Religion and Science: Incompatible?
February 20, 2017 | Sciences
I am a Christian. And, I aspire to be a scientist. To many that seems like an oxymoron. As both a science student and person who highly values her spiritual beliefs, I could not imagine my life without one of the two. In this era of great debate over religious expression and scientific discovery, the comfortable thing to do would be to simply pick a side and stick to it. I however find this approach to be quite limiting. So I find myself having to challenge both faith and science. I have personally come to the conclusion that they are not incompatible. I am not the only one to think so. By writing this article, I am not trying to shove my beliefs down your throat. Rather, I hope to lead you to reflect on your position in this debate. Together we can be catalysts for a more open dialogue about the combination of faith and science.
The scientific field has come a long way. We know more than ever before about our world and universe. Discoveries have been made that have completely altered our way of life. Surprisingly, many examples of such scientific theories were found by people of faith. In physics, the laws of refraction were hypothesized and tested by the Muslim scientist Alhazen in the tenth century. The notable Isaac Newton, who established the laws of motion as well as refined the understanding of calculus, was an avid Biblical researcher and theologian. Though not adhering to a specific religious affiliation, Albert Einstein did indeed state on many occasions his belief in a Creator. The mathematician Blaise Pascal experienced a religious conversion later in life, and used his knowledge of logic to create his famous wager that compares the pros and cons of belief and unbelief. The mind behind modern-day vaccination, Louis Pasteur, held unto a deep belief in God and a hope for Eternity. John Ray, the botanist and zoologist that was the first to define the specie was also a devout Christian.
Furthermore, as a person of faith, I think that having a set of beliefs reinforces my appreciation of science, and science furthers my understanding of God. Having the firm belief that a creative mind remains behind us all mesmerizes me: we are not here by pure coincidence. We have a purpose. Unfortunately, many religions leave us with some questions answered. Namely, the various creation stories. In Sikhism, the Judaeo-Christian tradition (including Islam) and Hinduism, these narratives are too simplified for many to accept as whole. Could such stories be metaphoric and be reflections of the contexts in which they were written?
On the other hand, science also has its limits. Many people are unable to base their existence on probability, and a very unlikely chance for that matter. Not to mention the scientific truths that are incontestable yet unexplainable (such as why the universe is made of matter and not anti-matter). Upon much reflection and research, I concluded for myself that the mysteries of religious scripts can be explained by scientific knowledge, and that the gaps in scientific theories could be filled by an omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient God.
It would be laughable of me to deny that many religious leaders and institutions have tried to suppress scientific advancement and theory. The Catholic Church silenced Galileo. The fall of Middle Eastern science was fostered by the rise of radical Islam. To this day, anti-evolutionary agendas are promoted by many different religious groups. However, I would urge you to make a distinction between the institution or leader, and the religion itself. One cannot criticize a religion because of the actions of some of its adherents. If such influential members of the scientific academic world could reconcile faith and science, can’t we?