There are many people who desperately want religion and science to be compatible, having been one of them I see why they want this.
However wanting something to be true doesn't make it true.
Usually people try to make this work by explaining away (or trying to) where religion and science contradict eacch other (eg. by saying genesis allows for evolution).
I've happened to entertain the idea that this goes deeper; that religion and science are fundementally opposed.
The basis of each goes against what the other stands for, i.e. science is based on free inquiry and needs to be questioned in order to function properly where religion requires faith and does not do well when questioned.
What do the rest of you think?
ps One thing about science is that the scientific method, experimenting and testing, works better when used with non-conscious phenomena. If you tried to experiment with a super-intelligent being, it could be experimenting with YOU, or changing the result of your experiment for its own purposes.
So when religious people object to experiments "demonstrating" the non-power of prayer, they have a point. How can anyone know that God would answer prayer in a scientific experiment, just like a personal prayer? Maybe God would have a preference for the result of the experiment.
The two don't inhabit the same sphere. They have separate domains and function separately when functioning properly.
The word belief shouldn't be associated with our knowledge of physical reality. You don't have to believe in science or evolution for it to be true, it just is. So, you can't say your religious beliefs include something that has been proven false. That's not a belief, that's just disregard for reality.
Believing, and religion in general seem to fare better when they try to resolve the problems of what this reality means to the person experiencing it. Science can say exactly what we are and where we came from, but is silent on who we are or why we are or even how we can be. That's where religion/philosophy take over. Science could tell someone that they have a year to live. But, they would still want to know if they lived a worthwhile life, were they good or bad people? Science has no answer for that.
Belief is properly used when you believe in things that are outside of the boundaries of science, but are still important nonetheless. I believe that seeing color is a beautiful way to interpret the visible light spectrum. I believe that mankind will choose to benefit one another with knowledge of science instead of choosing extinction.
There are those who would say that nothing is outside the bounds of science, e.g. morals are ways of thinking given by evolution (similar to instincts) and emotions are down to brain chemistry.
I agree with the above two examples and "the bounds of science" have a habit of expanding. Then again, philosophy is difficult to express in terms of science and the scientific method does not seem useful for all questions. I'm not sure and am bias as I am a scientist.
In short I think you have a point.
I don't mind leaving room for philosopy, it is based on reason and logic.
Also philosopy is compatible with science, being based on reason and logic and scientists use philosophy, for things like ethics, to justify some assumptions (esp. in stats and mathematics) and so forth.
I'm not sure if or how phliosophy uses science and would like to know if anyone would care to comment.
I would tend to agree with you though I would differ on your views at some levels. You may want to discuss offline with me at kontimjerry-at-gmail-dot-com
The primary virtue in religion is obedience and the primary virtue in science is reasoning—these two cannot be joined together in matrimony. When religious people want to criticize science, they begin by saying that scientists are all obedient to their profession and its claims. They rarely try to defend religion as being the product of reason.
To be a Christian, you must pluck out the eye of reason. —Martin Luther
That quote is scary and disturbing and would be even if a religious person had not said it.
Science is based on rational thought and testable principles. Religion is based on irrational belief in magical people or creatures, mythology and superstition. The two will never be compatible.
It depends on what your definition of "religion" is. If you consider ONLY the judea-christian-semitic faiths (Judaism - Christianity - islam) as "religions", then of course you will find these "religions" to be at loggerheads with science. However, if you expand your definition to include Hinduism (Vedic tradition) into the category of religions, then you will be pleasantly surprised to see that these contradictions vanish.
If you wish to have a serious discussion, then you may write to me on kontimjerry-at-gmail-dot-com
As a number of people have pointed out, it is the primary monotheistic religions that are fundamentally incompatible with science. I posted some of this a while ago, but it is pertinent here. And I happen to be actually be a scientist :)
There are (at least) four basic reasons why monotheistic religion is completely irreconcilable with science, and always will be.
1. The "Word of God”. Montheistic religions are all linked to some ‘sacred text’ whose teachings are sacrosanct and immutable. By definition, the ‘truth’ is contained therein and cannot be changed or improved upon. There is no room for advancement of knowledge (modification of assumptions, refinement of theory, elaboration of mechanisms, enhancement of understanding). This is complete anathema to the enterprise of science, which cautiously avoids assertions of truth and speaks only of the consistency of observations with hypotheses.
2. “God did it”. The concept of ‘creation’ of the universe by some omnipotent diety is not a theory of any kind, but a non-explanation that is untestable and leads immediately to a pointless, infinite regression (if so, who created god, etc?) It fails Popper’s first essential requirement of a scientific theory because it is both unfalsifiable and untestable. Furthermore, it is a proposition of no practical utility because it provides no framework for elaborating understanding. It has no predictive power and no useful applications, all properties we demand from actual theories.
3. “Have faith in god”. The contention that one should accept anything as truth without evidence is contrary to the essential logic of science, and yet religions demand faith in their doctrines without evidence of their veracity. The substitution of faith for reason requires that one stop thinking critically and analyzing data. Faith amounts to an abdication of intellect and is clearly incompatible with the basic tenets of scientific inquiry.
4. “God’s will”. All doctrines of religion seem to hinge on the assumption that god has some design or divine purpose for the world, the human race, and even individual humans, and demands particular codes of behavior and forms of obeisance (often involving self-abasement, self-mutilation, blood-sacrifice, ritualized cannibalism, and other primitive rites) so that outcomes will be favorable for the pious. Herein lies the fundamental reason why believers feel compelled to reject evolutionary biology – it requires an element of chance, or ‘contingency’ in evolutionary parlance. No matter how many times you might re-start the evolutionary clock on earth, you would always obtain a unique and different result because many chance events influence outcomes. The idea that events unfolding under natural laws are in any way subject to an element of chance is precluded by belief in the will of any god. Religions require, nay demand, a teleological world view – everything must happen for a reason, and all processes are ‘guided’ toward some predetermined outcome by an ‘invisible hand’. Unfortunately, there is no evidence for teleological processes – not in biology or in any discipline of science. That’s why we have Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics – the position of an electron in an atomic orbital can only be described as a probability function – we are forced to accept a degree of uncertainty as to its actual location at any time. That’s why we must account for stochastic processes such as genetic drift and founder effects in evolutionary biology, and accept that singular chance events such as asteroid impacts may have had dramatic and irreversable effects on the evolutionary trajectory of life on earth.
In summary, whereas the existence of religion is competely superfluous and inconsequential to the enterprise of science, religion cannot afford to be oblivious to the obvious intellectual power of science. Thus, proponents of religious beliefs have always sought, and will always continue to seek, validation for their mythological delusions within the realm of science.