The conflicts between religion and science have existed and been well studied for generations, yet many people deny they exist at all.
As someone who studied religion in college, I’ve seen both sides of this. On one hand, it’s true that many people apply religion and science in different ways, meaning they don’t always conflict. But on another hand — a much bigger hand — it’s impossible to ignore the war that has been waged between science and religion throughout human history.
Jerry Coyne, who literally wrote the book on this subject in Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible, has a piece up at the Conversation pointing out how science and religion actually “represent incompatible ways of viewing the world.”
In contrast to the methods of science, religion adjudicates truth not empirically, but via dogma, scripture and authority — in other words, through faith, defined in Hebrews 11 as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In science, faith without evidence is a vice, while in religion it’s a virtue. Recall what Jesus said to “doubting Thomas,” who insisted in poking his fingers into the resurrected Savior’s wounds: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
And yet, without supporting evidence, Americans believe a number of religious claims: 74 percent of us believe in God, 68 percent in the divinity of Jesus, 68 percent in Heaven, 57 percent in the virgin birth, and 58 percent in the Devil and Hell. Why do they think these are true? Faith.
Coyne goes on to point out that, while science works to unify all people behind testable theories, religions make completely different (and often contradictory) claims.
There are over 4,000 religions on this planet, and their “truths” are quite different. (Muslims and Jews, for instance, absolutely reject the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God.) Indeed, new sects often arise when some believers reject what others see as true. Lutherans split over the truth of evolution, while Unitarians rejected other Protestants’ belief that Jesus was part of God.
And while science has had success after success in understanding the universe, the “method” of using faith has led to no proof of the divine. How many gods are there? What are their natures and moral creeds? Is there an afterlife? Why is there moral and physical evil? There is no one answer to any of these questions. All is mystery, for all rests on faith.
The “war” between science and religion, then, is a conflict about whether you have good reasons for believing what you do: whether you see faith as a vice or a virtue.
I see blind faith as a vice, and one I’d rather live without. Being able to deduce the truth through research and inquiry, however, is certainly a virtue. Instead of reconciling the two by compartmentalizing each one in our lives, we’re much better off sticking with the inevitable winner of this war: science.
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