Science and Religion: Two Opposing Forces in Society?

For centuries, religious leaders and scientists have lived in conflict. In many cases, the two beliefs seem to contradict. People with firm religious beliefs have a hard time accepting other possible explanations for the world around them, and scientists struggle to understand the significance of a theory that lacks empirical roots.

There are many experts, however, who have delved deeply into both areas and discovered that they may in fact coincide.

Albert Einstein is a famous example. In his article “Religion and Science,” Einstein discusses human nature and its impact on religion, the evolution of religion throughout history. He explains that religion began as a fear-based impulse, and eventually became a moral religion. “The Jewish scriptures admirably illustrate the development from the religion of fear to moral religion, a development continued in the new Testament.”

Einstein goes on to explain that all types of religion have one point in common- the “anthropomorphic character of their conception of God.” Religion also fulfills the individual who “feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought…he wants to experience the universe as a single, significant whole.”

After going into additional detail, Einstein points out: “We thus arrive at a conception of the relation of science to religion very different from the usual one. When on views the matter historically, one is inclined to look upon science and religion as irreconcilable antagonists, and for a very obvious reason.” However, Einstein maintains that “the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research… It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.”

Einstein’s complete article was published in the New York Times Magazine, and can be viewed here.

Other people find different correlations between science and religion. Spiritual leaders often discuss the importance of science and its significance in religion. Rabbi Tully Bryks, for example, discusses his approach to the issue on his website. He writes: “Since G-d is the one who created the world, a world which contains all the laws of science and nature, there can never be a conflict between science and the Torah (Old Testament). If there does appear to be a conflict, it means that we either need to get a better understanding of the Torah, a better understanding of the science, or perhaps we need a better understanding of both.”

William Lane Craig, a Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology also brings forth several points which tie science and religion together in “What is the Relation Between Science and Religion”:

  • Religion furnished the conceptual framework in which science can flourish.
  • Science can both falsify and verify claims of religion.
  • Science encounters metaphysical problems which religion can help solve.
  • Religion can help adjudicate between scientific theories.
  • Religion can augment the explanatory power of science.
  • Science can establish a premise in an argument for a conclusion having religious significance.