Is science at odds with religion?
Photo By: amust.com
Francesco Corso, News Editor
Over 150 years later, Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” remains one of the most contentious pieces of scientific literature ever published. The theory of evolution has ignited a fierce war between religious fundamentalists, particularly young Earth creationists, and scientists over the theory and its place in the classroom, as well as other “theories” such as creationism and intelligent design. With this has come a strange viewpoint that a belief in science, as a source of truth is the same as claiming that any given religion can.
First, let’s start with the evolution question. A main claim advanced by young Earth creationists is that evolution is “just a theory,” which is completely ignorant as to what a scientific theory actually is. In science, a theory is defined as an explanation of the natural world that has been substantiated through multiple and repeated experimentation and testing.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to the actual issue at hand. Is scientific faith the same as religious faith? The answer, if it wasn’t obvious, is no. While it is true that science demands a certain degree of faith so to speak, there is far more rigor when it comes to whether or not the scientific community accepts the ideas. Scientific studies are constantly being scrutinized and retested (albeit not as much as it should due to a lack of funding for replication studies) in order to validate their results. Scientists through their research, come up with falsifiable hypotheses and put them to the test to see if they hold up.
Religion on the other hand, often makes claims about the supernatural, that cannot easily be tested. The existence of a god or an afterlife are not claims that cannot be validated, so to speak. This is why religious people speak of faith, when it comes to their beliefs. When discussing things beyond the physical universe, and thus supposedly beyond the bounds of human comprehension, one must take a leap of faith and assume that the statement is true.
For some this lack of testability is reason enough to abandon religion altogether. Neuroscientist and New York Time bestselling author Sam Harris has claimed, “The conflict between religion and science is inherent and (very nearly) zero-sum. The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science.”
Harris is largely correct here. When it comes to topics such as evolution or the creation of the universe, taking a text like the Bible at face value is at odds with science. This is not to say that the two are completely mutually exclusive like Harris states, but when science actively contradicts religious beliefs, one should be inclined to reconsider those beliefs.