Science and Religion essay

The question concerning the relation between science and religion raises numerous debates, because the problem of their understanding has a long history from the emergence of modern European science to present days. Additionally, its prehistory is considered even longer and lasts from the birth of rational thought to modern times. However, a long history of tension and misunderstanding between faith and reason clearly demonstrates their radical heterogeneity, and the majority of scientists, philosophers and theologians of modern time believe that they are condemned to dialogue. In such dialogue, science and religion, while maintaining their own autonomy (method, data, language, and experience) try to find answers to the constant and critical issues that relate to the world and man. The faith, especially religious, is not connected to the knowledge as they have different approaches to mutually heterogeneous aspects of reality. However, it is obvious that they are substantially interwoven, often mutually support each other, and their classification in different areas may actually be only temporary and provisional. Throughout the history of human culture, both religion and science played a decisive role in the spiritual life, and their interaction provided both elements of conflict and close cooperation.

Throughout the history, there have been sharp debates about the relation between religion and science. Many scientists refused the idea of their dependence. For example, Leuba denied religious beliefs and became critic of traditional religion (Ecklund & Park, 2009, p.277). According to his doctrine, traditional Christianity is no longer acceptable. Psychology can help in the formation of some alternative to it. He believed that any religious experience and religious needs could be explained by purely psychological basis with the use of biological and evolutionary theory and the understanding of normal processes of thinking. For such reason, religion should be studied by experts in the field of psychology, not adherents of religion and theologians. However, despite such arguments, I disagree with Leuba because there are many reasons for stating about connection between religion and science. Their relationships are not only designed in accordance with the works of philosophers of science and theology. They are formed by the cultural and historical processes and manifest themselves in the cultural and social phenomena. Without the study of the history of such relations, it is impossible to understand their nature properly.

Townes (2003) argues that religion and science have long history of interaction. He relates the scientific questions about the universe, its construction and work to religious sphere (p.155). Religion and science are two aspects of human culture, which, throughout its existence, were in a very difficult relationship. I agree with Townes as it is possible to remember the moments of human history, when religion totally dominated a science, as well as times when scientific discoveries completely subverted religious dogmas. The collision of faith and knowledge is the basis of such complex interaction. Faith, in contrast to the judgment of science, does not require substantiation, evidence, verification, and confirmation by a correlation with reality. It is not supported by arguments of reasons and the facts. It is supported by the power of tradition and agreement. The believer is convinced that the source of his beliefs is a divine revelation. The knowledge also requires verified and accurate evidence.

 

In the broadest sense, the faith is subjective-psychological basis of human activity. The activity is always paired with the need to select a specific line of conduct. The choice is associated with the assessment of the situation. Such assessment is often hampered by the lack of sufficiently strong data and incomplete knowledge. In such cases, it is necessary to make a decision to recognize the truth for a judgment without good reason.

The situation is different when a person believes, when he/she knows what the situation is, how to make necessary decisions and what the next move should be. In such case, the faith is a subjective belief based on the self-confidence in the adequacy of the reasons to support it. Such confidence is more than the knowledge that requires further verification and validation. It is a faith that is based on evidence. The debates over such situation can increase when it comes to the subject of knowledge in the ordinary sense of the word. Consequently, faith becomes belief that is an acceptance of a true judgment on the basis of only a subjective inner conviction of its truth.

In the Orthodox doctrine, God is mysterious, inaccessible, incomprehensible, ineffable mystery, and many attempts to explain God in ordinary human terms to measure His immeasurable depths simply fail. Generally, the concept of God is teaching, doctrine of religious knowledge, to which the individual is attached through a religious education. Consequently, the notion of belief is outlined as a religious knowledge for learning the truth. It means that the person can accept the concept of God on an intellectual level.

The advances of science in the knowledge of the world encourage many religious people think seriously about the true foundation of religious statements. Under the influence of scientific knowledge, some of them even refuse from religious doctrines. The development of science demonstrates the effectiveness of a scientific approach to learning and development of the world. Such approach is based on the study of the facts, evidences, and rigorous verification of any practical conclusions. Its features are dynamism, the negation of blind faith as the basis for any findings and conclusions, persistent search for natural causes and natural laws of all the phenomena of nature and society, a clear understanding of the relative nature of the knowledge progress, infinite variety and quality inexhaustibility of the real world, as well as the dialectical approach to understanding. The experience of history shows that the level of science development as the basis for the scientific approach to the solution of topical issues determines not only the depth and breadth of knowledge. The ideas of science have a very significant impact on the style of human thinking and his/her attitude to the world and understanding of the place of people in it. Such circumstance is particularly important in the modern era of scientific and technological revolution and the rapid scientific and technological progress, when science is becoming a direct productive force that permeates all aspects of human lives.

In comparison with a scientific approach to understanding, the religious approach should look unproven in the perception of the modern educated man. The history provides the examples how in the second half of the 20th century, many church leaders and religious theorists began to take persistent attempts to prove religion with the latest scientific data. People, who are inclined to a religious understanding of the world, but have a sufficiently high level of education and possess information about the latest achievements of scientific and technological revolution, cannot be satisfied with naive religious beliefs about reality. They often try to interpret their religion from the standpoint of science and to support it with scientific facts.

