Science vs. Religion
Though science and religion seem to contradict each other, these two topics, in conflict for hundreds of years, may not be as different as people like to believe. Fact and faith are often portrayed as if they are on opposite sides of a spectrum, but I believe that they are opposite sides of the same coin. Each field yields questions and answers that we cannot find anywhere else, and though the answers may differ, the questions are often the same. Where do we come from? How did the world come to be? What is the meaning of life? Science and religion offer incomplete, wildly different answers for all these questions, yet all hold similar beliefs. There exists a variety of ways to analyze these similarities and differences, but I want to focus on this major question: Do science and religion share similar beliefs about beliefs?
In order to answer this question, we must first analyze each concept with respect to the other. The biggest difference between science and religion is that science studies the natural world through empirical data, while religion focuses on immaterial phenomena that cannot be detected through traditional means. In another sense, science is about the observable world (fact), while religion is about the unobservable world (faith). I think the core of religious thought is an inherent faith that is not found in science. In order to partake in any religion, you must maintain a certain conviction for those particular beliefs—almost like a gamble, if you will. I compare this to science, where taking a random assumption can only be verified through tests and hypotheses. No one will believe a scientist’s claim on something because of a gut-feeling; they must reasonably prove their beliefs. Religion is all about trusting in ideas that are beyond the reasoning of human thought. For example, take the classic points of Christianity—that Jesus and God exist. Though people may experience miracles or certain events that convince them of this existence, there is no actual, verifiable proof that Jesus is the son of God, or that God exists at all. But that is what defines Christianity as a religion. The whole point is to throw your lot in with something that may or may pan out, but hold on to that belief regardless. I believe this faith is truly what defines religion, and that the verification of faith to fact is what defines science.
Now that we have the basis of each topic, I want to analyze how science and religion handle belief. Based on our definitions above, scientific beliefs stem from facts while religious beliefs stem from faith. But how does a person really define facts apart from faith? I would like to turn to Bradley Sickler’s excerpt The Relationship Between Science and Religion for an answer. As Sickler explains in his excerpt, saying “F is a fact” does not instantly mean “F is true and empirically verifiable” because we have no way of defining empirically verifiable. Much like theology, some empirically verifiable claims in science are based off of faith. Every hypothesis starts with a person saying, “This could be a true phenomenon in the world, but I’m not sure, so let’s test it.” The hypothesis starts out as a matter of faith. This means that “F is a matter of faith” could line up with “F is true”, and now we are left with no distinction between science and theology, much less what
constitutes as a fact in either.
Therefore, faith is not always distinct from facts. Distinguishing faith from facts is near impossible, because how do you determine each one? “F is a matter of faith” could certainly line up “F is a fact” and “F is true”. At the very least you cannot say “F is a matter of faith” and is therefore not true, because matters of faith very possibly can be matters of facts as well. There is simply no way to know. This shows how the belief systems operating in each discipline are actually quite similar. After all, if we can’t sufficiently separate faith from fact, then what’s separating religion from science?
This all leads to my final theory: science and religion should not be adversaries, but intimate partners. Being on one side or the other of this age-old argument simply doesn’t work for anyone. It’s impossible to conceive the argument of Creationists and how the earth was created in six days, especially with all the evidence stating the contrary. But the same evidence that so many say proves a Godless universe is riddled with holes that makes me believe theology may not be so far-fetched after all. For example, look at the Theory of Evolution. The most troubling thing about this theory is how, exactly, people developed to react to things they had never seen before. We can detect and react to anything in our universe, regardless of previous encounters. Of course, constant exposure leads to better reactions (hopefully), but even a child who has never before seen water knows how to swim. Where did this intuition come from? Science will say it’s evolution, while theology will say it’s a higher power, but neither side can fully verify their beliefs.
Another thing that cements my theory is Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2. We can argue science deals with matter and the “factual” presence of things, while theology believes in an otherworldly energy many claim as a higher power; a “God”. But here is an equation stating that energy and matter are unequivocally linked together. Much like quantum physics claims that particles and waves are actually two sides of the same coin, maybe theology and science are the same way—both arguing for only one side that makes sense most of the time, but makes the most sense when combined together. After all, that is how light works. In some instances light is a particle, while in others light acts like a wave. Neither side is sufficient to explain all the phenomena, but when put together, suddenly things start making sense. This is not to say we have everything figured out—we still don’t really know why light acts the way it does—but we can at least have a reasonable explanation for these observed behaviors.
In this way I think science and religion are linked—we cannot truly have one without the other. Fact is near indistinguishable from faith, leading me to conclude that science and religion share very similar beliefs about belief. Furthermore, they do not need to be so divided. Like two sides of the same coin, these fields offer different perspectives on the same ideas humans encounter in their daily lives, and just like broader perspectives lead to a better overall knowledge for a person, so I believe that possessing both a scientific and religious knowledge can work to provide a greater understanding towards the inner workings of the universe.”
Sickler, Bradley. The Relationship Between Science and Religion. 2009.