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Are Science and Religion in Conflict?

Are Science and Religion in Conflict?

PHI 200: Mind and Machine

Shadd Campbell

Are Science and Religion in Conflict?

A conflict between science and religion is one which has been forwarded down through generations. There are various factors which contribute to the conflict including lack of convergence, lack of understanding and the existence of certain religious concepts which cannot be proven scientifically and thus are refuted leading to a conflict. The major debates that spur a conflict between science and religion relate to the theory of Evolution. Another important factor which must be considered is the adaptation that religion and science undergo as a result of exposure to the concepts of each. As a result, theology changes and scientific discoveries are made however, due to the unwillingness of the people to learn, the concept continues to linger on indefinitely.

One of the major reasons why science and religion appear to be in conflict is the idea of enquiry and hypothesis. Followers of science are of the opinion that religion comprises of a set of beliefs which have to be adhered to whereas science allows for the empirical study of the universe.

In a paper published by the Northwestern College titled “Conflicts between Science and Religion” states that the war between science and religion is primarily the battle between faith and fact. Faith has a fundamental requirement of believing in the teaching of the religion even if there might not be explicit evidence to support it. On the other hand science works on the basis of facts and figures and the rationale behind all occurrences. This concept is further explained by the Hostility theory which sheds light on the conflict paradigm by stating that science and religion are two schools of thought that refuse each other’s claims and even term them to being delusional (Bradley, 2009).

Therefore, in the end it all comes down to preferences i.e. people who believe in the sovereignty of religion and beliefs would follow their fundamentals whereas, people of science would demand evidence before providing support.

Another reason behind the conflict is the fact that there always has been a lack of connectivity between the beliefs preached by religion and the discoveries made by science. As a result, two distinct ways of thinking have emerged; each demonstrating hostility towards the concepts of the other.

We cannot skip religion as it governs the way our predecessors have lived their lives that ultimately impacts our own lives. In addition, the modern day era is all about scientific breakthroughs which are leading us into an age of information. In an article published by “The Atlantic”, the author highlights the importance of the resolution of the dispute because it is the only way for future generations to develop one direction in which to move forward. It should always be considered that scientific discoveries used religious transcripts as platforms for developing the theories that we know today, therefore, in essence they should not be very different (Alfred).

Therefore, convergence in the two schools of thought is imperative for the guidance of future generations and scholars of both sides should discuss and resolve the disputes.

All religions are based on certain concepts; scientific research on all these concepts have led to some being proven empirically however, others remain “Abstract” in the eyes of scientific scholars and there is no room for such concepts in science.

In a literary piece published by the Stanford Encyclopedia states that there is mention of supernatural beings in various religions, belief on who is fundamental in some religions. For example, the existence of angels and devils is found in nearly all religious scriptures. However, in science there is no room for such concepts because there is no empirical proof to support the argument. Science focuses on everything that can be explained rationally and that is why the concept of miracles, which is again a major belief in various religions and forms part of many ancient religious scriptures, is considered void by science because there is no rational ground to support such occurrences (Plantinga, 2010).

Science works on the basis of proof whereas religions tend to focus on concepts and beliefs that may seem absurd to the rationalist but form part of the core of certain religions leading to the conflict between science and religion.

Lastly another important factor that has led to the conflict between science and religion is the fact that there is a lack of acceptance to the conclusions reached by scholars of both schools of thought.

Scientists do not differentiate between what should be studied and what should not, which leads them to developing certain results which seem outright blasphemous to the one supporting religion. For example, Christians and Muslims alike believe there to be the existence of a soul in every human being and that man was created by God. Scientists on the other hand, through their extensive research conclude various theories regarding the evolution of man. These theories are in conflict with the religious beliefs (Dan, 2006).

In essence the discoveries and results obtained by science should not be viewed as a threat by religious scholars. Rather they should be viewed as a further explanation of the religious concepts which seems to be the only way to resolve the dispute between science and religion.

