Tension Between Religion and Science?


#1

Do you feel that there is tension between religion and science? I'm reading a book right now that addresses this, and I do think there is a certain tension between the two, stemming from a number of different things, evolution among them. I'm aware of the ban on discussing evolution, so I want to make it clear that this isn't an attempt to circumvent that. This is a purely social question, and I look forward to hearing responses from the religious community, since I've been reading mainly scientific opinions on it so far.


#2

Science works well because it limits itself very strictly to the material: mass, energy and the four fundamental forces. It is superbly effective at discovering how the material world works. In itself it makes no claims about anything outside the material. That is not to say that some philosophers and others use science to bolster such claims.

Religion tends not to limit itself in the way that science does. Religion can claim to speak with authority in both the material and non-material spheres. For example:“The Holy Koran, the Prophet’s teachings, the majority of Islamic scientists, and the actual facts all prove that the sun is running in its orbit . . . and that the earth is fixed and stable, spread out by God for his mankind. . . . Anyone who professed otherwise would utter a charge of falsehood toward God, the Koran, and the Prophet.”

  • Sheik Abd el Aziz bin Baz, 1966
    Much of the conflict between science and religion is found in the area of overlap when religion makes claims about the material. Sensible religions, and I include the Catholic Church in that, have realised that in purely material matters science is unbeatable and are generally content to either withdraw their material claims or to reinterpret them so as not to conflict with science. Something along the lines of “The earth may not be the physical centre of the universe but it is the spiritual centre of the universe.”

Less sensible religions, such as YEC or the Sheik, try to take on science on its home ground. That is a losing strategy; it is just that they have not realised it yet.

Many atheists use science to argue against religion. This is not science per se but a use of science in a philosophical argument. Although these arguments can be seen as a disagreement between religion and science this is only apparent, they are arguments between religion and atheism or between one religion and another, with science used as one of the tools in the armoury. Indeed it is a tool that can be used on both sides, as with the use of the Big Bang (science) as an argument to support creation (religion).

$0.02

rossum


#3

For centuries, in the West, science was done by people who held and professed their religion. Only in the last century and a half has there been a certain amount of friction.

Science, that is, the observations of men, is subject to the teaching authority of the Church. There are those who, for whatever reason, insist on change, or are convinced that the Church is wrong about some scientific matter. Part of the tension revolves around a false sense of urgency that provisional conclusions be accepted quickly.

As I have pointed out before - science is incapable of explaining the work of Jesus Christ.

Raise the dead.
Cleanse the lepers.
Give sight to the blind.

No technology as we know it was used. No natural explanation is possible.

Right now, all Catholics are waiting for two miracles each to be attributed to two men so they can become canonized saints. Science can contribute only in so far as showing that the events have no natural explanation.

The Church has as its primary purpose, the transmission of a true message and an actual historical occurrence. To the degree that some people, including scientists, disbelieve in this, and certain Biblical claims, then there will be an ongoing tension. It doesn't have to be this way, but social and political forces are in play.

Ideally, in my view, science can offer useful observations.The applied sciences can continue to develop devices that contribute to the betterment of mankind, but the moment scientific ideas enter the realm of social engineering or the support of harmful technologies that destroy innocent life, then all people need to speak up and voice their opposition.

One current example of a false tension is the idea that education is harmed by religious belief. Where I live, a good number of people will not graduate high school, much less go on to higher education. Literacy in the United States in general is low. Somehow, when education is discussed, only science gets the emphasis, not reading or writing. Not knowing the basics means not being able to use anything scientific.

On another level, for some, there is a power struggle going on between the religious and scientists regarding national policy. It appears that some scientists insist that the religious should have no say in such discussions. That only science and reason should lead. Inevitably, ethical considerations come into play. Without certain foundational principles, certain individuals who have invented different criteria, may lead to harmful decisions.

I hope my comments were useful.

Peace,
Ed


#4

Interesting thoughts from both of you, thanks. Here's what the National Academy of Sciences had to say that sparked my interest on the topic:

"At the root of the apparent conflict between some religions and evolution is a misunderstanding of the critical difference between religious and scientific ways of knowing. Religions and science answer different question. Whether there is a purpose to the universe or a purpose for human existence are not questions for science. Religious and scientific ways of knowing have [both] played, and will continue to play significant roles in human history."

I agree with this statement entirely; I think there's a great deal of misunderstanding when it comes to certain scientific ideas because (some) people draw conclusions, whether right or wrong, about their implications to religious truth. I'll take Copernican heliocentrism as my example. There was a great deal of resistance to this idea from the Church at the time, despite it's (now) apparent truth. Despite the scientific soundness of the argument, many people believed that since Earth is the focus of God's "creation," it must be the center of the solar system as well. There was a great deal of misunderstanding as to the implications of the idea.

