This post considers the arguments and evidence for the view that religious beliefs are compatible with scientific belief systems.
One argument within the secularisation debate is that the Enlightenment started a process of rationalization within society, which led to technological developments and social progress. This in turn meant that the old, traditional, irrational religious belief systems were increasingly challenged, and so there was a corresponding decline in religion.
The above view holds that religious beliefs and scientific beliefs are incompatible, and that more rational scientific knowledge has effectively replaced religious knowledge in society, because scientific knowledge is some how superior.
However, there are others who argue that the relationship between science and religion is more complex and nuanced. This is especially understandable given the trend towards religious pluralism and the increasing diversity, or sub-divisions within science.
It is highly likely that ecumenical movements, or those with new age beliefs are more likely to find common ground with science than those from highly conservative religious movements or those with fundamentalist beliefs.
Religion and Science are compatible
There are several different lines of argument for the view that religious belief systems and scientific belief systems are compatible.
Stephen Jay Gould argued that science and religion were concerned with different aspects of human life which deal with different human needs.
Gould argued that one human need was to understand the workings of nature, which science dealt with. The job of science was to uncover objective knowledge about the ‘laws of nature’, which could be discovered using the scientific method.
Another human need was to find a meaning for their own life and to figure out a moral code which they should live by. Such meaning and morality are subjective and so cannot be discovered through the scientific method. People need religion to help them discover meaning and to lead a moral life.
According to Gould, these two spheres of human need do not overlap, and so religious knowledge systems and scientific knowledge systems can exist side by side.
Monotheistic religions which have a belief in one, universal God are compatible with science. It is possible to believe that there is ‘one God’ who created the universe and the laws by which it is governed, and then to use science to uncover exactly what those rules are.
Some recent concepts developed in the field of physics seem to support the worldview of traditional Asian belief systems, such as Taoism. A good example of this is Fritjof Capra’s ‘The Tao of Physics‘.
Some religions are actually based on science – The most obvious example here is scientology, which has developed devices such as the E-meter to track people’s progress towards the ‘Bridge to Total Freedom’.
Sources/ find out more….