Blog Archive

2017-01-31

Religion Vs Science by Rev. J.T. Smith

That title seems to imply that science and religion (any religion, I am not singling any specific religion out here) are at odds with each other.  And it seems that the majority of people (well, most Americans at least) share that sentiment: that science and religion are at odds with each other.  The reality, though, is that they're not.  I'm writing this as an ordained minister and a scientist.  Even Einstein said: “I want to know God's thoughts - the rest are mere details.”

Scientists rely on methodology, testing, and evidence to come to their conclusions.  Scientists, for the most part it seems, concur that science has all the answers.   Science does not have all of the answers; science does, however, provide a way of getting the answers.   The catch is that there will always be questions, there will always be mysteries.

Religion was basically the earliest form of science, the earliest means available to explain world and the universe.  Science as we know it came about because Religion didn't seem sufficient to answering questions as there was evidence putting holes in many of the core statements of Religion.   Part of the problem is a difference in the mental approach.  Scientists have ideas that they test and either verify and/or adjust as needed, or reject the idea as determined by the testing and the resulting evidence.  Religion, on the other hand, tends to engender beliefs.  Beliefs are far more intransigent, much harder to adapt to new evidence.  What many people don't seem to grasp is that simply because new evidence may contradict one aspect of a given religion it doesn't mean that the religion itself is wrong, it simply means that our understanding needs to be adjusted.

The Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible (of which the first five books are in fact the Torah) contain an ancient understanding of how the world and the universe were created; but that's not necessarily the whole story.  Evolution still fits easily into it all.  Especially once you look at the Creation as described in Genesis as the highlights much the same way the sports section of the news (i.e. the evening news, the sports section of the newspaper/newsletter, etc., et al.) doesn't describe every moment of a game/match but instead just gives the highlights for the “big plays”, the big events.

Science will explain how people reproduce, how groups of people form cultures and how those cultures interacted physically, economically, socially, etc.   Science in and of itself does not set moral boundaries nor recommend any laws governing how people should treat each other.  In many societies, religion does set those moral boundaries and recommend those governing laws.  In fact, not only were the oldest documented legal codes based on religious doctrines, but many modern legal codes still spring at the base from religious-based ethical doctrines.  That does mot mean that atheists lack morals or that religion is required to create a working and just code of conduct.  In fact, the American legal system has roots not only in the 10 commandments of Jewish/Christian heritage/faith, but also numerous others including ancient Roman and Babylonian legal codes as well as civil and common law traditions of Europe.

Ultimately, what's mostly missed in all this back and forth is that both religion and science are really after the same thing: Both want to understand the universe.  The difference is simply the approach, the effective questions being asked.  Science seeks to explain and understand how it all happens, how it all works, the effective mechanics of it.  Religion seeks to explain and understand why it all happens, what's behind it all, a reason beyond “that's just the way it is.”  The easiest way to understand it is to think of science as the medical approach to the universe as a body, while religion could be thought of as the psychological approach to the universe.  Science will see the body, but for many they'll see that body as a machine rather than a living dynamic entity.  Religion tends to treat the body as a living entity and tries to work from there, but occasionally misses that the universe is dynamic rather than static, and has been since the Creation.

by Rev. J.T. Smith