Q. Why do some people think there is a conflict between religion and science?
A. Probably the first scientific discovery in human history followed the Divine promise, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).
When early man saw that these words were actually verifiable in his own experience, he discovered that there were patterns in time and, by extension, patterns in everything. This became the axiomatic fact that could be relied upon and utilised in planning one’s life.
This being the case it is surprising that for the last four hundred years there has been talk of conflict between religion and science. It is surprising, because without religion, science would be impossible.
Only because religion posits and guarantees that there is order and pattern can science dare to formulate hypotheses and examine them. No wonder the poet Edward Young said in the 18th century, “An undevout astronomer is mad”.
The scientist, whether he or she recognises it or not, must be a religious person in the deepest sense because science is based on faith, the faith that there is a pattern in nature (AN Whitehead said that the confidence of science in the intelligibility of the world comes from the religious insistence on the rationality of God). Science increases one’s awe and reverence for the creation.
If it is realistic, science also admits its tentativeness; hypotheses are never the last word, and only in religion has man found the last word.
In addition, science without religion, as Einstein said, is lame. The scientist can discover wonderful things but not necessarily know how to handle and apply them; the Nazi experiments might have had technical scientific value, but it is only because of religion and morality that we know they were reprehensible and wrong.
Those who toppled religion and worshipped science – with its temples of its own, its saints, its priests, its mysteries and its rituals, even its sacred language – are more inclined these days to see it as another god that failed because of its sheer inability to give guidance as to values and directions in life.
With the modern threats to human stability and survival, scientific man needs religion more, not less.