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Scientific Discoveries and Religious Beliefs’ Correlation Research Paper

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Updated: May 28th, 2021

Introduction

It could be hardly doubted that science and religion are considered to be two primary approaches to cognize the world (Petersen 808). Even though science and religion were closely connected throughout human history, since the beginning of the 20th century, a widely accepted stereotype has established about these two approaches as being opposite to each other. Nevertheless, it should be stated that this opinion is not entirely accurate. This paper aims to investigate the correlation between the recent scientific discoveries (particularly, in the study of particle physics and patterns in nature) and religious beliefs, dwelling upon the evidence from the academic literature on the topic. One of the primary purposes of this paper is to discuss this correlation critically, providing a profound historical context of the mentioned issue and developing arguments based on the opinions from academic literature.

Theology, Philosophy, and Physics as Primary Ways of Cognition

This section aims to overview the notions of theology, philosophy, and physics to put further reasoning in a proper context. These three aspects can be considered as a more elaborated version of the opposition between religion and science, which is mentioned in the previous section. One can argue that philosophy represents a conterminous area between scientific and religious worldviews. Therefore, it is of high importance to observe each of these cognitive approaches.

According to Hodgson, theology is “the result of our rational attempts to understand God and His relations with us and with the natural world” (3). It is possible to notice that this approach to theology implies religion is not an entirely irrational method of understanding the world, as some people tend to think. Hodgson also mentions that this approach borrowed a considerable amount of concepts and cognitive patterns from Ancient Greek philosophy (3). Moreover, it is also noted that theologists tend to use terms and concepts derived from science; therefore, it is implied that theology accepts the current scientific worldview at least to some degree. Overall, it is argued that theology primarily strives to understand the relationship between human and Divine aspects of the world, and thus it does not integrate new scientific concepts because they tend to change rapidly, unlike religious postulates. It might explain why many people perceive religion as an outdated worldview.

As it was mentioned in the previous paragraph, theology had borrowed several concepts, ideas, and cognitive patterns from Greeks. It is widely accepted that Ancient Greeks were the founders of philosophy, and their opinions and approaches influenced various philosophers throughout history, and they continue to have a considerable impact on the modern philosophical view (Hodgson 4). However, it is possible to state with certainty that philosophy also shares the rational approach to the cognition of the world. Even though there are various philosophical movements and schools, which are sometimes based on very different presuppositions, every philosopher strives to understand such concepts as the world, human, consciousness, etc., using his or her intellectual abilities. A very significant connection between philosophy and theology has already been mentioned, and it is also essential to notice that philosophy had an immense influence on the development of science. This aspect will be elaborated later in more detail; however, it should be noted here that science can be considered as a practical application of more abstract philosophical principles and approaches to cognition.

Finally, it is of immense importance to touch upon the notion of science. It is apparent from previous paragraphs that science is significantly integrated into philosophy since numerous famous philosophers were prominent scientists and vice versa, and it also has a considerable impact on religious beliefs. For this paper, it is chosen to discuss physics as a more particular branch of science since the notion of science is too broad to dwell upon it within this study. As is mentioned by Hodgson, scientific knowledge in its initial form was primarily based on empirical evidence, or, over words, on the phenomena, which could be experienced by human senses (5). However, as science evolved, it became a more complex approach since new opportunities for experiencing the world were discovered.

Accordingly, it should be stated that the modern state of science makes it be not so far from philosophy and religion as it is considered to be. The reason is that the complication of scientific knowledge has brought scientists to the point where they only can operate through abstract notions and concepts (Hodgson 6). Therefore, it is possible to state that religion, philosophy, and science in the modern world share a considerable amount of similar aspects. Consequently, further development of each of these cognitive methods needs to be integrated at least to some degree. The following sections will discuss the challenges, which are imposed on science and religion, as exemplified by particle physics.