Man is the biggest mystery for himself. It causes a natural desire to understand human nature, the meaning of man’s existence, a reasonable objective of immense creative activity, and the origins of a variety of powers and abilities that are hidden in it. Some directions of human activity are caused by seeking to learn all that surrounds it (science), the other are defined by the need for its existence in the natural world (social, technical, and economic activities). Some activities are directed by a sense of beauty, the desire to put it into lives and activities (art) of people. The last direction of human activities is based on ineradicable desire to understand the meaning and purpose of human’s life, the life of the world, and to know the truth about both issues (religion, philosophy). However, the foundation and source of human life, determining its direction, character and content, is the spiritual and moral state of a man. It is formed by man’s freedom and his expression of will in regard to good and evil and in connection to his conscience.

Religion and science are two aspects of the relationship between society and the individual, which has historically changed and were the subject of numerous philosophical debates. In European public opinion, since the 18th century, there has been a thought about the confrontation of both spheres of spiritual activity due to the lack of common ground. However, in the modern philosophy of science and religious studies, there is a point of view that in the early stages of history, due to the syncretic consciousness of ancient man, the accumulation of rational objective experience could be performed only within the framework of religious beliefs. For a long time, in different cultures, there has been positive knowledge of the situation of religious ideology subordination.

Throughout the history, there has been a deep interdependence of religion and science. Thus, the Mayan calendar system was linked to the ritual cycle of solar worship and sacrifice to God. The development of mathematics in the Arab-Muslim society was related to the mystical interpretation of the system of the universe, in which each object corresponded to a specific numerical value. Gödel provided the theorem on the necessity of faith for mathematics (Townes, 2003, p. 155). Similarly, numerology in Taoist traditions of ancient and medieval China has contributed to the establishment of number system and understanding of various mathematical operations. Moreover, chemistry was born from alchemy. Observations of the luminaries of the seasonal changes in the weather contributed to the development of astronomy. “Einstein had a faith that the laws of gravity and the laws of electricity, magnetism, and radiation could be united” (Townes, 2003, p. 155). Mantic systems demanded generalization of knowledge about the nature of plants, minerals, fluids, which served to further emergence of medicine, botany, mineralogy, and other scientific disciplines.

There is a tendency to consider religion and science as alternatives in the course of evolution and explaining ways of perceiving the world. Such tradition dates back to Hegel and Kant, for whom the history of human knowledge was developed from the initial stage of the religious world to the stage of positive scientific knowledge (McGaughey, 2006, p.230). The attractiveness of Kant’s philosophy stems from the fact that he tried to scientifically substantiate the belief of independence of faith with respect to knowledge. Kant believed that the limited scientific method left room for religious faith. Kant’s ideas deserve attention because in the mid-20th century, evolutionist views were replaced by new theories, which increased the desire to discover the principles of cooperation and similar types of scientific and religious thinking.

The predecessor of such concepts was the German philosopher Ernst Cassirer, who considered the language, art, mythology, religion and science not as reducible or sequentially successive to one another but parallel existing forms of symbolic activity (Moynahan, 2014). In each of them, its own ontological system was created, which reveals the reality in its unique perspective. On the issue of the relationship between religion and science, modern researchers talk about the principle of subsidiarity. There is a statement about the absence of boundaries between science, religion, and philosophy that the assumptions, hypotheses and new ideas freely move from one field of knowledge to another. The use of alternative and diametrically opposed paradigm of scientific ideas and knowledge can lead to effective results and unexpected discoveries. The trend towards convergence of objective knowledge and religious intuition is also found in the framework of philosophical theology.

For a short period of time, in the views of religious thinkers there have been changes from total rejection of rational cognition of reality (speculative impersonal method of science cannot reveal the underlying foundations of existence and move beyond the visible reality) to the recognition of its compatibility (thinking as knowledge by means of concepts and judgments is only possible considering the notion of absolute being). The synthesis of all branches of knowledge is done in order to reach the transcendence. The convergence of religion and science not on the methodology (as ways of knowing) but on a substantial level was performed by French theologian Teilhard de Chardin, whose views have influenced the current state of both theology and science. In his concept, the evolution of universe (since the birth of particles of matter to the state of pre-life) and the evolution of man (from the appearance of organic life to future state of super-life) were based on the divine will and subjected to a specific purpose (McGrath, 2010). The theory of Teilhard de Chardin opened the way for modernist theological concepts that included content data of physics, biology, and other sciences (the Big Bang theory and the problem of Creation).

The reverse effect of religious beliefs on science that affect not only the adoption of faith by scientists (science cannot prove the absence of God in the same way as it cannot prove His existence) but also try to combine theoretical scientific data with religious concepts should also be taken into consideration. The representatives of natural science of 20th century experienced inexplicable harmony in the laws of physics. Such harmony forces to suggest the existence of a global brain, which controls the nature and evolution of the universe and leads to a specific purpose, which cannot be understood by the science. In addition to the theories that declare rapprochement of religion and science, there are concepts in which religious and scientific knowledge is identified. It includes the claim that ancient myths, hymns of the Vedas or the Buddhist doctrines contain encrypted ideas and concepts, corresponding to the modern scientific theories.

In the current paper, I have provided a number of reasons for denying Leuba’s ideas and supporting philosophers, who believed in the connection between religion and science. Such invisible connection between the two spheres occupies human minds, because it separates the two important aspects of human nature, namely physical and spiritual. Consequently, science should not deny the spiritual experience, as well as religious faith cannot reject the freedom of development. Two integral parts of the world culture that are science and religion have the same roots, which are constantly developing due to human ability to wonder and ask questions. The first element is developing a rational approach to the mystery of creation, which allows studying the world in details. At the same time, the second considers the beginning in the holy terror that inspires people to praise the greatness of the universe. It cannot be said that religion and science are unrelated as their history presents a long way of conflicts, as well as cooperation with each other.

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Science and Religion essay

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