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?
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.