What I believe is that the root of the tension comes from the drawing of such conclusions, and the idea that science can speak definitively in the realm of religious truth. It's not just religious people I'm criticizing either. Many scientists use science as a tool to attack religion, which isn't right. I think the NAS stated it perfectly when they said that science and religion answer different questions about the world, and I also think that this point needs to be emphasized for the good of both parties.


#5

[quote="pzona, post:4, topic:181984"]
Interesting thoughts from both of you, thanks. Here's what the National Academy of Sciences had to say that sparked my interest on the topic:

"At the root of the apparent conflict between some religions and evolution is a misunderstanding of the critical difference between religious and scientific ways of knowing. Religions and science answer different question. Whether there is a purpose to the universe or a purpose for human existence are not questions for science. Religious and scientific ways of knowing have [both] played, and will continue to play significant roles in human history."

I agree with this statement entirely; I think there's a great deal of misunderstanding when it comes to certain scientific ideas because (some) people draw conclusions, whether right or wrong, about their implications to religious truth. I'll take Copernican heliocentrism as my example. There was a great deal of resistance to this idea from the Church at the time, despite it's (now) apparent truth. Despite the scientific soundness of the argument, many people believed that since Earth is the focus of God's "creation," it must be the center of the solar system as well. There was a great deal of misunderstanding as to the implications of the idea.

What I believe is that the root of the tension comes from the drawing of such conclusions, and the idea that science can speak definitively in the realm of religious truth. It's not just religious people I'm criticizing either. Many scientists use science as a tool to attack religion, which isn't right. I think the NAS stated it perfectly when they said that science and religion answer different questions about the world, and I also think that this point needs to be emphasized for the good of both parties.

[/quote]

Science is definitely infringing on all questions. It's one thing to offer an observation but it's quite another to state that all human function is the final result of purely mechanical forces. In terms of complexity, there is little difference between man and a snowflake. They are both expressions of matter and complexity is relative. Finally, those who insist that only data that can be observed or detected constitute reality reject anything beyond it. For them, religion does not involve knowing anything real.

Peace,
Ed


#6

Ed, that's a very fair point, but I think it's a conclusion which has to be drawn from science, not an empirical scientific observation. Like I said, religion and science answer different questions. Science says that the observable human body can be described by purely mechanical (also electrical, etc.) forces, most of which are documented pretty well.

I'm going to have to make an assumption on what you meant, so please correct me if I'm wrong. I assume you meant that humans also have a soul, which has not been observed scientifically. This is what I meant by science and religion answering different questions. From my understanding of a human soul/spirit, it shouldn't be observed by science because it's something eternal and not necessarily physical. I haven't read much on scientific theories on the soul, but if any scientist drew the conclusion that a soul must not exist because it's not observable, I would agree with you, that would be infringing upon the religious realm of knowledge. I can't speak for all of the scientific community, but I think this would be an erroneous, if not foolish thing for science to claim.


#7

[quote="pzona, post:4, topic:181984"]
I agree with this statement entirely; I think there's a great deal of misunderstanding when it comes to certain scientific ideas because (some) people draw conclusions, whether right or wrong, about their implications to religious truth. I'll take Copernican heliocentrism as my example. There was a great deal of resistance to this idea from the Church at the time, despite it's (now) apparent truth. Despite the scientific soundness of the argument, many people believed that since Earth is the focus of God's "creation," it must be the center of the solar system as well. There was a great deal of misunderstanding as to the implications of the idea.

[/quote]

Hello pzona,

I agree with most everything you've said, and I think you've got a good grasp on the situation. I do have one point to make regarding this, and another on the Church and evolution.

Quite simply, Copernican heliocentrism was not apparent at the time. There were quite a bit of scientific doubts raised during the 1600's that Copernicans could not answer at the time. One dealt with how the moon could "keep up", and there were others. What happened in 1633 was the Pope issued an edict that said the theory could not be taught, but that scientists could still supply arguements for and against it. Under the edict, it could be investigated, but not advocated, because the Church realized many people had, like you say, where "drawing such conclusions" that the earth was the "center of creation", and therefore the center of the universe. Anyway, my point through all this is that "the scientific soundness of the arguement" was not existent at the time.

As regard the Church and evolution: I cannot speak for all churches and Christian communities, or for all catholics. I can only speak for myself and for the Church as a whole, and at this time neither she nor I find a problem with belief in evolution.


#8

[quote="pzona, post:6, topic:181984"]
Ed, that's a very fair point, but I think it's a conclusion which has to be drawn from science, not an empirical scientific observation. Like I said, religion and science answer different questions. Science says that the observable human body can be described by purely mechanical (also electrical, etc.) forces, most of which are documented pretty well.

