Science vs Religion. I’ve replied to a lot of posts on the subject, so I thought I would go ahead and write my own post about it.
There’s a lot of debate in our society about faith and science. What it essentially boils down to is this: are science and religion diametrically opposed, or are they really just two sides of the same coin? Can science and religion ever really be friends? It is my opinion that they are opposed to each other, and in fact are NOT two sides of the same coin.
On a very basic, superficial level, one could make an argument about how science and religion are just two ways to answer all of life’s most baffling questions: how did we get here? What’s the meaning of life? What happens when we die? Things of that nature. But beyond that, the two sides of the same coin argument really starts to fall apart.
First of all, science is a process of seeking answers, of starting from a position of ignorance and working toward an answer. Religion purports to already have all of the answers. But aside from being actual, literal opposites, let’s move on to the deeper analysis.
Religion, when boiled down to the most basic level, is really a moral code. In this sense, I make a differentiation between faith and religion. Faith is abstract–you can have faith in anything without making a moral statement. Faith can exist without religion, but religion cannot exist without faith. Back to my main point: religion tells people how to lead their lives. It’s the codification of moral values in that there are rules to follow and consequences for not following the rules. The ten commandments and the idea of Hell are prime examples of this. There are whole books of the Bible dedicated to delineating what kind of behavior is acceptable and unacceptable. You can’t have a religion without making some sort of statement about values.
Science, on the other hand, makes no moral statements or edicts. When Watson and Crick unveiled their DNA model, what was the moral implication of that? When Dr. Jonas Salk created the polio vaccine, where was the moral statement? One could argue that once science creates or discovers something, there are moral implications: nuclear weapons, firearms, chemical weapons, etc. But really, there’s nothing inherently moral or immoral about nuclear power, for example. What we humans choose to do with the information that science provides us is something totally different. That’s a transference of human values onto science; it doesn’t mean that there is anything intrinsically ethical or moral about science.
Back to the issue of faith. Some people like to say things like, “Oh, science is your religion!” So, so wrong. It all comes back to faith. I don’t require faith to practice science. Blind trust in scientific principles isn’t required because I have directly observable, testable evidence. So it’s disingenuous to say that anyone “believes in sciences.” You don’t have to believe in facts. Religion, conversely, cannot operate without faith. With no direct way to observe or interact with God/Allah/Whatever, worshipers have nothing left but a blind devotion. And I use the phrase “blind devotion” in only the most literal sense, not as a loaded statement. A Christian abides by the 10 commandments on the faith that there’s a God they cannot see/feel/hear/touch or in any other way interact with keeping track of everything and preparing to reward them in death. They have faith that when they do in fact die, they’ll go to a specified afterlife, even though you can’t see it, and nobody who’s died is going to come back to life anytime soon to tell us what happens.
Ultimately what this comes down to are what the purposes of science and religion are. Religion impels one to to make certain moral decisions; science does not. Similarly, if faced with a moral dilemma, science is utterly useless, as it has nothing to do with values or ethics. Solutions to ethical or moral dilemmas ARE found in religion, however. You see people praying for guidance all the time, but nobody has ever said anything like, “Should I cheat on my girlfriend or not? I’ll design a scientific experiment to find the answer!”
In summation, science and religion can never really mix because they were both developed to address completely different needs.
*I think it’s important to make a distinction about science and morality. Science cannot help one make a moral or ethical decision, but logic can. In regard to morality, I regard logic as the opposite of religion.