Science and/versus religion
Statement of The Center for the Study of Science and Religion:
"Sciences respond to a felt need to understand the world, and religions
respond to a felt need for the world to have meaning. From these different
starting points, one issue emerges at the junction of any science and any
religion: are these felt needs commensurate? That is, is the universe a
moral place, so that the natural order is relevant to human lives and human
values; do faith and family, love and charity mirror any larger meaning than
the meanings we give to them? Today, to a first approximation, the answer to
these questions from any religion is Yes, and the answer from any science is
Scientific American book review: "... there are two ways to think
about science. You can be a theist, believing that behind the veil of
randomness lurks an active, loving, manipulative God, or you can be a
materialist, for whom everything is matter and energy interacting within
space and time. Whichever metaphysical club you belong to, the science comes
out the same." 1
Owen Gingerich: "One can believe that some of the
evolutionary pathways are so intricate and so complex as to be hopelessly
improbable by the rules of random chance, But if you do not
believe in divine action, then you will simply have to say that random
chance was extremely lucky, because the outcome is there to see. Either way,
the scientist with theistic metaphysics will approach laboratory problems in
much the same way as his atheistic colleague across the hall."
Albert Einstein: "After religious teachers accomplish the refining process
indicated, they will surely recognize with joy that true religion has been
ennobled and made more profound by scientific knowledge."
Mark Friesel: "The difference between faith and a conditional reliance on
observation of the natural world is profound. It is the irresolvable
difference between religion and science." 2
As we have mentioned so many other places in this web site, it is difficult
to view most world religions as single entities. For example, Christianity
consists of a range of beliefs. As a minimum, it consists of two
solitudes: a conservative and a liberal wing. They occasonally throw verbal rocks at each other, but generally proceed independently with little debate or dialogue between the two solitudes.
There are perhaps three solitudes if you include mainline
denominations. However, such denominations are typically composed of
conservative and liberal members, as recent conflicts
over equality for persons of all sexual orientations,
legalization of same-sex relationships, acceptance/rejection of the theory of evolution, etc. ndicate.
Conservatives and liberals -- a.k.a. traditionalists and progressives -- approach the Bible
with different presuppositions:
Most conservative Christians believe that the Bible is the
word of God. The original autograph copy of the books of the
Bible are inerrant -- without error -- because
God inspired its authors.
Mainline Protestants tend to believe that the Bible contains the
Word of God. But it is not free of errors, particularly on scientific topics.
Many liberal Christians believe that the Bible contains much that is
spiritually positive. However, since much of it was written by authors from a
tribal, pre-scientific culture, it also contains many errors in cosmology,
geology, and other sciences. It also contains immoral material that does not reflect the will
of God: e.g. condoning slavery, accepting the oppression of
minorities, persons of different religions, etc. Some of its content is
mythical in nature and is often borrowed from nearby Pagan cultures. Some
biblical content consists of anti-religious propaganda.
When considering science and the Bible, liberal and conservatives groups reach opposite
Many conservative Christians believe that the text of the Bible is
free of error throughout -- including its spiritual, historical and
||Most liberal Christians note that the Bible was written by authors who
lived in a pre-scientific age. In particular, the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) was largely written by bronze-age authors who lived in a tribal society. Thus, Bible passages relating to science
reflect the limited knowledge of the authors, and cannot usually be
considered a reliable source of information.
Essays in this section will discuss what the Bible says on certain
topics. They compare and contrast them with the consensus reached by scientists. We will
attempt to harmonize the two, where possible.
The relationship between science and religion:
Disagreements are seen in two main areas:
Active conflict between science and religion: There have been
hundreds of disputes
since the end of the 16th century in which scientists and theologians have
taught opposing beliefs. At any given time, in recent centuries, there has been at least one active, major battle. Dozens are active
at the present time. Probably the most strongly argued are currently:
The nature of homosexual orientation: Is it
sinful, chosen, changeable, unnatural and abnormal for everyone?, Or is it
morally neutral, unchosen, fixed, natural and normal for a minority of
Origins of the species, the earth itself and the rest of the
universe. Were they created or did they evolve naturally? A second
conflict is over the age of the Earth. Is it
less than 10,000 years old, as some interpretatoins
of the Bible imply, or about
4.5 billion years as evidence shows.
Environmental concerns like atmospheric degradation and climate change.
Surfacing now is a debate over the nature of
gender identity. Most people experience no conflict between their genetic
gender and their perceived gender. But a small minority does. Some describe it
as having a female brain in a male body, or vice versa. Once the conflicts over sexual orientation settle down, we expect that gender identity will be the next "hot topic" regarding equal rights and human sexuality.
Science evaluating religion: This involves the use of the
scientific method to
evaluate the validity of a religious belief. Three examples are:
A great deal of information is available on the first area: the historical and current
conflicts between science and religion. Little attention is paid to the other
area: the use of scientific techniques to evaluate religious practices and
Owen Gingerich, "God's Universe," Belknap Press, (2006).
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
Mark Friesel, "The Templeton Prize: A danger to science?," Free Inquiry, Vol 21 #3, 2001-Summer, Pages 20 to 22
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Copyright © 1999 to 2012 by
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-NOV-28
Latest update: 2012-MAR-12
Author: B.A. Robinson