I'm going to have to make an assumption on what you meant, so please correct me if I'm wrong. I assume you meant that humans also have a soul, which has not been observed scientifically. This is what I meant by science and religion answering different questions. From my understanding of a human soul/spirit, it shouldn't be observed by science because it's something eternal and not necessarily physical. I haven't read much on scientific theories on the soul, but if any scientist drew the conclusion that a soul must not exist because it's not observable, I would agree with you, that would be infringing upon the religious realm of knowledge. I can't speak for all of the scientific community, but I think this would be an erroneous, if not foolish thing for science to claim.

[/quote]

It's not just the soul. It is the description of man's functionality and the conclusion that follows: man is just a biological robot. The only imperatives are survival and reproduction followed by death. That's it.

For some people, that is the entire answer. Religion cannot offer any actual insights since it cannot provide the type of evidence science, as currently practiced, uses.

For some, religion contains no knowledge. It is an anachronistic and primitive survival mechanism, nothing more.

The ongoing problem here is the inevitable clash of orthodoxies. Since one side demands a detectable explanation and will settle for nothing less, religion is a thing, a curiosity. Perhaps it would be accurate to say, a lifestyle choice that is, from one perspective, no more or less valid than any other.

Once you understand this, you will see the difficulty that causes the tension. When scientists like Sam Harris calls his colleagues 'pod people' for listening to the Pope and mocks the virgin birth, he is not just speaking as an individual who has the right to say what is on his mind, he changes the dynamic between himself, his fellow scientists and the public who reads what he writes by doing so. You see? To put it another way, picture yourself as a scientist who writes such things and consider your standing with your colleagues and the public.

As other scientists add their voices, the public perception of science changes. Even here, I've read more than one post that insists science is silent about God and the supernatural. This is often followed by posts that claim this or that Biblical occurrence did not happen due to a reading of the scientific evidence. There are no peer reviewed papers about God or the Bible but that does not stop anyone from posting here, basically: "science tells me this couldn't have happened." I can also point you to a few billboards that show scientific support for a few ideas that are anti-theist/belief.

Peace,
Ed


#9

[quote="pzona, post:1, topic:181984"]
Do you feel that there is tension between religion and science? I'm reading a book right now that addresses this, and I do think there is a certain tension between the two, stemming from a number of different things, evolution among them. I'm aware of the ban on discussing evolution, so I want to make it clear that this isn't an attempt to circumvent that. This is a purely social question, and I look forward to hearing responses from the religious community, since I've been reading mainly scientific opinions on it so far.

[/quote]

Pzona, There is tremendous tension between the Catholic faith and "atheist science". There is no tension between Catholic faith and Catholic science. There is a definite difference between the two. Any belief can be either good or bad depending on it opposes God's designs for mankind. There is good science and bad science so now you need to determine which is which in what you read and believe. A good source for information are the Papal encyclicals which can be found here: papalencyclicals.net/ You can search through the encyclicals "Pope by Pope" to find the one that applies to the science you are considering. It is important that you do not accept any science as "good science" until you find that Catholic Doctrine agrees with you.


#10

[quote="pzona, post:6, topic:181984"]

I'm going to have to make an assumption on what you meant, so please correct me if I'm wrong. I assume you meant that humans also have a soul, which has not been observed scientifically. This is what I meant by science and religion answering different questions. From my understanding of a human soul/spirit, it shouldn't be observed by science because it's something eternal and not necessarily physical. I haven't read much on scientific theories on the soul, but if any scientist drew the conclusion that a soul must not exist because it's not observable, I would agree with you, that would be infringing upon the religious realm of knowledge. I can't speak for all of the scientific community, but I think this would be an erroneous, if not foolish thing for science to claim.

[/quote]

Science can not be used to prove the non existence of a being. It can only say that the current observation technology does not detect souls. (with the exception of paranormal scientists who believe they can detect ghosts or souls departed from bodies.) It took years for scientist to find living giant squid. and there are many other creatures discoverd every year that were not previously known to science.

As for the religious realm of knowledge, this is not a unique set of knowledge about our universe. We learn things through many sources, secular origins, personal observation, and devine origins. The Bible says there is rain, the secular scientist say there is rain, and I have seen rain. The realm of knowledge in this example overlaps all three areas.


#11

[quote="pzona, post:4, topic:181984"]

I agree with this statement entirely; I think there's a great deal of misunderstanding when it comes to certain scientific ideas because (some) people draw conclusions, whether right or wrong, about their implications to religious truth. I'll take Copernican heliocentrism as my example. There was a great deal of resistance to this idea from the Church at the time, despite it's (now) apparent truth. Despite the scientific soundness of the argument, many people believed that since Earth is the focus of God's "creation," it must be the center of the solar system as well. There was a great deal of misunderstanding as to the implications of the idea.

