Friday, June 26, 2009

Can religion and science truly be compatible?

Note that asking whether science and religion can be "compatible" isn't the same as asking whether they can coexist peacefully. I am certain that faith and science can indeed coexist peacefully – but only when there's a certain amount of cognitive dissonance in the religious scientists' minds, or when they simply cherry-pick which facets of their religions they're to follow. However, while science and religion can coexist peacefully in theory, it's been proven throughout history, quite thoroughly, that their "practitioners" – religionists and scientists, respectively – mostly cannot live together in harmony without quarrels and tension at best (and wars and terrorism at worst). But again, that's another debate.

So, can faith and religion every truly be compatible in ideas and procedures with science, evidence and rationality?

Simply put: No.

They can live together, sure (and they do in this world). But they can never truly work together. Science is all about evidence, the truth, naturalistic processes and the scientific procedure. Religion is all about believing without seeing or knowing, following blindly on the expectation that your authority has your best interests at heart, and never really finding out anything for yourself because all the answers – all those you need, anyway – are already provided within ancient texts. Science is about discovery; religion claims to already know everything. Science is about adaptation and progress; religion is about keeping things just fine how they are (see the technologically-challenged Middle East as a demonstration).

It is said that science explains the "what", while religion explains the "why". That is simply not so: it is my personal belief that there is no true "purpose". Yet that does not make the world any darker or colder for me. It's just another angle of viewing it. If you ask "why does the water stay in the glass?", the answer – "because the walls of the glass keep it contained" – is not the "why", but it is the how – ie. the "what".

Viewed in that light, science and religion are basically two different sets of answers to the same questions and problems of our world. The problem is, science tries to answer these questions via evidence that we can calculate and demonstrate, while religion simply evades the question with a quick "because God said so". That can simply never be satisfactory.

Science and religion existing together in harmony is simply a myth, an idealized concept which holds no true ground in reality. It simply cannot be – at least, not while humans are, well, human, with a human predisposition to try and assimilate those who differ, those who are considered to be wrong. It's plain and simply human nature never to coexist together in peace and full compatibility.


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