On Religion and Science, a few thoughts

One argument, perhaps the most convincing one to those who are already convinced that there is a God, is that Science still doesn’t know the answers to the most important questions. (see the moral law argument for God) We still don’t know what it’s all about, how it all began, where it’s all going. We don’t know if the mind and the brain are the same, or if there is a mind/consciousness, separate, and not the same thing as the brain. Well no, not that, rather we don’t know what consciousness is because if there is any thing of which we are aware it is that we are aware, that is, we are conscious. Nor finally do we know if there is a body (well yes, we know that, there is a body) but do we know if there is a soul, we don’t.

Now there ought never to have been a battle between Science and Religion. But if there is a battle, and there is, it’s because the lines between the two have never been drawn to anyone’s satisfaction. When Science was in its infancy, for some 50 to 100 thousand years of our own history, in fact right up until the time of a few Greek scientist/philosophers 2 to 3 thousand years ago, and a bit later, during the years of its early childhood, right up until the flowering of adult scientific thought in the 17th. century of the modern era, Religion was in its hay day, everywhere, not hesitating to address and answer definitively any question regarding the natural world while providing no evidence, no detailed observations in support of its answers.

With the rise of Science during much of our recent history and right up until today the scientists have been reclaiming the ground taken from them by the believers or God followers, during all those years when there was no opposition to their doing so. The Middle Ages was such a time. The believers were kings and they fashioned everything to their own imagined vision of the real nature of things, —human beings, in their view, having been created by God and in God’s own image. The believers of the Middle Ages had answers to everything and everyone had to submit to their answers or if not be punished and/or exiled.

Now things are different. Science, not Religion, is now in the driver’s seat, being the principal source of answers to the most fundamental questions, what is life, when did it begin, when and how did it evolve, when will it end, what is matter, what is it made of, what are the elementary particles, the elementary forces in nature. Science has answers to all these questions, and to not one of them is its answer God.

Is Science now overstepping its authority, much as Religion in earlier times? For even the scientists are persuaded that Science doesn’t have all the answers. (Will it ever? We don’t know.) But are believers right to step in and once again provide answers when science cannot?

Did Stephen Jay Gould have it just right in the years before his death when he spoke of non-overlapping magisteria, NOMA. meaning that Science and Religion each have “a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority,” and that these two domains do not overlap. In other words that there were answers to questions that only the one Science, or the other Religion could provide?

I don’t think so. Different worlds perhaps, but “different domains of teaching authority”? No. Rather the one deals in reason, yes in argument, and the other in faith. And neither one is an “authority.” And again, I ask why go on “reasoning” or arguing with those who believe? 

If I have a quarrel with the atheists it’s that they do profess to know more than they know (that, for example, there are no Gods, no saints, no miracles). In respect to the fundamental questions that so far are without answers Science ought at least to step back and plead ignorance rather than assurance.

And if I have a quarrel with Religion, with its adherents, it’s that they resist what Science has discovered and revealed to all of us, that for example which I find most extraordinary, and beautiful, that all life has a single origin and that all forms of life are therefore related, and in particular that the human family tree consists now of some 7.5 billion individuals, all sharing a common descent over hundreds of millions, billions of years.

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