A common claim and argument made by anti-theists is that religion is anti-science, that religion and science are mutually exclusive to one another, and that one must either accept religion or accept science. In essence one could say that science has turned into the religion for many atheist anti-theists, with the way they keep bringing it up, as if they exclusively own science while theists on the other hand are irrational folk who reject science and facts.
Quite the contrary, religion is not mutually exclusive to science, religion in fact can and does coexist with science, and the same applies to people of religion. This whole concept of religion VS science is a new phenomenon that’s been raised by modern day anti-theists, trying to pit the two together. The easiest way to refute this nonsense is by merely pointing out all the great scientific minds who were theists, whether Muslim, Christian, or Jewish.
Now if religion was against science, and if the two were opposed to one another, then we would never expect to find great theist scientists, theist scientists who played a major role in scientific discoveries. Just think of the irony, many anti-theists live off benefits thanks to the scientific discoveries made by theists, people of religion, yet these anti-theists want to now turn around and say you can’t be a theist and believe in science, and that you can’t have religion and science.
So the mere fact that we have a plethora of theist scientists who have greatly contributed to the filed of scientific discoveries, is enough to debunk this silly anti-theist argument. However a further explanation is needed on the whole religion-science issue, and how theists broadly view the issue.
Now what is science? Science merely observes and explains how things work, that’s basically it. For a theist, this poses no problems, in fact for many theists science is a great way to boost ones faith, as it shows the mechanisms that have been put in place by God, in order to make things run. One must really have a lot of faith to continue being an atheist when in fact studies science, and studies the way things work, such as the formation of the universe, and the formation of life. To look at all the intricacies and yet still remain an atheist, and believing this all happened by chance and by it’s own, rather than being guided by a creator, is indeed a major leap of faith (denial).
So again, science merely explains how things work, why the earth rotates, why it rains, how a baby is formed, and why we have oxygen and so on. This is in no way clashes with religion, because after all God put these mechanisms in place to make things work. Interestingly enough, in the Quran itself, it tells people to observe their surrounding, and to observe how things work, as this is proof of God. So the Quran in fact appeals to science as proof of God, yet anti-theists want to now turn around and say it’s either religion or science.
A proposition anti-theists try and raise to pit science and religion against one another are the religious claims that are unscientific. So for example claims of miracles and the supernatural cannot be proven from a scientific point of view, and therefore they are ‘unscientific’ and this shows how religion supposedly contradicts science and why you can’t be a believer in religion and accept science.
Miracles and the supernatural are not unscientific, at the end of the day science only deals with the realm of the natural world, it does not go beyond that. So the fact that the supernatural and miraculous exists beyond the realm of the natural world, does not make it false or unscientific, it just means it goes beyond the realm and limitations of science. And this is how theists understand it, the supernatural and miraculous does not clash or contradict with science, it is just beyond the grasp of science, not merely confined to the rules and structures of the natural world.
In fact if there is a God, who created everything, including the natural world and the natural order of things, then we would also expect this God to able to operate beyond the realms of these structures which he created, if he cannot then he is not all powerful, and if he could not then you would bet anti-theists would be the first to use this as an argument. So God created the natural order of things, therefore he is very much able to operate outside the natural order of things, such as allowing for miracles to happen, this is only natural.
Onto another point, while God created the natural order of things, he may have and in fact has created other dimensions, and by this we mean other spheres of life-existence that are not limited to our natural world understanding. So other dimensions may exist in their own way, where other beings such as angels etc live and operate, basically outside the three-dimension that we as humans are limited to. In fact this claim itself is also not unscientific as many scientists have been discussing the reality that everything is not merely three dimensional, the reality of which we humans live in, but that there in fact maybe other dimensions, a fourth, a fifth and so on.
In essence what it comes down to is that anti-theists live in a very limited box, and in a very limited capacity, anything that exists outside their three-dimensional sphere, or outside their mere materialistic-natural world, is false and unacceptable. Not only does this show a limited capacity, it’s also a display of arrogance of the highest order. Just because other realities go beyond the limitations of the natural world, does not make it false, it just means there is another layer of existence that goes beyond our methods of being able to quantify it.
