Can Science and Religion Coexist?
By: Doug Irwin
Senior, East Mecklenburg High School
With modern advancements in science, many people believe that science will be the death of religion. They would say that eventually, science will discredit enough aspects of religion that it will either disprove religion altogether, or it will cause enough people to question their faith that religion will no longer be necessary and will no longer exist. I believe, however, that while science may disprove certain aspects of religion, it is very possible for science and religion to coexist.
Throughout history, there have been both scientific beliefs and religious beliefs that have been proven wrong. For instance, in the days of Christopher Columbus, it was a common belief that the Earth was flat and that one could just sail right off the edge of the ocean (Hannam). Obviously, this belief was proven wrong and today it is common knowledge that the Earth is not flat, it is round. Another example is the belief that the universe revolved around the Earth. This was both a religious and a scientific belief (Scientific Theories). Galileo was persecuted by the church for suggesting that the universe revolves around the sun rather than the Earth, but today we know that Galileo was right and that the universe does revolve around the sun (Scientific Theories). In this scenario, religion and science conflicted with each other and could not coexist.
Although there are obviously some instances where science and religion conflict, they do not always conflict, and I believe that it is very possible for the two to coexist and possibly even help each other. As stated by the Dalai Lama, “science and religion share a search for the truth and for understanding reality (Giatso)”. I totally agree with this statement. The goals of both religion and science are to seek truth and understanding, but I think that they do so in two totally different ways. Science is all about trying to learn how everything works in the physical and material world by conducting experiments. Science provides laws, such as the law of gravity, as well as many other small details, such as details about the human anatomy. Religion focuses on different issues that are more centered on how and why we exist, which does not always relate to the physical and material world. In simple terms, religion focuses on the big picture while science focuses on all of the details. For instance, science may prove that evolution has occurred and is still occurring, but it does not prove how or why the first organisms on Earth came into existence or where the energy that created the Big Bang came from. It helps us understand the history of life on Earth and how life on Earth evolves and sustains, but it does not prove religion wrong.
Because religion is so broad, and in many cases vague, there are bound to be mistakes or misinterpretations. Using the example of evolution again, it is easy to see how somebody who is uninformed could look at the Bible and think that it says that the world is only 4,000 years old, but this is not necessarily the case. In my opinion, many of the stories of the Bible are not meant for literal interpretations. They are just meant to get a point across and teach a certain lesson. Secondly, the Bible is not a scientific document, and it was not written by scientists. Its purpose is not to prove or disprove any scientific theories; its purpose is to relay the word of God. This shows that religion is not intended to contradict science and that it is in a totally different category than science.
Similarly, I do not think that the purpose of science is to combat religion. Scientists do not conduct experiments with the intention of discrediting religion; they do it to gain knowledge of how the universe works. The majority of the controversy between science and religion has come from the Church and other religious organizations that have politicized religious and scientific issues that are not necessarily related. If anything were to cause the end of religion, I think that it would be religion itself rather than science. When trying to get to the core of a religious belief, one should try to prove and strengthen one’s religion, which does not necessarily mean that one has to try to prove science wrong.
Finally, I do not think that science will ever disprove or cause the death of religion. There will always be people who believe. For me, science will never disprove religion because I do not see my religion as a scientific belief. My belief is mainly based on faith and experience. I do not need a scientific explanation for the existence of God. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I, as well as most other religious people, believe what I believe because of faith, not science. Because of this, I do not think that there will ever be enough scientific evidence to disprove the existence of God, or to stop people from having faith. As a result, religion will always exist, and I do not think science will ever cease to exist; therefore science and religion have no other option but to coexist.
To quote the Dalai Lama again, “While I agree that certain religious concepts conflict with scientific facts and principles, I also feel that people from both worlds can have an intelligent discussion, one that has the power ultimately to generate a deeper understanding of challenges we face together in our interconnected world (Giatso).” This quote does a good job of summing up my opinion of the relationship between science and religion. Conflicts between the two do exist, but it is possible that these conflicts can help clear up questions and issues that pertain to both science and religion. They both seek truth and understanding, and I believe that there are many different ways to find truth. Religion and science are two very different paths, but because neither religion nor science will cease to exist, they will have to coexist and eventually work together to reach their goals.
Giatso, Tenzin. “Our Faith in Science.” NYTimes.com. New York Times, 12 Nov. 2005. Web. 24 Feb. 2011.
Hannam, James. “The Myth of the Flat Earth.” Bede’s Library. 8 Dec. 2009. Web. 24 Feb. 2011. <http://www.bede.org.uk/flatearth.htm>.
“Scientific Theories (That Turned out to Be Wrong).” Top 10 Lists. Web. 24 Feb. 2011. <http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-most-famous-scientific-theories-that-turned-out-to-be-wrong.php>.