Reintegration of Humans and Nature Through the Development of Particle Physics

It was briefly mentioned in the previous sections that people tended to explain the world using objectifying nature. However, in the course of history, this approach to the cognition of the world has changed. This shift of conceptual paradigm is grasped by Karl Jaspers’ Axial Age theory, which aims to investigate how people interact with their environment and how this interaction is altered by newly emerging ideas (du Toit 1).

According to this theory, there are two periods in the history of humanity: the first Axial Age (800-200 BC) and the second Axial Age, which started in the 19th century and continues to this day. The first Axial Age began when people dispossessed the nature of gods and spirits, and thus people became free to use the world around them as a resource of their wealth and prosperity (du Toit 2). The second Axial Age is a new approach, which resulted from the development of various branches of science (du Toit 2). It aims to reintegrate human consciousness and the world since multiple insights from science indicate that disintegration of mind and matter is not a vital way of living in the modern world.

Du Toit mentions particle physics as one of the branches of science, which significantly contributed to the development of a new understanding of the human’s place in the world (1). The researcher describes the development of particle physics in his article as a gradual process of the dematerialization of matter (or reality) (du Toit 4). He argues that this process has started from the findings of Newton, whose theory of gravity was the first step in this direction. Further, with the discovery of the phenomenon of radioactivity, it became apparent that “there is no fundamental ontological difference between matter and energy as was expressed in Einstein’s E=mc2” (du Toit 4). Moreover, Schrödinger’s wave equation and the wave-particle duality have also significantly changed the perception of physical reality.

The latest discoveries in particle physics suggest that the role of “nothingness” is considerably important for contemporary science (du Toit 4). Since every particle has its antiparticle, there is an almost equal amount of matter and antimatter. Based on these assumptions, du Toit argues that the materialistic view of the world is not entirely accurate since reality represents a hybrid of matter and energy (4). It is possible to state that this fact is arguably one of the most evident examples of how scientific discoveries influence religious beliefs. Even though many people considered religious views to be outdated and conveying a distorted image of the world, the recent findings, which were discussed in this section, implying that there might be a lot more similar aspects, shared by science and religion.

Correlation Between Religion and Science on the Example of Famous Scientists

Further, it is essential to touch upon the topic of the influence of personal beliefs on the development of science, which is discussed in the article by Caleon et al. (1). This article elaborates on the examples of Faraday, Maxwell, Kepler, and Newton in the context of the mentioned topic. Each of these scientists has made a considerable impact on the development of contemporary science.

For example, Michael Faraday is one of the most prominent figures in the history of physics since he discovered electromagnetic induction and numerous other pioneering discoveries (Caleon et al. 7). It is stated in the article that his scientific efforts were guided “by his religious beliefs, which were in line with the Sandamaian faith,” to a significant extent (Caleon et al. 7). One of Faraday’s central beliefs was that “God created a well-designed natural world”, which reflects His perfection as a Divine entity (Caleon et al. 7). Another belief was that all-natural processes obeyed the principle of the “economy of nature,” which included a set of metaphysical principles, such as causality, simplicity, invariability, and several others (Caleon et al. 7). Therefore, it is possible to state that Faraday’s discoveries were driven mainly by his view of the world, which was induced by his religion.

Caleon et al. also mention James Clerk Maxwell as another example of a brilliant scientist, who is led by his religious beliefs (9). It is stated that Maxwell “had the finest education from the Edinburgh Academy and Cambridge University and embraced by the scientific community as an astute mathematician,” and thus it is evident that he was fully aware of the scientific perception of the world. However, it did not contradict his religious beliefs, which included the principles of simplicity and unity of nature as a part of God’s plan (Caleon et al. 10).

Further, the examples of Kepler and Newton should be mentioned since these scientists shared even more traditional religious concepts, and still they were able to make discoveries, which are central to modern science. Johannes Kepler contributed immensely to the development of “the first truly sun-centered view of the universe,” and he also discovered three principal laws of planetary motion (Caleon et al. 13). Unlike Faraday, Kepler anchored his belief in the unity of nature to the religious concept of the Trinity, as he considered that celestial spheres existed in the universe (Caleon et al. 13). Regarding Isaac Newton, who is widely accepted as one of the most prominent scientists of modern history, it should be mentioned that his scientific efforts were also driven by his explicitly expressed faith in God’s principal role in the creation of the world (Caleon et al. 16).