So at the end of the day religion and science are not in conflict, science merely explains how things work, but there are certain aspects of things that go beyond science. Beyond the natural world, beyond our three-dimension, and this doesn’t make it in conflict with science, rather it’s just that science has it’s limitations and when it comes to these areas, science isn’t equipped nor is it even tasked-obligated to deal with these areas. Science has it’s areas that it deals with, the natural world, and that’s where science starts and ends.
Unfortunately, I cannot quite agree:
Religions are philosophical world views, so oft course they can clash with science – but they also can clash with football or wearing orange underwear. If a religion says that the world is a huge Doughnut than sooner or later it will clash with science.
So, the question “Can science coexist with religion” cannot be answered for all religions, but only for specific ones and even here, different interpretations of religions can coexist better than others: For example, one “literal” interpretation of the bible claims that the earth is 6.000 years old. That version cannot well coexist with science. A much more, let’s call it, spiritual view, that these stories are metaphors and not a physics textbook, can coexist with science without problems, as it doesn’t try to answer scientific questions.
That’s probably the point: As long as religion does not try to answer scientific questions, everything is fine. But as soon as religion tries to tell you how the world works, while science shows it works in another way, well, as the computer I write this text on, was made possible by science and not religion, I wouldn’t bet my money on religion.
And sorry, until you can show me a good way to decide which miracle is true and which one is just one of the many flaws humans have, I will not accept miracles. If you go that path, you have to give every single occult, esoteric, magical, etc. piece of nonsense the benefit of the doubt and that simply makes no sense. We can check scientific results and that’s fine, but what good are miracles if we cannot tell them from common delusions?
you should change it to can Islam and science co exist?
Because this is called the Debate Initiative I have written a response that I thought you might like to read. It is the TrackBack above.
Here’s my opening speech to the contrary of yours (available on my blog):
The Muslim Debate Initiative (MDI) has written a post with the title I have now given this post. The MDI’s post is in the positive and, given the name of the blog, I assume they are open to reading posts answering in the negative. That is what I’m writing here. I don’t think science and religion can co-exist.
First, we need to examine what we’re looking at. Scientists like Newton and Pasteur are irrefutable evidence that religion and science can co-exist in the same mind, let alone society. The two patently can co-exist. But I still intend answer in the negative. To do that, I want to address the sentiment I think the original question is trying to express: can the methods of science and religion occupy the same intellectual framework? I’m going to defend the answer: no. The methods of science and religion aren’t just different, they are the antithesis of each other. Although some scientists are religious, religion is not how they come to develop scientific ideas and progress.
Religion purports to work by revelation from the supreme creator(s) of the universe and absolute dogmatic claims held with certainty. To question the revelations reported in these related Books is to undermine a foundational premise of religion: the messenger is supreme. Criticism and revision or, worse yet, the discovery of falsehood of a claim of a Book tears apart the fabric of top down revelation on which religion is built. Not only that, but criticism based on new evidence, reason and the open exchange of ideas is the foundation of science.
The reason religion and science do not and cannot share this foundation is because a religion chipped away at by criticism is a nebulous deism at best, and nonexistent if properly examined. Without the unquestionable dogmatic revelation depicted in a Book, religion is content-free. The Exodus from Egypt didn’t happen, the sun doesn’t rest in the sky or set in puddles; walking on water and other miracles are historically unsupported.
Alternatively, the Enlightenment was the beginning of the open exchange of ideas, rebuttal and criticism. The exchange is fueled by evidence, reason and the refusal of knowledge by authority (i.e. dogma and revelation). This is why scientific journals include a method section; so that if you understand it you can offer reasoned criticism.
There have been attempts to adapt religion to conform it to foundations which are closer to that of science. This is a purely aesthetic endeavour: attempts to make Big Bang cosmology analogous to the Genesis account of creation; or make religious claims flexible enough to fit into scientific conclusions. But this veneer of pseudoscience crumbles away when one identifies that it is all an attempt to continue accepting the revelation of Books.
