe you and I were born without that being a direct result of the intervention of the heavens. Maybe all the events of our lives just happen within the bounds of how reality works, only to be assessed at the end for some unfathomable reason. That our lives were “good” or were “bad.” We certainly judge others in this way. But does god? Maybe they never judge at all. Maybe judging is something only we do. And do poorly.

  6. I believe that a religion comes in three parts:

    1) A moral code that has various virtues, but is generally dated in modern terms.

    2) A dogma that you have to take on faith, often making dubious claims. Creation myths, etc.

    3) A call to engage the spiritual side of our natures.

    I think the dogma is just a carrier for the other two: i.e., “This is what we all believe so we are bound together by a common faith”. I think this is the aspect of religion that collides with science. As science punches holes in the dogma of various groups the people are forced to choose. This is what leads people to say they believe in the bible, but not literally– they are letting the dogma slide in order to accept the results of science they see around them.

    The moral code of each religion contains some ideas that were good at the time and may have aged well or badly. Since the code can’t be updated to keep pace with a changing society, people who cling to it can seem to be of a reactionary type. Often interpretation is used here too, to read modern ethics into ancient texts. E.g. “Is the Judeo-Christian god against slavery?” Both the old testament and the new unequivocally say no. Much energy has been spent on squaring this with modern sensibilities.

    The call to the spiritual is on firmer ground. There is an innate sense in each of us that yearns for a spiritual aspect to our lives, for something that feels greater than ourselves. Whether this is a connection to an actual metaphysical reality or something that is purely an internal effect within our own minds, we cannot deny that this is a potent force in humankind’s experience.

    So, conclusion: Part of what religion is conflicts with science. The dogma aspect will be continually challenged by scientific inquiry and as people’s faith in their religion’s myths falls away they tend to become less serious about being religious as a whole.

    For the moral code, people tend to pick what remains good in that code, add in more current societal norms, and let the rest fall away. (For example, we no longer beat our children as the bible admonishes) So this is partly compatible. In the modern world, people seem to act about as well whether they are religious or irreligious.

    Insofar as religion provides a connection to the spiritual I think it is not only compatible, but useful. People have an intrinsic need and if they don’t want to cut their own path then an pre-organized spiritual practice can be valuable.

    The question is, can you make a religion that retains the good parts and stays compatible with science over time. It sounds difficult. What helps perpetuate religions is a group belief in some impossible dogma. And if you make a religion that can be updated to reflect future social and scientific revelations, then you are likely to find it evolving into something that you would not recognize.

  7. Whilst reading the above article, a certain few lines stuck out to me. For example, “And yet, some of the most acclaimed and successful scientists have been deeply religious people.” Because I am a person that likes to compare completely separate entities for context, this line reminded me of certain personality traits. People like to identify with certain groups and labels. For example, introverts and extroverts, seemingly two completely different, opposite poles of personality. The quality of being an introvert or an extrovert lie on the same plane of existence: personality. With these personality traits, people often subscribe to only one or the other. With science and religion, people who subscribe to one often believe they can’t also believe in and even cast out the idea of the other. But as we know, there are people who identify with both, like Isaac Newton, and there are people who are both introverts and extroverts, called ambiverts.

    Life, in general, doesn’t come in blacks and whites. Actually, it is very difficult to find things, lying on the same plane, that only come in blacks and whites. Science and religion is an example of the concept. Someone can believe in science more than they believe in religion but still have faith, someone can be fiercely religious and bash upon science, and someone can be perfectly in the middle believing in both religion and science.

    Another good comparison to this idea is homosexuality. As time goes on, we discover that homosexuality is a spectrum. There’s fully gay on one end, there’s fully straight on the other end, and there’s a whole range of things in between. There are even things that fall outside of this clean-cut line, like asexuality. Being straight and being gay have also collided fiercely in the past. Becuase with ideas like these, they are so vastly different and have so many different interpretations that people inevitable clash. In the end, science and religion need to coexist, or else there wouldn’t be a spectrum or balance, and although they might not depend on one another, each has unique importance in giving us as a way to express our ideas and have a label to fit in with.

  8. I think the short-hands “science” and “religion” mean different things to different people. If they are “social institutions,” which are structures that create a certain social order. They establish a sense of shared social purpose and a set of ground rules for how people should act. Depending on how the particular scientific or religious institutions are structured and how free people are to interpret or re-interpret the basic purpose and ground rules, they may not necessarily be incompatible.

    On the other hand, if “science” and “religion” are short-hands for different types of knowledge — revealed knowledge (knowledge received by divine revelation) vs. empirical knowledge (knowledge acquire through our senses using experimentation and observation) — then it becomes a bigger challenge. These are very different views of what qualifies as knowledge. One considers faith to be sufficient proof. The other requires independently verifiable data.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *