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According to Campbell and Looy (2009), there exist numerous opinions and understanding of the concepts of religion and science. Moreover, different scholars perceive the relationship between religion and science in dissimilar ways. Nevertheless, it is apparent that there exists a link between the two realms as it has been addressed by several theorists (McGrath, 2011).
It is imperative to note that the concept of religion and science differs to a larger extent and are independent from each other. However, research has revealed that to some extent, they often overlap and conflict each other (Ruse, 1975). From a careful review of literature, it is evident that there have been proliferations on the relationship between science and religion (McGrath, 2011). It is against this backdrop that this paper intends to explore an in-depth relationship between science and religion.
In a more subtle way, numerous scholars and philosophers have tried to define the term science in various ways for several decades. Due to recent philosophical development, the concept has remained as a challenge and puzzle to the minds of many people (McGrath, 2011). A controversy has emerged on how to distinguish science from non-science facts. Therefore, there is no specific demarcation to define science.
Nevertheless, in-depth research has enabled scholars to come up with a definite definition of the term (McGrath, 2011). Therefore, science can be defined as a discipline that deals with the study of nature. To elaborate further, science focuses on the study of natural forces, processes and development. As a discipline, it assumes, formulates and works on a hypothesis in order to identify how events occur in a natural setting.
It is arguable that science is based on analysis of observable facts in order to get evidence of nature. Therefore, the primary goal of science it to organize information derived from nature and convert it into knowledge. Science seeks to understand natural phenomena, their cause, effects and relationships (Brooke & Numbers, 2011).
Of greatest importance to note is that evidences derived from observation and experiments must be sustained by other scholars or scientists in order to be regarded as scientific. It is important to point out that science rarely intrudes matters related to morality, spirituality, existence and nature of divinity.
On the other hand, religion is a discipline that aims at exploring the natural world. However, religion particularly deals with matters related to faith. Fuller (2008) observes that the main basis of religion is based on understanding of divinity. Unlike science that is based on observation and experiment, religion is orally transmitted.
To some extent, religion is more of a revelation and it addresses the existence of numerous deities in the universe. Primarily, religion plays a very crucial role in teaching morality, ethics, mankind, nature, gods, human behavior and spirituality (Fuller, 2008).
It is notable that there exists a difference between religion and science. The major difference is that religion uses faith as its major aspect to understand the world unlike science. It is imperative to note that statements related to faith cannot be observed (Brooke & Numbers, 2011).
Moreover, faith cannot be experimented, falsified or tested in a scientific way. This implies that the component of faith goes beyond observable evidence to issues that are innate and abstract. Notably, religious beliefs are held absolutely even in the absence of observable or confirmed evidences (Fuller, 2008).
Contrastingly, scientific beliefs are absolutely tentative. In this case, evidences based on science are clearly proven and thus are supported by a certain degree of evidence. Scientists consider religion to be dogmatic due to the fact that whatever is perceived to be religious is taken to be absolutely true. This is different in the case of science since nothing is perceived as completely true or accurate until it is tested.
Moreover, the truth of the matter must be supported by observable evidence. It is unfortunate that even science has been perceived as dogmatic since it holds on the assumption that anything that can not be tested is unscientific. Thus science perceives religious beliefs as irrational and this is not always the case.
This claim has drawn attention among numerous philosophers, historians and empirical intellectuals. To support the argument, religious scholars argues that the fact that faith is detestable does not make religion invalid or irrational as scientists claim. Furthermore, not all religious issues lack evidence to account for their existence, cause and effects.
Research has shown that there are other specific areas where both science and religion overlap and thus result into conflicting claims. For instance, in the areas of Geology, Cosmology and Astronomy, there are specific assumptions held by believers that contradict scientific claims. In most cases, believers such as Christians interpret geological processes such as storm and earthquakes in a biblical point of view.
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However, more than 95% of scientists decline such interpretations referring to them as just “literal” (Brooke & Numbers, 2011). Additionally, in the aspect of linguistics, Christians believe that humanity adopted numerous languages after the fall of the Tower of Babel. The claim is derived in the book of Genesis where they argue that out of the confusion which God caused to the builders, humanity abandoned a single language. Nonetheless, scientists decline the fact that human language does not develop in this manner.
That notwithstanding, numerous controversies have emerged in the field of medicine particularly on health related issues. For instance, religion promotes the belief of supernatural powers that has the ability to heal. Besides, there are believers who assume that human life commences at conception (Fuller, 2008).
Basing their argument on this claim, they heavily criticize abortion with the assertion that the practice results into murder of innocent being. Contrastingly, scientists believe that drugs cure human ailments. Moreover, scientific scholars argue that abortion is necessary evil especially if the life of the mother is endangered by the pregnancy. Scientists also apply scientific knowledge to enforce the issue of mercy killing for terminally ill patients, a factor that is heavily criticized by Christians.
It is imperative to note that common religious practices such as “speaking in tongues” appear gibberish to scientists (Fuller, 2008). Notably, practices such as homosexual and bisexual behaviors are often regarded as abnormal by religious groups. However, science considers them as normal and genetically determined and that they are not subject to change through the power of prayers. Generally speaking, there are some issues that cannot be permanently resolved and thus the debate continues.
Historically, it has been argued that religion and science have a close relationship. There are numerous theoretical approaches that have been used to demonstrate how they relate to each other. In this case, examples of theoretical assumptions that have been used to demonstrate the relationship include the fact that science replaces religion, religion replaces science, science shapes religion, and religion shapes science (Brooke & Numbers, 2011). Moreover, there is an assumption that both science and religion are independent.