[/quote]

You chose a poor example. The facts of history show that the Church accepted Galileo's Theory, the problem was that he could not prove it. It was the scientific community that "pursecuted" Galileo. The Church would not support Galileo in stating heliocentrism as fact, as Galileo wanted, because there was not sufficient proof. It was after Galileo started speaking against the Church and insulting the Pope that the Church placed him under house arrest. They didn't torture him, they didn't persecute him.

As more proof, there were Jesuits and Copernicus himself who held the same theory as Galileo, yet they were not "persecuted" by the Church.

The ironic part of all this, is that Galileo was in fact wrong.......(drum roll) the sun is not the center of the universe. It is the center of our solar system, but not of the universe.


#12

[quote="edwest2, post:8, topic:181984"]
It's not just the soul. It is the description of man's functionality and the conclusion that follows: man is just a biological robot. The only imperatives are survival and reproduction followed by death. That's it.

For some people, that is the entire answer. Religion cannot offer any actual insights since it cannot provide the type of evidence science, as currently practiced, uses.

For some, religion contains no knowledge. It is an anachronistic and primitive survival mechanism, nothing more.

The ongoing problem here is the inevitable clash of orthodoxies. Since one side demands a detectable explanation and will settle for nothing less, religion is a thing, a curiosity. Perhaps it would be accurate to say, a lifestyle choice that is, from one perspective, no more or less valid than any other.

Once you understand this, you will see the difficulty that causes the tension. When scientists like Sam Harris calls his colleagues 'pod people' for listening to the Pope and mocks the virgin birth, he is not just speaking as an individual who has the right to say what is on his mind, he changes the dynamic between himself, his fellow scientists and the public who reads what he writes by doing so. You see? To put it another way, picture yourself as a scientist who writes such things and consider your standing with your colleagues and the public.

As other scientists add their voices, the public perception of science changes. Even here, I've read more than one post that insists science is silent about God and the supernatural. This is often followed by posts that claim this or that Biblical occurrence did not happen due to a reading of the scientific evidence. There are no peer reviewed papers about God or the Bible but that does not stop anyone from posting here, basically: "science tells me this couldn't have happened." I can also point you to a few billboards that show scientific support for a few ideas that are anti-theist/belief.

Peace,
Ed

[/quote]

Most scientist live in a bubble world limmited by their ability to observe, measure, and predict. For instance, before the bubble of knowledge was expanded many in the scientific community thought the world was flat. Others thought that pest appeared in grain stores through spontaeous origination. Now since they can not measure and control God, Angels, and souls they insist these things must not exist.

They also have a habbit of trying to use scientific methods to prove or disprove historical events. For instance saying there is no scientific evidence that Jesus lived on the earth. well there is no scientific evidence that Attila the Hun existed either but but you do not see scientist challenging that historical assertion.

God gave us science and the set rules of nature to give us a realm in which to live. He has decreed that these are the rules of our environment but that does not mean that he is likewise bound by those rules.


#13

2293 Basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man's dominion over creation. Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves however they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress. Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits.

2294 It is an illusion to claim moral neutrality in scientific research and its applications. On the other hand, guiding principles cannot be inferred from simple technical efficiency, or from the usefulness accruing to some at the expense of others or, even worse, from prevailing ideologies. Science and technology by their very nature require unconditional respect for fundamental moral criteria. They must be at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, of his true and integral good, in conformity with the plan and the will of God.

This is what the Catechism has to say.

I think the tension exists only when scientist claim that God does not exist. Talk about a contradiction, scientists are supposed to have evidence to make statements such as these. "Well their is no proof that God does exist?" Really?

Star of Bethlehem is a wonderful documentary that uses science (astronomy) to prove that this Biblical story is true. There are countless examples of God's existence, one only needs to look.


#14

[quote="chessmane4e5, post:13, topic:181984"]
2293 Basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man's dominion over creation. Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves however they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress. Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits.

2294 It is an illusion to claim moral neutrality in scientific research and its applications. On the other hand, guiding principles cannot be inferred from simple technical efficiency, or from the usefulness accruing to some at the expense of others or, even worse, from prevailing ideologies. Science and technology by their very nature require unconditional respect for fundamental moral criteria. They must be at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, of his true and integral good, in conformity with the plan and the will of God.

This is what the Catechism has to say.

I think the tension exists only when scientist claim that God does not exist. Talk about a contradiction, scientists are supposed to have evidence to make statements such as these. "Well their is no proof that God does exist?" Really?

Star of Bethlehem is a wonderful documentary that uses science (astronomy) to prove that this Biblical story is true. There are countless examples of God's existence, one only needs to look.

[/quote]

I agree with you entirely, scientists have no business excluding God from the equation of creation. Scientists are suppose to approach all research from an entirely open-mindedness and objective point of view otherwise whatever premise that is formed predetermines the outcome of science from ignorance of all related findings. Science must be open to all conclusions or it is no longer science but religion or anti-religion.


#15

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