The Incompatibility of Science & Religion

I have batted this topic around in my head for a couple of years now but when all is said and done I can not help but stick firmly to one side of the argument: Religion and science are extremely incompatible. I strongly feel that to embrace one is to deny the other.

A recent article posted by @rdfrs (Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science http://richarddawkins.net/ ) via Twitter discusses the differences between science and religion, stating that they have nothing to do with each other because they propose answers to different questions about existence and deal with very different issues. My disagreement with this approach is very much based on personal taste and opinion, so please feel free to disagree with me at length :)

Science explains things today that we once thought belonged to the metaphysical, supernatural, spiritual realm. Of course it does not explain everything just yet, but I strongly feel that the key point in this sentence is the "just yet." Consider the first question asked to the panel in this video concerning near death experiences. (This is part 9 of 12 videos that I highly recommend. It's a Nightline debate between Sam Harris and Michael Shermer versus Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston and it is highly entertaining. Sam Harris is a brilliant debator.) What the woman asking the question assumes is that NDEs potentially act as evidence of a soul or transcendental reality. The reason for this clearly seems to be because she does not know the scientific method of replicating near death experiences, nor does she have as much understanding of the processes by which these experiences were created as Shermer does.

This proposes the now well known theory of the Shrinking God or God of the Gaps (yes, this is a Wikipedia link, to my eternal academic shame. It really offers the best explanation though). God is running out of gaps in which to hide as theists force him into the spaces which science has not yet been able to fill. Sam Harris has said it eloquently (somewhere in the same debate mentioned above) and even comedian Dara O'Briain said it: Just because science does not have the answers for everything right now does not mean you can fill the gaps with whatever fairytale you see fit. There is nothing wrong with simply not knowing something and the day mankind realises this religion will cease to exist. If science had all of the answers, it would stop. We are in a process of constantly increasing our scientific knowledge and most people today have more access to information, scientific knowledge, and the basics of common sense than the writers of books like the Bible and the Koran ever did.

To look at a broader example of how the followers of religions keep having to re-evaluate the roll of their omniscient, omnipotent deities in the universe, consider for a second the theory of Big Bang Creationism, which accepts the scientific evidence for the Big Bang while simultaneously saying that God made it happen. Why? What's the point? Why bother forcing God into such a small space of your reality? Why are people so terrified of not understanding how every single miniscule piece of the universe works?
Project Steve is another example of this. Creationists compiled a list of 100 scientists who did not believe in Evolution. As a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal the NSCE compiled a list of over 1000 scientists who did believe in Evolution, and whose names were also Steve.

When we look at scientific breakthroughs like Craig Venter's creation of synthetic life and unique, advantageous, brilliant, and current stem cell research, how is it possible to think that religion and science are compatible when religion seems to stand so firmly in opposition to all of these advancements and approaches?

Perhaps instead of letting religion and faith answer existential questions we should concern ourselves with the scientific view of morality, consciousness, and existence, finding our own meaning in life which does not clash with scientific knowledge and the constructive development of pluralistic societies.

Views: 36

Tags: DaraO'Briain, ProjectSteve, SamHarris, StemCells, religion, science

Comment by Jānis Ķimsis on June 3, 2010 at 1:28pm
I'm quite convinced that the answer to any claim that science doesn't know this or that is a simple "yet". Of course, there are some questions which may never be answered. But saying "god dun it" will bring us closer to finding out if they can be answered.
Comment by Jānis Ķimsis on June 4, 2010 at 6:36am
Damn me posting while asleep. I meant "saying "god dun it" will not bring us closer to answers".
Comment by Johnny on June 6, 2010 at 9:59am
Comment by kelltrill on June 6, 2010 at 6:30pm
Thank you, Johnny.
@Philip, I have heard of the non-overlapping magisteria argument but, like you say, never really thought it held much weight. Very well said. Thank you for the link by the way. Very interesting reading.
@Jānis, I agree entirely. Goddidit is not an answer, but a cop-out that simply leads to a stunted knowledge of things.
Comment by M on June 15, 2010 at 12:12pm
Religion, among its many other uses, was a way to explain the unexplainable to a culture in its scientific infancy. When you don't know how natural disasters happen, you are going to try to figure it out even if that means attributing it to an invisible being in the sky. People have always wanted explanations, and this is how science has developed and matured. Unfortunately, some people still cling to archaic beliefs or try to find ways to make them mesh somehow with what has been proven scientific fact.

There's a bible passage (and I'm sorry I don't have it memorized so I can't quote it verbatum or even give its location) concerning a woman whose husband dies without getting her pregnant. So, she instead has sex with his living brother so she can have her husband's child. As in, she believes her brother-in-law can actually impregnate her with her dead husband's sperm. Thus were the knowledge of biology in biblical times. I remember reading that and thinking, "If this was written by god's instruction and god doesn't even know how humans reproduce, we are in big trouble."

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