It is also appropriate to mention another similar example, described in the article by Petersen. The author suggests that Werner Heisenberg is an example of a scientist, whose interest in the structure of the world has led him to the confirmation of the existence of something Divine (Petersen 822). The scientist was preoccupied with the investigation of quantum mechanics and particle physics. Over time, Heisenberg’s ideas on these areas of science were rejected by other scientists’ discoveries. However, even though his contribution to science was not considered to be significant, Heisenberg was excited to experience the material world as something connected with the sacred (Petersen 822).

Petersen also mentions in his article that it is possible to give many examples as well as counterexamples of the correlation in the integration of sacred and material aspects of the world. However, it could be concluded that numerous scientists were primarily driven by their religious beliefs, and they did not consider it to be contradictory to their scientific occupation. Therefore, it also confirms the thesis about the close connection between religious and scientific views in the contemporary world.

Other Perspectives on the Correlation Between Science and Religion

It is apparent that the issue under consideration is highly complex, and thus it is not possible to develop a universal solution to this problem. Accordingly, there are many other perspectives on the question of the correlation between science and religion. For example, in the article by Kanu, it is argued that the scientific method of cognition, despite being able to minimize the uncertainty of life, significantly contributes to the detachment and alienation of man from his environment (85). Moreover, Murphy states that particle physics cannot be used to explain the relationship between God and created things since “God is not an entity within the world on the same level as other entities” (114). On the other hand, King claims that scientific discoveries provide us with a more significant moral responsibility because our understanding of the nature of things can teach us to value the most important things (3). Additionally, it is essential to mention the perspective, which is proposed in the article by Boyer, on the development of contemporary particle physics in the combination of the Vedic account of the world (454). This approach might seem extravagant due to the general unfamiliarity of the Western culture with principal Vedic concepts; however, the article by Boyer confirms that this approach is potentially beneficial for the development of science (463).

Conclusion

In conclusion, it should be stated that the topic, which is elaborated in this paper, is immensely broad, and thus this study only provides a brief investigation of the question. However, it is possible to state that this research paper has identified numerous evidence-based rationales for the development of a more integrated relationship between religion and science. The study mainly exemplifies the discoveries in particle physics as one of the most evident confirmations of the integrated nature of scientific and religious views. Overall, this study provides a successful critical analysis of a highly complex problem.

Works Cited

Boyer, Robert W. “What Are the Laws of Nature Anyway? Part II: The Holistic Vedic Model.” NeuroQuantology, vol. 13, no. 4, 2015, pp. 448-464.

Caleon, I. S., et al. “Personal Beliefs as Key Drivers in Identifying and Solving Seminal Problems: Lessons from Faraday, Maxwell, Kepler and Newton.” Science Education International, vol. 26, no. 1, 2015, pp. 3-23.

du Toit, Cornel W. “Human Uniqueness on the Brink of a New Axial Age: From Separation to Reintegration of Humans and Nature.” HTS Theological Studies, vol. 72, no. 4, 2016, pp. 1-9.

Hodgson, Peter E. Theology and Modern Physics. Routledge, 2017.

Kanu, Macaulay A. “The Limitations of Science: A Philosophical Critique of Scientific Method.” IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science, vol. 20, no. 7, 2015, pp. 77-87.

King, Chris. “Consciousness, Cosmology & the Meaning of Life (Part I).” Scientific GOD Journal, vol. 9, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-21.

Murphy, George L. “Necessary Natural Evil and Inevitable Moral Evil.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, vol. 68, no. 2, 2016, pp. 111-118.

Petersen, Arthur. “Uncertainty and God: A Jamesian Pragmatist Approach to Uncertainty and Ignorance in Science and Religion.” Zygon, vol. 49, no. 4, 2014, pp. 808-828.

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