The late German-born physicist Albert Einstein believed that science without religion was lame, and religion without science was blind. But the debate over whether science and religion can co-exist has been going on since the dawn of mankind and continues to divide opinion even today, as INCH discovered.
I am convinced that evolution and religious beliefs need not be in contradiction. Indeed, if science and religion are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because they concern different matters. Science and religion are like two different windows for looking at the world. The two windows look at the same world, but they show different aspects of that world. Science concerns the processes that account for the natural world: how planets move, the composition of matter and the atmosphere, the origin and adaptations of organisms. Religion concerns the meaning and purpose of the world and of human life, the proper relation of people to the Creator and to each other, the moral values that inspire and govern people’s lives. Apparent contradictions only emerge when either the science or the beliefs, or often both, trespass their own boundaries and wrongfully encroach upon one another’s subject matter.
Francisco Ayala, biologist, University of California, Irvine
Observe: science and religion *do* coexist. The first scientists were clergymen. Today, religious institutions from universities to the Vatican Observatory support professional science. And the proportion of scientists who are themselves believers mirrors the fraction in the general population. Science is based on the religious assertion that Creation is orderly, free from the interference of nature gods, and worthy of study. So who continues to push this myth of a “conflict”? What is their agenda?
Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, astronomer at the Vatican Observatory
Religion and science are like oil and water. They might co-exist, but they can never mix to produce a homogeneous medium. Religion and science are fundamentally incompatible. They disagree profoundly on how we obtain knowledge of the world. Science is based observation and reasoning from observation. Religion assumes that human beings can access a deeper level of information that is not available by either observation or reason. The scientific method is proven by its success. The religious method is refuted by its failure.
Victor J. Stenger, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Hawaii
Personally I’m not religious at all, but I have religious scientists as friends and they seem to manage just fine. I think those people are more likely to take some religious things a bit less literally though, like a religious geologist probably wouldn’t think that the Earth and everything else was actually made by God 6000 years ago, since their science tells them that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old.
Grant Kennedy, astrophysicist, University of Cambridge
Science and religion are not at odds. Science is simply too young to understand. Whether or not you believe in God, you must believe this: when we as a species abandon our trust in a power greater than us, we abandon our sense of accountability. Faiths, all faiths, are admonitions that there is something we cannot understand, something to which we are accountable. With faith we are accountable to each other, to ourselves, and to a higher truth. Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed. Science tells me God must exist. My mind tells me I will never understand God. And my heart tells me I am not meant to.
Dan Brown, author of Angels & Demons
Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognise our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.
The late Carl Sagan, American astrophysicist
From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it. Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.
The late William H. Bragg, British physicist
Religion and science are indeed incompatible. Religion and science both offer explanations for why life and the universe exist. Science relies on testable empirical evidence and observation. Religion relies on subjective belief in a creator. Only one explanation is correct. The other must be discarded. Explanations require evidence. None exists for a creator outside the human mind, whereas the evidence for evolution and the origins of life mounts every day. In the face of this uncontradicted evidence, religious belief in a divinity is no more viable than belief in the now-proverbial Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Lorna Salzman, American environmental activist
There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works. I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws. When you look at the vast size of the universe, and how insignificant and accidental human life is in it, the existence of a God seems most implausible.
Physicist Stephen Hawking