Sample essay on the relation between Science and Religion
Science and religion are commonly perceived to be mutually exclusive contradictions in terms, as it were. Both the method and the aims of science and religion seem to be different. While science is linked to the material, religion is concerned with the spiritual.
Development of Thought:
On the face of it the scope, sphere and method of science and religion are different and exclude each other. Science is objective while religion is subjective; Science relies on experiment, religion on experience; science deals with the material world, religion with the Supra mundane.
Over the ages a conflict has developed between science and religion. But science does not have the answer to everything. Science without religion gives rise to materialism and other ills of life. There is no real conflict between science and religion. The approach is different but the goal is the same.
The conflict between science and religion is superficial. There is no real antagonism between the two. Science and religion have apparently different aims and objects, yet in fact they are closely related and act and react on each other.
Science and Religion, the two terms have come to signify a contradiction in terms. On the face of it, it seems difficult to find a compromise between science and religion. Tar their scope is different and excludes each other.
Science deals with the world that we know, the material world that is comprehended by the senses; religion is concerned with a supra-mundane world- world that we cannot be said to know.
Science believes in things that can be proved; religion is preoccupied with ideas that have to be accepted without ”roof Science depends on reasons; religion on intuition. The scientist works in the laboratory of the material world; the religious teacher works within the recesses of his personal experiences.
Religion begins where science ends. Science says that the First Cause is unknowable. Religion says that it can be known through the discipline of religion, for it is God who is not only self-existent but self- revealed.
Hence, there is bound to be hostility between the man of science and the man of religion. Science ends when matter ends. But religions oppose to this finite world of matter, the God who is endless.
Science relies on experiment, whereas religion on experience. Any religious experience, be that of Christ or Ramakrishna, is personal and subjective and it cannot be tested by any experiment. One has to believe in it. On the other hand, the experiment of science is an impersonal venture.
Also, objectivity as a temperament of the mind is needed in this pursuit. So rationality is one of the tools that science employs. Proof is provided in the form of tangible results which can be perceived with the eye and at times can be sensed.
As the words ‘experience’ and ‘experiment’ connote, the worlds of religion and science are poles apart. Science is concerned with ‘how’ of reality whereas religion is concerned with the ‘why’ of reality.
Science takes up the tangible entities and analyses them into their minutest parts, and then comes to conclusions regarding the way in which tangible realities are organized.
In brief, science is analytical. On the other hand, religion takes for granted the reality. The path of religion is metaphysical.
Indeed, the rationalists of religion pursuing the path of metaphysics postulate the concept of God: but even then, at the highest level of religious consciousness, the concept of God is a matter of faith. And this faith enables the religious man to attribute a design or meaning to the reality. Thus, science is analytical in approach whereas religion is synthetically.
Religion is subjective, as religious enlightenment has to be felt by one’s own experience. Unless and until religious experience is felt by an individual himself, he cannot reap any pleasure out of it. The moral and religious rules are allied and have to be followed by individuals in appropriate ethical situations.
Science, on the other hand, deals with the objective side of life. Scientific discoveries are common property. They are experience felt by all and sundry.
They are open to common men and not shrouded in mystery or haziness. They are truths, universally true and subject to scientific calculations. A systematic scholarship and concentration is needed to get at scientific truths which are subsequently tested and approved by hypotheses and experiment.
But so long as scientific knowledge is imperfect, the place of religion and god will continue to be highly relevant. So long as scientific theories do not reach perfection, humans have to fall back upon their own reasoning and secondary powers of their own soul and spirit.
In this sense, science and religion actually converge. Both scientists and saints have to undertake solitary travels into the regions unknown and to depend on themselves only and nobody else. But once a line is drawn between them, their ways bifurcate and take separate routes.
Religious truths remain essentiality the property of the individuals who experience and realise them through their own inward soul and mind and not through the external manifestation of things which have a physical behaviour. Scientific truths, on the other hand, become the property of the whole world and go to inflate the store-house of human knowledge.
Religion is perhaps as old as mankind. Even in the earliest times man had some idea of the higher power, a superior unknowable force pervading and controlling the universe. The earliest form of man’s worship of serpents, science and statues is clear proof of his belief in an All-powerful Creator.
Science is of more recent growth. The earliest phases of science may not be more than four or five thousand years old, while modern science began only in the 15th century. But Religion is very much older and before science made its appearance the former was the chief force guiding and governing human thoughts and conduct.
The supremacy of religion, however, gave rise to many evils. Religion encouraged superstition and other evil practices. The heads of various religions assumed almost the powers of a dictator over their followers. The Roman Catholic Church in Europe, the Brahmin priests in India and others behaved as despots and tyrants.
The true spirit of religion was ignored on account of these developments. But with the beginning of science, many of these evil growths were badly shaken. The conflict between science and religion was for some time very bitter.
The conflict between science and religion shows how truth has to suffer in order to establish its claims. Pioneers of science had to face numerous difficulties. Galileo, for instance, was thrown into prison for his new theories about heavenly bodies.
No better was the fate of Copernicus who pointed out that it is the earth which moves round the sun. In the 19th century also Darwin’s Theory of Evolution gave rise to angry opposition from the Christian Church, since his theory cut across the Biblical version of the creation of mankind from Adam and Eve.
The Churchmen raised the cry “Religion in Danger” and pressed for the persecution of such scientist. In recent times, the German scientist Robert Mayor was shut up in a lunatic asylum for discovering his theory of the Conservation of Energy.