If we dig deep into history, the routes of the conflict between science and religion can be traced back to the age of enlightenment. The Renaissance period marked the beginning of a new Europe when people finally revolted against the domination of the church and began experimenting with logic and reasoning.

In “The Mythical Conflict between Science and Religion” by James Hanna, the author tells us that one of the primary reasons for the conflict between the beliefs of Christianity and science is on the topic of evolution. Charles Darwin presented an ideology regarding the evolution of humans and most Christian sects including Catholics and certain Protestant groups have aligned their religious beliefs with the theory however, there are still some Conservative Christian sects which believe that the theory is blasphemy. The article also sheds light on various other factors which have continued the escalation of the conflict in the modern age (James, 2011).

The article suggests that the most of the reference and reading material used to elaborate the conflict paradigm have been composed by old writers and historians and when new writers do come along, they merely build on the myths that have circulated history. However, one particular fact which the article has highlighted is the fact that not all branches of science are in conflict with all concepts of religion, for instance, cosmology is in congruence with religious concepts today. For example, religions like Christianity and Islam focus on the fact that the world will indeed come to an end. Scientists in the field of cosmology came up with the big bang theory. This theory was subject to excessive skepticism initially by atheists however, all kinds of scientists now believe that the Earth indeed has a finite life (James, 2011).

The crux of the matter is that science and religion adapt to each other and beliefs of both the worldviews act in the same way. Whether be it the theological concepts of religious believers or scientific theories, all change due to exposure to one another. This is not necessarily a bad thing because both learn from one another and become one step closer towards achieving a congruent or common point of reconciliation.

A fascinating study was carried out by a Penn State sociologist named Chris Scheitle. He analyzed more than 10,000 college and university students. The students comprised of freshmen as well as juniors. The results of the analysis indicated that people who call themselves pro-science were more in quantity than the ones who were pre-religion. Another important factor was the firmness with which they held on to concepts (Matt, 2011).

The study that was carried out provided the students to respond with one of four possible responses to the question that whether science and religion are in conflict. The responses included pro-science, pro-religion, independent i.e. science and religion are different aspects of reality and there is no connection between them and finally collaboration i.e. one supports the other and vice versa. The results found that about 70% of all freshmen students were found to be either independent or in favor of collaboration. Furthermore, the ones who voted for being in conflict, 70% of them changed their perception to non-conflict by the time they became juniors (Matt, 2011).

The purpose of citing this research is the fact that the conflict paradigm depends upon individual perceptions, beliefs and aspirations. For example, a further analysis of the study revealed the facts that business students adopted a pro-religion approach and agreed to the existence of a conflict paradigm. Furthermore, engineering and math students accepted the conflict and took a pro-science position while the arts and social science students took a pro-religion stance in the conflict discussion (Matt, 2011).

These factors do not necessarily represent individual perceptions however, reveal important insights into the fact that the conflict between science and religion would continue to exist, not because of the lack of reconciliation between concepts but rather a reconciliation of thinking patterns.

Science assumes that there are no immaterial forces in existence in the universe and that all the forces that are present behave objectively and randomly. The way these forces behave can only be assessed by putting in human effort. The universe is one big puzzle which can only be solved through scientific inquiry and reasoning.

In an article by the American Humanist Association, the illustration between scientific methodologies and religious concepts has been clarified. The article focuses on the fact that scientists usually operate through hypothesis analysis i.e. developing questions about a problem at hand. These problems should be specific and measurable. Religion on the other hand operates through certain beliefs which might be beyond the human mental faculties however, had to be adhered with (Norman & Lucia, 1986).

The article points out the fact that whatever research a scientist carries out, he/she must report on the findings whilst disclosing the methods used, the factors which would affect the results and the factors which have been kept constant. However, if someone was to say that there are factors which affect the results of the study however, they cannot be measured or comprehended. Such supernatural forces might be believed in by religious believers however to the scientist, these are mere hoaxes with no reasoning to support their existence (Norman & Lucia, 1986).

