Home >> Religion >> Religion and Science

Religion and Science

There are two major opinions regarding the relatioship between science and religion. Religion and science are mutually conflicting and Religion and science are not mutually opposing-

The view that Religion and Science ae mutually conflicting 

Religion is based on faith and rituals whereas science depends on observations experiments,verifications,proofs and facts.

Ritualism,religious fundamentalism and fanaticism rooted in religion are very much opposed to science.According to Kingsley Davis there are two important causes for the conflict between religion and science. Science deals with the known or the empirical world.Religion is concerned with the unknown or supernatural world.The boundry between the unknown and known is Science could not give an account of the orign of man earlier so religion filled in the gap by giving its own account of that. Later with its progress science too could give a satisfactory explanation of that. Here a conflict rose between the two as the scientist could not accept the religious account as true even though he lived among the people who believed in religious explanation.This situation created tension between him and the ordinary people or the religious leader.

The second cause of conflict is that science believes in empirical truth whereas religion pursues the nonempirical truth: Davis writes the scientific pursuit of empirical truth as the highest goal is exactly the opposite of religious pursuit of nonempirical truth. Thus the scientist develops his scepticism about religious beliefs and explanations concerning creation of heaven and hell,life after death,miracles etc.

The view that Religion and science are not mutually opposing
Viewed analytically science and religion need not be at conflict.Science deals with what is known.It is potential knowledge based on sensory evidences.Religious beliefs refer to the world beyond the senses.If they cannot be proved by the methods of science they cannot be disproved also. It is wrong to say that religion is based on emotion and science on thought.Infact both are based on thought though this is applied to different types of reality.

According to K.Davis it is possible for a scientist to have belief in God and still work as a good biologist or a physicist.His and his behaviour in church appropriate to religious situation with no feeling of incongruity.Even the attitude of scientist towards religion has not been that of a hostile one.Scientific truth is that which is known by the evidence of the senses.Religious truth is that which is known by revelations,by faith.An attempt to reconcile the two can promote mutual respect across the barrier.Any reconciliation which attempts to combine them can only undermine both. Religion is a social reality.

The persistence of religion throughout the ages proofs its survival value.It is rendering services to the humanity.Scientific investigators agree that religion like other institutions has its roots in certain human needs.Hence it was felt to be a necessity and continues to be a necessary thing.

The phenomenon of magic is closely associated with religion.Magic is often regarded as a form of religion.However they are different.They represent two aspects of the same –empirical power.Max Weber used the term magic to refer to religious action believed to be automatically effective,whether the goal is empirical or non-empirical.Malinowski defines magic as the use of supernatural means totry to obtain empirical ends.He however distinguished magic and religion.

British anthropologist James Frazer in his Golden Bough has spoken of two aspects of magic: Magic by imitation and Magic by contagion. In magic by imitation an individual imitates what he wants or expects to happen.If an individual wants rainfall to take place he may fill his mouth with water and squirt it around in different directions.Magic by contagion is based on the belief that whatever would come into contact with the supernatural power will be swayed by it.Thus the forehead of a person may be rubbed off with some ashes so that he may be free from headaches.

Magic and Science
Magic is often called a type of primitive science.This view is based on some analogies.Magic like science pursues pratical ends,conceives that certain effects follow certain causes takes an impersonal attitude towards causation and has little to do with morality.Inspite of this magic is in many ways opposite of science.Magic relies on supernatural causation.It unscientifically believes that some effect is produced because of the mystical power associated with the spell,rite or object.

In magic the facts are not used to test the theory as in science.On the other hand the theory that is the magical procedure is always assumed to be right.Here the elements of faith and wishful thinking enter.A failure in magical performances is therefore attributed to a failure to carry out the procedures correctly and not to the procedure itself.The function of magic is to give confidence and a sense of security.For this reason the individual must have a non-rational faith in its adequacy.

Hence it can exist side by side with perfectly good scientifc and technological practices.Magic deals in absolutes whereas science deals in probabilities.Science is tentative and K.Davis says magic may become less important but it is not going to disappear as technology and science advance.

Current Affairs Magazine