Thus all those who departed from the accepted Biblical theories about God, and universe were regarded as the enemies of mankind and religion.
Numerous attempts were made to suppress the voice of reason and truth. But Truth eventually prevailed and science held its ground. Many who had come forward to laugh at science became its champions and followers. Before the 19th century had run its course, the triumph of science was complete.
The rapid progress of science changed the face of the world beyond recognition. It conferred unheard of comforts and conveniences on mankind. The wonders of science bewildered man and he began to enjoy numerous blessings in life Time and distance, disease and pain were rapidly conquered and man seemed to be the master of his surroundings.
These developments gave rise in some circles to the belief that man is all-powerful and God a superiors being, people lost faith in Heaven or Hell, God or the Supreme Power.
Religion seemed to be unnecessary and the Church began to lose the respect and power it had once enjoyed Religion seemed to be dethroned from the hearts of man and science reigned in its place.
But the path of science did not ultimately prove as smooth as its worshippers had thought it to be. It turned out to be a mixed blessing. It did provide bodily comforts, but at the cost of man’s moral and spiritual development. It ruined man into a skeptic, a creature without any faith and lofty ideals to inspire and guide him.
The loss of such faith brought the baser side of his nature into free play. Man became dishonest, selfish and proud. It destroyed man’s simple faith, fellow feeling, affection and kindness. Besides, the blessings of science gave rise to new social problems. The gulf between the rich and the poor became wide than ever before.
The widespread use of machinery subjected millions of human beings to the evils of economic exploitation, unemployment, crowded, congested cities and the growth of slums. The average worker lost his independence and happiness and was reduced to the position of a mere clog in the vast organization of modern industry.
Above all, the use of science in the manufacture of weapons made war increasingly horrible and destructive, and it appeared that the very existence of humanity and civilization was at stake. Consequently the enthusiasm of the supporters of science began to cool down.
Also science is not able to answer the fundamental questions of the mystery of life and death and the incalculability of events. The scientist can say that the universe developed from a primeval atom but what made them coagulate into the universe we know.
Science fails to answer the question of the ‘First Cause’. It is here that man and even a scientist has to fall back upon the idea of God and religion.
In fact, science alone cannot give peace and happiness to mankind. Science must be allied to religion. Science makes man materialistic, but religion upholds his faith in God, in the higher and spiritual values of life. It must be admitted that there are more things in Heaven and on Earth than our science can dream of.
The beauty and mystery of human life, its spiritual and moral values are lost if men are guided entirely by science. And without moral and spiritual values man’s life is not better than the life of a beast.
It is on account of this neglect of the moral and spiritual aspect of life that science has been applied for destructive and immoral purposes during the last century. If this state of affairs continues science will bring about the complete ruin of mankind and civilization.
Yet there is another danger: science itself may take the place of religion. It may in the blindness of fanaticism arrogate to itself the intolerance of dogmatism and persecute those who have the courage to differ from accepted scientific notions.
The fanaticism of the scientist may well prove to be a more awful men ace in so far as it is uninhibited by the humanitarian basis of religion “
People have, therefore, got to realise that there is no real conflict between science and religion. Their approach towards life is, of course different but the goal is the same. Science follows the path of reason and intellect, religion travel the road of faith and belief. But both aim at the discovery of truth.
As a matter of fact, today we know clearly that the animosity between the two is not very sub substantial. The pyramids of ancient Egypt evoke both religious reverence and also the admiration of engineers. Roger Bacon, the inventor of gunpowder, believed in alchemy.
Copernicus dedicated his famous book to the pope. Mendel was a monk by profession. And Einstein remarked that a great scientific discovery was a matter of religious insight.
Historically, in ancient times, there was no conflict between religion and science because human knowledge was an undifferentiated whole.
The imaginative shaman or the magician played the role of both doctor and high-priest. The Hippocrates oath taken by doctors till today refers to a religious belief of the Greeks-Hygeia, the goddess of health.
Thus, we notice that there is no antithesis worth speaking between the two all through the ages. Besides, intuition plays a vital role in the apprehension of God or in any religious belief.
Similarly, a great scientist never plans what he is about to discover. Before Newton millions of apples must have fallen to the ground but only the supersensitive insight of Newton made him propound the famous law of gravitation.
The compatibility of science and religion is well expressed in the couplet:
Nature and Nature’s law lay hid in the Night, God said, let Net won be and all was Light.
Outwardly religion and science are the two opposite poles of man’s consciousness. But the two do no necessarily repel each other. The meeting point is in the mind of man.
Religion without science degenerates into superstition, while science without the help of religion gives rise to materialism and lack of faith. Science, to speak the truth, has only purified religion, whereas religion has given a touch of beauty and mystery to science.
The discoveries of science and its conquest of Nature only– show the wonders of the Supreme Being. Thus science strengthens the work of religion. A true scientist is not an unbeliever or irreligious person, but a real admirer of God and His wonderful creations.
What the superstitious man worships blindly, the scientists worships as the fruit of his knowledge. Hence modern scientists have come to know not only the limitations of science but have given a better understanding of miracles of Nature and the wonders of the Creator.
The Religion of Science, if one may use the term, is a rational approach to the problems of the universe in which the voice of conservatism and superstition has no place. Science has thus ceased to be the enemy of religion; it has, on the other hand; become its helper and champion.