Science and Religion: The Six-Nine Illustration
Science and religion are two elements of human society that have been treated as mutually exclusive, their existence has been used as a means to explain the non-existence of one facet over the other. The history of the two though rooted in division has gradually progressed to an accepted level of co-existence. This is partly due to a better understanding and appreciation of the unique differences that exist between the two. Discussions on science and religion have become less confined to their conflicting relationship and more focused on the progress of their respective fields. Science has progressed to better explain the laws of the universe, at the same time, religion has also shown resilience in explaining its version of how the universe operates. Their messages, though conflicting have widely been accepted and viewed as truths or facts that are used as a standard for knowledge. Their differences in explanations have been harmonized by adding context and point of reference. The same way the number six '6' appears as a number nine '9' from a different angle and point of view, religion explained from a scientific point of view appears to be factually incorrect and insufficient. Similarly, viewing science from a religious point of view shows science to be inconsistent and unreliable. The emphasis on context and point of reference has enabled a general acceptance of conflicting views of religion and science. This, however, was not the case in the past.
Religion and science share a bitter history of contentions and divisions, in extreme cases, these differences spiraled out of control and led to violence. Despite the progress that has been made, these divisions still exist today. To better understand how two important building blocks of human society turned into counteracting forces, it is very important to know the history and origin of their conflict.
History of Science and Religion
Religion predates science by centuries, in fact, the term scientist is relatively recent, first coined by William Whewell in the 19th century. It is worth mentioning, religious and scientific laws both existed at the dawn of human civilization, but the practice of religion predates the practice of science. Most of the scientific laws today were once regarded as religious or divine occurrences. The shape of the Earth is a good example of a previously known religious fact that was later turned into scientific discovery. Regarding the shape of the Earth, most religious accounts considered it spherical. The bible at Isaiah 40:22 refers to the earth as “the circle (or, sphere) of the earth". Muslim polymaths, who lived centuries earlier than prominent astronomers and philosophers were also able to determine that the Earth was sphericle. In Hinduism, the earth was described as a "ball of Earth". Earlier philosophers, historians, and astronomers, however, considered the earth to be flat, in fact, societies of people that still believe the earth is flat exists today.
These examples proved how the practice of religion predated the practice of science. It also added factual evidence to support a system of religious beliefs.
What Is Religion?
Religion is defined as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
Religion is regarded as the source of human civilization, it explains the origins of the human family, in fact, any phase of human civilization contains a religiously influenced system of governance. Even before the law-based system of human governance was developed, religion provided a moral code of conduct that governed human affairs. Historic and scientific discoveries have also been able to prove the influence religion has had on human evolution. Religion's influence on human society was so consequential that anyone who acted against the interests of the religion was worthy of punishment. Universal human acts were considered acts in accordance with religious principals or against them, with no grey area in between. This religious structural system still holds today, but what if there was another way human society could define the laws that govern their universal existence?. That question led to the birth of science.
What is Science?
Defined as the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. A scientist is someone who systematically gathers and uses research and evidence, making a hypothesis and testing it, to gain and share understanding and knowledge. (The science council, 2019)
The contribution of science to human evolution and society is figuratively and literally immeasurable. Science, like religion, is a building block of human civilization. Depending on which spectrum one belongs to, science can be considered to be more influential to human evolution than religion. In fact, there is enough evidence of religion's dependence on science and less of science's reliance on religion. Science tries to explain the universal laws that govern how the human world operates, predict the outcomes of events and develop new and better methods of human survival. The term science comes from the Latin word scientia, meaning “knowledge" which also happens to be the primary goal of science. How did science's quest for knowledge lead to a violent confrontation with religion?
According to its historical context. Before the development of modern science, “natural philosophy” referred to the objective study of nature and the physical universe, and is considered the counterpart, or the precursor, of what is now called natural science, especially physics. (New World Encyclopedia, 2019)
Natural philosophy or the philosophy of nature was the philosophical study of nature and the physical universe. This philosophical approach to the universal laws that governed the human world was viewed as a counterargument to religious laws. The natural philosophical approach did not focus much on the influences of religious deities on the human world, but rather tried to explain the phenomena as natural occurrences governed by quantifiable laws of the universe. This created two parallel explanations of how the universe operates, with either side hellbent on disproving the other. This led to a famous confrontation between religion and science in 1633.