It is important, then, to account for how antithetical methods can exist in people’s minds, even minds great scientists. Isaac Newton was undoubtedly religious and undoubtedly a great scientist; his discoveries were based on evidence, robust mathematical evidence and provided predictions; his ideas were put in the public domain and openly critiqued (even if the rebuttals were weaker the the claims). But the methods of religion played no part in the process. In fact, when Newton called upon religious methods (he delegated the cause to a God) his scientific progress ceased. As Louis Pasteur said, in each person is a voice of science and a voice of faith and never do the two cooperate.
The answer is basically that the human mind is capable of compartmentalised different aspects. It perfectly plausible for a highly skilled architect to have a profound understanding of supports, load bearing, design, lighting, efficiency and solar gain etc. but still think a Mosque can be built with east-facing windows, the foundations can be built from lime jelly and its supports from polystyrene foam; the Mosque will be kept standing by the power of Allah. If it falls down, then the attendants weren’t faithful enough. This model of architecture is clearly incompatible with actual architecture, but the architect feels me applies to religious buildings and another applies to all other buildings. (This is not intended as a direct analogy to religion’s truth finding ability and science’s truth finding finding ability; it is merely intended to illuminate Pasteur’s comment about the religious and scientific voices. They are incompatible and separate methods.)
In a geographical sense, of course science and religion co-exist. In a mind, they can co-exist. But in the realm in which they function–intellectual enquiry and truth tracking–they simply can’t co-exist. However, the argument goes that science and religion are actually attempting to answer different groups of questions. The groups of questions are nonoverlapping and also don’t co-exist: questions of the natural and the supernatural. Why the reach of science and religion cannot be described as reality and fiction, respectively, is not something I have met a person who can articulate. The invention of religion to explain a realm that we simply can’t confirm exists is a nonsense; the quandary is whether religion tells us anything about reality. Religion is incapable of telling us anything about reality and science isn’t tasked with telling us about fiction. (What’s worse is where the religious claim religion is informative–like morality–we have no way to evaluate whether that is an accurate thing; is remains dogmatic and described by authority). The methods are incompatible, and never explore the same thing. One explains the world we live in and develops technology leading to progress; the other is like literature study, exploring a made up fictional world (but at least literature students know they’re doing that). Again, the methods don’t co-exist.
The premise that religion and science answer different questions is the point of the MDI’s post. What they argue is religion is correct in some ontological sense and not just literature study. That, I think, we can’t confirm.
…”the Mosque will be kept standing by the power of Allah. If it falls down, then the attendants weren’t faithful enough” – typical arrogance, shallow-mindedness and childish imagination of an atheist (not necessarily you Allalt)
John, Islam and science do co-exist – science so far confirms approximately 750 statements of divine revelations of the Holy Quran!
It would be great if you could use my full quote:
“It perfectly plausible for a highly skilled architect to have a profound understanding of supports, load bearing, design, lighting, efficiency and solar gain etc. but still think a Mosque can be built with east-facing windows, the foundations can be built from lime jelly and its supports from polystyrene foam; the Mosque will be kept standing by the power of Allah. If it falls down, then the attendants weren’t faithful enough. This model of architecture is clearly incompatible with actual architecture, but the architect feels [one] applies to religious buildings and another applies to all other buildings.”
That is the problem I am highlighting: science and religion are incompatible in that they are very different models of thinking and designing. I’m not sure where any of your accusations come into this.
It would have been nice if you had said something like ‘places of worship’ in general without particular emphasis on a Mosque where thousands of brilliant, pious scientists have worshiped the Almighty Allah, particularly in the Golden Age of Islamic Civilisation that spanned over more than 800 years. Even though they had been inspired by the Divine Revelations in the Qur-aan they had separated their scientific adventures from religion. Given this is the fact, it is incorrect to try to paint the picture that the believers of Almighty Allah are just as naive and ignorant to the physical realities and limits! My observations are directed at the ideology, not you personally.
You should probably read my original comment again: you’re not addressing it right now.