Religion and Science: An Uneasy Co-existence

Can Science and Religion co-exist amicably? There is no reason to suppose they cannot, though for some odd reason, the two have always been at odds with each other. The debate that we keep listening to on the subject is between two incompatible extremes: one group holds that the only true and complete source of knowledge lies in the Holy Scriptures and all scientific pursuits are therefore meaningless and misleading; the other believes that valid observations and their analysis form the only basis for deriving scientific theories.

Far from being incompatible, the two are actually meant to complement each other. Religion strives to improve an individual’s moral fibre, while science enables one to better understand himself and his surroundings(much further than the eye can see) through reason.

Science can’t make use of religion in furtherance of its stated aim as the conclusions that it derives are solely based on sound observations. Religion on the other hand can benefit from science but doesn’t, as the clerics are generally not gifted with knowledge of worldly dimensions. A broad-minded rather than a literalistic interpretation of religion can help bridge the gap between the two and enable scientific discoveries to be incorporated in the body fabric of religion.

Scientists are constrained by the terms of their craft in making deductions only on the basis of facts and observations. Clerics on the other hand are hampered by their extremely limited knowledge of fields other than a study of religious literature, that too being sectarian-oriented.

Science is absolute; if a theory is proved sound through observations and mathematical calculations, all scientists generally acquiesce. If new facts get unearthed, the original theory is suitably adjusted to meet the demands of this new reality. Religion, in the way it is practiced, is certainly not absolute. Not only are there so many religions in the world, each religion is further sub-divided into innumerable sects. The basis for comparison is therefore in itself not sound.

It appears that the basic difference between science(as scientists view it) and religion(as we practice it) is that in science, conclusions are reached on the basis of a detailed analysis of all the available facts and observations; in religion, we arrive at the conclusion first and then fine-tune the facts according to our pre-conceived notions.

The reason they can’t generally communicate with each other is because they speak on different wavelengths. One of the major points of dissonance is that while religion strongly believes in a Creator, scientific theories revolve around the gradual evolution of the universe and life-forms over billions of years. Dr Wernher von Braun, the father of the US Rocket and Space Program, tried to put up a cogent argument to the skeptics who had challenged him to prove the existence of a Creator:”Must we really light a candle to see the sun?” he said. “The electron is materially inconceivable, and yet it is so perfectly known through its effects that we use it to illuminate our cities, guide our airliners through the night skies and take the most accurate measurements. What strange rationale makes some physicists accept the inconceivable electron as real, while refusing to accept the reality of a Designer on the ground that they cannot conceive of Him? ………….. The inconceivability of some ultimate issue (which always will lie outside scientific resolution) should not be allowed to rule out any theory that explains the interrelationship of observed data and is useful for prediction”.

All religions preach that a human being is the masterpiece of creation. The one thing that sets him apart from the rest is his faculty of reason. It is illogical to assume that this special gift of God is not meant to be used to enhance one’s understanding of faith. The clerics insistence on faith being blind is thus inconsistent with the Quran’s persistent appeal to reason as well as the dictates of common sense. In keeping with Einstein’s pertinent observation that ‘religion without science is blind and science without religion is lame,’ both are meant to complement each other so ┬áthat man’s faith remains wholesome and complete. The Greatness of the Creator in all His Glory can after all only really be visualized and appreciated if one truly understands the beauty and complexity of all living and non-living entities all around us that science unveils through recourse to reason.

2 Responses to Religion and Science: An Uneasy Co-existence
  1. Feisal Reply

    It is religious clergy that is anti science because science occasionally exposes their ignorance or faults, their false drama!
    Science and true scientists should not have any fear or threat from religion.

    • pervaiz Reply

      There was a time when scientists were under threat from the Church to recant or be killed as an heretic and we owe it to those brave souls who persevered, because of whom we are where we are today. A large number of scientists prospered under a few of the liberal Abbasid Caliphs, but since the importance of science never trickled down to the broader society, hardly any of the original works in Arabic exist today.

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