The incompatibility of traditional religious beliefs and scientific methodologies is another great factor contributing to the conflict between science and religion. If a particular scientific hypothesis testing method was applied towards proving a religious concept, there is high likelihood that results would flow. These results would lead to greater connections between science and religion and would act as a deterrence towards the conflict reappearing.

In various ways, religion and science add to each other by providing further clarifications to the concepts of each. They are considered to be two separate schools of thoughts however; various scholars believe that both try to explain the world from their angles. The conflict only arises due to lack of information and the lack of willingness to understand the other extreme.

In an article by the Telegraph, there are various instances present where there is ambiguity in the concepts of the two worldviews. For example, the Bible has stated that the earth is immovable giving out the impression that the sun revolves around it. Furthermore, the normal human brain would agree with this factor because we don’t feel the Earth moving. However, it was due to the contributions made by people like Galileo who through the use of the telescope identified that the Earth revolves around the sun (Tom, 2009).

The conflict was raised not because Galileo was wrong but the Church was completely unwelcoming to any new concepts and considered science to be blasphemy. Galileo’s discovery made him subject to a house arrest and various other allegations. However, later on this fact was proven and the ultimate proof of this came in the form of the apology of the pope in 1992, when Pope John Paul apologized to Galileo for the way the Christian Church treated him. However, there are still sects in the world that consider scientific discoveries to be inhumane and are unwilling to accept new concepts (Tom, 2009).

Hence, the point is that the conflict would continue to exist until people actually work towards achieving a congruence level between the two worldviews. Unless there is will to end the conflict, the conflict would continue to exist till the end of days. The apology of the pope acts as a sign that religious walls are ready to accept scientific discovery however, scientists should also try to ensure that the beliefs and emotions of religious beliefs are not hurt through scientific discoveries. If a particular publication would affect a certain class of people, the scientists should ensure that it does not flow into the papers.

Therefore, it can be concluded that the conflict between science and religion is one which constantly attracts attention either through the efforts of religious scholars or through new scientific discoveries. Either way, the resolution of the conflict is essential in order for the future generations to prosper. Schietle’s study indicates that perceptions of the people can change and generally the new generation is aiming towards achieving congruence between the two schools of thought however due to old concepts, lack of information, emphasis on myths and lack of research adds fire to the continuing existence of the conflict paradigm. The conflict paradigm is also affected by the methodologies adopted by science versus the supernatural beliefs of religion. If something cannot be quantified or measured, it is implied that it does not exist which is in direct conflict with religious beliefs. Lastly, there are ambiguities in scientific research as well as religious transcripts which leave out a large room of interpretations. Since individual interpretations differ from one another, the conflict continues to exist.

References

Alfred, N. (n.d.). Religion and Science. Retrieved on March 28th, 2012 from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1925/08/religion-and-science/4220/

Bradley, S. (2009). Conflicts between Science and Religion. Retrieved on March 28th, 2012 from http://www.iep.utm.edu/sci-rel/

Dan, C. (2006). God vs. Science. Retrieved on March 22nd, 2012 from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0%2c9171%2c1555132%2c00.html

James, H. (2003). The Mythical Conflict between Science and Religion. Retrieved on March 28th, 2012 from http://www.bede.org.uk/conflict.htm

Matt, J. (2011). The (Lack Of) Conflict Between Science and Religion in College Students. Retrieved on March 28th, 2012 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matt-j-rossano/no-sciencereligion-confli_b_865543.html

Norman, F. & Lucia, K. (1986). Is the War Between Science and Religion Over?. Retrieved on March 28th, 2012 from http://www.americanhumanist.com/who_we_are/about_humanism/Is_the_War_between_Science_and_Religion_Over

Plantinga, A. (2010). Religion and Science. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved on March 28th, 2012 from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/religion-science/

Tom, C. (2009). God, creation, science, religion: the conflicts. Retrieved on March 28th, 2012 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/6309792/God-creation-science-religion-the-conflicts.html

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