Touching The Limits Of Knowledge

Cosmology and our View of the World


Problems with the Debate Between Science and Religion
Lead: Connor Ahearn, Justin Quinn & Vicki Taibe


Summary by Elizabeth Poulsen:


Problems with the Debate Between Science and Religion

Is it possible to avoid the conflict? There are three ways of looking at the association between the two:

 1. Conflicting World: The world of science and world of religion describe the same things in different ways;
 2. Same World: They are actually one in the same, they can be shown to agree on many levels, and maybe we shouldn't be fighting about it;
 3. Separate Worlds: Religion and science deal with different things in different ways and they should be left that way.
      Since most members of the class know more about western religions, we’ll stick to talking about them.

Do people who believe in #3 only support it because they want to avoid the arguments? No, it’s possible to truly believe that they have separate purposes and go about them in different ways. One shouldn’t look to science for moral guidance nor to religion for how to nail a hole in the wall. Theory #3 is supported by the fact that one can focus on something like physics and not have religion come up in any way. However, religions would insist that God causes everything, including physics.

Religion explains mostly why things happen and science explains mostly how things happen. Religion comments on history and why things happened the way they did. Science and religion both try to explain what is, but for different purposes. Religion explains that there is a God and God’s laws, while science explains that there is nature and the universe and natural and universal laws. Religion doesn’t require the normal proving process that science utilizes. In religion, it is possible to state something as fact and not provide any supporting evidence.

Both sciences and religions make observations and draw conclusions from them, but science requires more of a concrete process. Religions have rituals, which are dramatizations and reenactments of history in order to remember, that serve as their processes. One must go through the experience to understand a religion. In science, one needs not repeat an experiment to understand it.

In support of theory #1: Science and religion started off on the same page, but then religious leaders and scientists started giving their own interpretations of doctrines. This caused the divergence of religion and science. Science and religion continue to deal with the same things, but through history they have formed conflicting ideas.

Science explains how things happen, but still wonders why. Religion answers that it happens because that is the way God wants it to happen. It makes perfect sense why it happens, but the only one who can understand it is God. Religion is sure it has the answer to why we got here and science is sure it has the answer to how we got here, but the two often don’t agree.

Faith is required in religion, or else one wouldn’t have to believe. If one could prove a religion, it would no longer be a religion. Science includes faith just as religion does, but a faith in proof. The faith in science is that it is worthwhile to keep looking for the answer to the how questions. Science is becoming a belief system for the whole country now that religion is being pushed out from the government.

Religion is about personal experiences of something. Science is about public demonstrations and proofs. Religion is about something that can't be demonstrated in a public form. One can't prove that Beethoven's fifth is beautiful; one must experience the music in order to think it's beautiful. In this way, one cannot prove the existence of God; one must experience it. There are no objective answers to questions about why we are here, but religion facilitates finding the meaning for one’s self.

At this point the class was broken up into three small groups that discussed separate issues and then rotated.

Religion in Education: What should it be like? There are too many differing opinions to be able to teach Christianity in school, even if we all wanted it to be taught there. The Bible, Koran, etc. can and should be studied in school as works of literature in order to teach what other people believe and why. However, if one is a devout Christian, they might not be able to teach other religions if they conflict with their beliefs. In order to avoid that problem, a distinction should be made. Teaching a religion is very different from teaching about a religion. When one teaches a religion, one presents the beliefs of that religion as fact. When one teaches about a religion, one presents the beliefs of that religion as just that. People should be taught about many religions in school and be taught the religion they subscribe to in church (if they so choose to attend).

Evolution and Creationism: Is it possible to believe in both? Theory #1 vs. Theory #2:
Some people suffer from "hardening of the metaphors". The bible is mostly metaphoric, but people take it literally. If one believes in the story of Adam and Eve as a metaphor, it is very easy to believe in both evolution AND creationism at the same time. Perhaps this is true for many of the instances where religion and science differ. For example, according to Genesis 1:14-19, the sun and moon were created on the fourth "day" of creation. This shows that God’s "days" could not have been the same as Earth days because without the sun or moon, there would have been no way to measure earth days.