In 1633, an Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei was arrested by the church for holding a belief that the Earth revolves around the Sun, which was deemed heretical by the Catholic Church. At that time, the church believed that it is the sun that revolves around the Earth. This, however, was not the first time Galileo's scientific views had irked the church. In 1616, Galileo locked horns with the church over the church's doctrine of the Earth being an immovable object at the center of the universe. Galileo was eventually forbidden from expressing his scientific views and placed under house arrest., eventually, he was overcome with blindness. It took the church 300 years to admit their error and clear Galileo's name.
Galileo's scientific insights laid the foundation for future scientists. His investigation of the laws of motion and improvements on the telescope helped further the understanding of the world and the universe around him. He is considered by many to be the father of modern science.
The trials that Galileo faced at the hands of the church has contributed to the hostility that science has towards religion, while the philosophical origins of science have also contributed to religion's unfavorable view of science.
Despite playing a role in the science-religion conflict that still exists today, Galileo was surprisingly a man that embraced both worlds. Regarding his scientific accomplishment, he is quoted saying, "I give infinite thanks to God, who has been pleased to make me the first observer of marvelous things." On another occasion, he was quoted saying, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." Whether Galileo was a man devoted to religion the same way he was devoted to science, we might never know, but his belief in both facets proves that religion and science are not counteracting forces. So, how should we view science and religion today?
The Six-Nine View
Religion and science today are better viewed as two sides of the same coin, or six and a nine, their origins are derived from a shared universe. Their history cannot be separated from human history and their existence depends on the health of the relationship they share. The two building blocks of human civilization were a consequence of man's quest for survival and the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Denying the existence of one of the two or elevating one facet over the other is akin to reading one side of each page in a book. Using science to denounce or discredit the existence of religion is similar to trying to catch a fish with a spoon, not only is it a wrong tool to use, but also a wrong method. In the same way, using religion as a means to disprove scientific phenomena, is similar to trying to catch a bird with a fishing rod, it might eventually turn out successful, but in the end, you still need to explain why on Earth would you want to catch a bird with a fishing rod.
"If you intend to prove that a six is actually a nine, you need to define from what point of view or angle are you viewing it as a nine. Otherwise, a six will appear a six from a fixed reference point"
Both science and religion are human pillars of knowledge and truth and form the basis of facts. It is technically impossible to prove one fact against another without defining the rules of your argument. If you intend to prove that a six is actually a nine, you need to define from what point of view or angle are you viewing it as a nine. Otherwise, a six will appear a six from a fixed reference point. In a similar way, if you wish to convince a religiously inclined person on the origins of life in the universe from your scientific point of view, you need to invite them to stand with you together on your scientific reference point of view. If you both have a similar and fixed reference point of view which is science, then it becomes easier to advance the conversation from common ground. It is only with ignorance that one would still decide to vouch for religion from a scientific point of view.
In similar faith, if you wish to convince a scientifically inclined individual about the existence of religion, you need to specifically define your reference point. Science uses measurements to qualify true or false statements, it is scientifically impossible to quantify the existence of deities or gods. Therefore, talking about religion from a scientific point of view is technically theorems and not facts, you are basically pitching a six to someone seeing a nine. To successfully convince a scientifically inclined person about religion, one has to explicitly state that, it is not on the basis of science that they intend to advance the conversation. This will implore the science-oriented individual to avoid using scientific means of assessing a true or false statement. The two individuals will then have a common starting point of view, then the conversation can start. If the scientifically inclined individual still intends to use science to discredit religion despite having agreed to the ground rules set earlier, then that individual is showing a lack of open-mindedness and the conversation shouldn't progress any further.
In the conversation of science and religion, it is important to note that, explaining something religiously is not showing a lack of knowledge, the same way explaining something scientifically is not an immoral act or a sin. This conversation requires a set of defined rules from the onset, otherwise whichever way one defines a nine, if an angle is showing a six, it will still be a six.
Which one has more influence on human society?
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