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There has existed a rift between science and religion since times of antiquity. Whereas some view science as an eye-opener to the existence of several things in the world, others feel that science has rendered God non-existent. In this view, most scientific discoveries have been rendered inconsistent with various religious teachings (Clayton 58). Similarly, the people responsible for such discoveries faced harsh criticism during their times.
Several scientists received a mixed set of reactions for their contributions to science. This paper examines how science and religion influence each other in regards to past scientific discoveries. The scientific and religious contributions of Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin are discussed.
Isaac Newton, Science, and Religion
Isaac Newton remains one of the most important scientists of the 17th century (Clayton 58). He discovered the force of gravity, the laws of motion, and infinitesimal calculus. It is important to note that he regarded himself as a servant of God. Through him, God was manifesting the truths of nature to humankind. Newton considered God’s presence vital in his scientific discoveries. He was considered a Unitarian as far as his Christian life was concerned.
Newton was deeply religious and linked all the discoveries to his Christian religion. Initially, Newton argued that the universe was static. However, the Islamic view is that the world is dynamic. Newton’s position about the world has been challenged in subsequent scientific discoveries. In fact, it has been established that the universe is indeed dynamic (Bowler 108).
Newton’s work led to cultural scientific enthusiasm as he tried to convince the people about his discoveries. Consequently, some scholars such as Edmund Halley supported Newton’s view about God. They both shared the view that no man was close to God. Others still confirmed that Newton’s work was all-important for people to understand the universe. The fact that Newton was a religious scientist made it possible for him to make more friends than enemies in his scientific discoveries (Bowler 109).
Most people asserted that no other person could be compared to Newton because his works were already comprehensive enough. Newton argued that God created us people to explore our academic knowledge. In his view, no person was created to be ignorant.
The design of the universe was a clear attestation that God exists. The freedom and wisdom posited by human beings demonstrate how Christianity and science blend with each other. In his discoveries, he asserted that God was in control of all velocities that avoided gravitational collapse. God was existent because no amount of scientific intervention could change these velocities. The fact that Newton wrote many religious books is a clear attestation that he was deeply religious (Clayton 60).
Charles Darwin, Science and Religion
Charles Darwin is famous for two major theories; the Law of Natural Selection and the Origin of Species. He became concerned with how species came into existence after God’s creation. His scientific findings were not readily accepted by those who were deep in religion. He asserted that the universe was undergoing some evolution responsible for the disappearance and emergence of different species (Ruse 77). The fact that Christians believe that God is the genesis of all animal and plant species put Darwin’s theories on the spot. Christians could not be convinced that evolution was responsible for their existence.
The controversy became rampant in the 19th century and is still present today. Similarly, the law of natural selection was greatly opposed. The law claims that stronger species manage to dominate because they are able to adapt quickly. Theologians who contend that God created human beings in His own likeness were opposed to Darwin’s scientific theories. Despite this strong opposition from Christians, Darwin was able to convince some atheists about his theories.
It is important to note that Darwin initially wanted to become a clergyman. It is, however, unclear what made him change his mind and become interested in biology. It is presumed that the death of her daughter in 1851, made him develop a critical mind in regards to God’s creation (Ruse 78).
Whereas most atheists claim that Darwin’s biological theories are to blame for their states, Christians have constantly argued over the validity of these theories. Consequently, it is clear that though Darwin believed in the existence of God, his theories are divisive in the religious context. The fact that his theories have become a symbol of secular and liberalizing values in most religions is evident. Darwin’s theories are viewed as efforts to nullify God’s creation and existence (Hodge 80).
Albert Einstein, Religion and Science
Einstein was a renowned philosopher, socialist, and Zionist. His opinions found application in every field. Misunderstandings were therefore inevitable. He was clear on how his theory of relativity impacted religion, morality, and ethics. His scientific teachings were not consistent with people’s expectations. However, everybody wanted to be associated with him. A typical incident where he failed to respond to a letter is a good example. In this view, he was considered a communist and later reported to the FBI (Bowler 110).
The belief that God existed was not shared by Einstein. In his famous saying; “God does not play dice”, Einstein criticized the existence of God. In one of his lectures, he claimed, “Subtle is the Lord, but malicious he is not,” This response came at a time when a student challenged his work. The fact that the Lord or God was a metaphor for nature made him use the words interchangeably.
He rejected conventional religion when he was a child. Consequently, he did not believe in prayer. However, his mission in life was consistent with most religious ideals. He claimed that a meaningless life was not worth living. He was opposed to the existence of an immortal soul. In his life, Einstein was opposed to the existence of God. However, he advocated for a life full of goodness, truth, and beauty. He supported the idea that there was a religious reason for the existence for science (Bowler 112).
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However, he was opposed to the existence of a personal God. In addition, he believed that there existed no rift between religion and science. The most important thing was to understand the religion in question. Lastly, he claimed that various beliefs breed intolerance. This is because people believe that their religions are true. Consequently, they fail to accommodate the interests of others.
In conclusion, the rift that exists between science and religion is debatable. Whereas some scientists were religious, some never gave religion a serious view. Isaac Newton is viewed as a father of both Physics and religion. He applied his religious attributes to understand his discoveries. Consequently, he was able to advance his discoveries with the support of friends. Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution brought rifts among religious groups. He renounced Christianity for science. Lastly, Albert Einstein states many views about religion. He contends that religion influences scientific findings. However, his position is that no personal God exists.
Bowler, Peter. Reconciling Science and Religion: The Debate in Early-twentieth-century Britain. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001, pp. 107-114.
Clayton, Philip. The Oxford handbook of religion and science. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2006. Pp. 56-60.
Hodge, Jonathan. The Cambridge Companion to Darwin. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 78-85.
Ruse, Michael. Can a Darwinian be a Christian? The Relationship between Science and Religion. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 75-80.