Compatibility of Science and Religion

Does compatibility between Science and Religion, or lack thereof, really matter? I think that religion-bashers miss the point. Religion helps some people to give meaning to their lives. One of religion’s functions as I see it is to bring people together in pursuit of living their lives in a way in which they believe will be good for both themselves and others. Arguably, religion often fails to achieve this, but nonetheless I do regard this as being its prime purpose.

Science, whilst ostensibly coherent and rational, seems to me to be morally indifferent. If we were to embrace Darwinian thinking fully, might we not bother to give support to others if we were unable to predict there being some measurable gain to ourselves? If we can’t determine that helping someone else will help us to preserve our own genes then why should we bother? It appears as though this process is well under-way, particularly in the more moneyed and technologically advanced places – selfishness and disconnexion are spreading. If I’m right then we’re all fucked. The instinct to care for the other is one of the impulses which has enabled human civilization to prosper; if we lose that, we topple.

As far as I can see, the assertion that science and religion are incompatible is nonsense. There are religious scientists. Are we to assume that if a scientist is religious, their scientific work will be must be necessarily untrustworthy? This is quite absurd. A scientist may be involved in religious activities as a source of comfort and support, without which they might not be able do their work. Whether or not we are aware, we all have cognitive biases, scientist or not. Who is going to decide which cognitive biases are the ‘correct’ ones to have? Scientists themselves? Would those the ones which are perceived to be in agreement with the scientific canon? The same problem can befall scientists as the religious – the canon of their respective paradigms can end up being an inflexible dogma in whose defence the establishment will tend to dismiss evidence which challenges the security of its foundations. Science has given us a largely coherent conception of our world, but it remains to be seen whether or not it will guide us to live our lives in ways which can secure our survival. Complacent assumptions that, through science and technology, that we are and will have so highly developed an understanding of nature as to have mastery over it, as if we were able to exist apart from it, could so easily end up becoming our downfall. If most of us continue to take our collective survival as fore granted then our chances of survival for much longer are low. I’m not convinced that we will be able to weather future storms on science alone.


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