Science replaces religion
Brooke and Numbers (2011) assert that science conflicts with some religious views to an extent that it makes the latter to appear redundant. This is due to the fact that there is much prevalence of historical myths that hinder believers from understanding the reality as presented in science. However, it is important to note that religion is a societal entity and is assumed to be as old as mankind existence.
Science is a discipline that came lately due to the quest for human beings to advance their knowledge. The fact that there are numerous religious and spiritual belief systems, disagreements is inevitable (McGrath, 2011). In this case, science comes in handy and provides a solution to eliminate existing conflicts. It is essential to note that science is crucial since it provide physical and mechanical knowledge to understand aspects that goe beyond religious comprehension.
In this case, existing research has shown that science acts as a legitimate tool that is instrumental to all forms of knowledge. In this case, it is used to legitimize all forms of knowledge derived from various aspects of life (Brooke & Numbers, 2011). Nevertheless, there is an ongoing debate that science cannot replace religion since there are religious aspects that may not be measured, observed or experimented upon. Such aspects include beauty, love, harmony, wisdom, faith and fairness.
Religion replaces science
It is arguable that to some extent, religious understanding of the world’s nature can replace the position of science (Ruse, 1975). For instance, creationists highly reject the assumptions held by creation theories. This is due to the fact that creationists believe the idea of the six-day creation as interpreted in the book of Genesis (Fuller, 2008).
They perceive scientific assumptions on creation as non-purposive, non-directional, self-contained and subjective. In this case, religion has played a large part in convincing human beings that creation is super-natural, purposive, complete and externally directed. Thus, it is beyond doubt that the science of evolution has been replaced by creation science. To some extent, one can argue that presuppositions derived from religious theory shapes scientific perspective on creation.
Of essence to note is that religion is important to mankind and this makes it probable that to some extent, human beings decline from scientific facts and go for religious knowledge. Needless to say, science often criticizes stories about religion in the Bible (McGrath, 2011). It is thus worthy to note that religion goes beyond such stories and this makes it hard to separate man from religion.
Science and religion are independent
The fact that science and religion are independent from each other is one of the broad paradigms concerning their relationship (McGrath, 2011). Scholars and philosophers argue that both religion and science cover two different and independent realms. However, according to Harrison (2010), both science and religion are social constructs developed to satisfy certain human needs or interests. There are individuals who claim that there exists no relationship between religion and science.
For instance, according to Brooke and Numbers (2011), the concepts address and understand the world’s nature in different points of view. In this case, science takes an empirical realm of theories and facts. Contrastingly, religion occupies the realm of moral values and spirituality. From a careful review of literature, it is evident that religion and science are distinctly independent (Brooke & Numbers, 2011).
One scholar argued that the two realms rarely interact with each other. However, this argument has been criticized by philosophers who argue that though the realms are independent, they shape each other (Adams, Schrempf & Craig, 2010). At this juncture, it is arguable the approach of independence to determine their relationship can be classified as strong and weak.
Furthermore, the strong independence approach perceives the two realms as non-permeable and hence there is a great barrier between them. Adams, Schrempf and Craig (2010) argue that Science and religion are separate but incompatible entities. Fundamentally, scholars emphasizes that the concepts have a common goal of understanding the world but in different approaches.
What causes the strong independence between the two realms is the fact that they use different human experiences to understand nature. It is imperative to note that the concepts co-exist peacefully with each other even though there are differences that trigger debate concerning their approaches on nature (McGrath, 2011). Scholars argue the exclusivity in the two realms makes it hard to present human thoughts in a similar context.
For instance, if one presents a religious belief in a scientific way, it will automatically lead to misunderstanding. Additionally, the disciplines deal with different kind of reality. For instance, religion deals with spiritual reality that is not amenable to scientific experiments, descriptions and observation. On the other hand, though science is neither false nor true it intends to use laws to give a satisfactory picture of reality.
Definitely, religion and science complement each other and this can be addressed using the weak independence approach (Adams, Schrempf & Craig, 2010). This approach holds the claim that though science and religion are independent, they give room for interaction at some points. Therefore, one can argue that the barrier between the two realms is semi-permeable. This can be deduced from the fact that the realms address common references such as creation and humanity even though they make dissimilar allegations.
Religion and science in dialogue
It is Apparent that there is a degree of accord between science and religion. This harmony can be detected from the fact that in order to come to a consensus in regard to nature, both realms come together and exchange their views. In this case, they supplement each other with views and explanations on issues that appear contradictory. Nonetheless, there is no way religion can be reduced to science neither science to religion (McGrath, 2011).
To recap it all, both science and religion are crucial in understanding the world’s nature. In this case, there is no way we can rule out either of the realm. This is due to the fact that the realms are consistent and they take hold of their position to shape each other. Just like science is an important source of knowledge, one cannot separate human beings from religion.
Ultimately, both scientific and religious beliefs have an integral role to play in understanding nature. This is regardless of the fact that the realms often conflict each other. Therefore, it is definite that though the realms are independent from each other, they harmoniously interact at some point. In this case, it is absolutely impossible for the two realms to replace each other holistically.
Adams, V. Schrempf, M & Craig, S. (2010). Medicine between Science and Religion: Explorations On Tibetan Grounds. New York: Berghahn Books.
Brooke, J. & Numbers, R. (2011). Science and Religion Around the World. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.
Campbell, H, & Looy, H. (2009). Science and Religion Primer. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
Fuller, R. (2008). Spirituality in the Flesh: Bodily Sources of Religious Experiences. New York: Oxford University Press.
McGrath, E. (2011). Science and Religion: A New Introduction. Malden: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Ruse, M. (1975). The Relationship between Science and Religion in Britain, 1830–1870. Church History, 44 (3): 505-522.