The Islamic golden age resulted in advancements in math, medicine and physics. Some would say that these achievements would not have been possible without verses from the Quran, which call on followers to seek knowledge. This is just one example of many contributions religion has made to the progression of scientific understanding. Equally the case of Galileo Galilei in which his assertion of the theory of heliocentrism (the idea that the planets revolve around the sun), lead to his imprisonment by the Catholic Church for heresy, highlighting the conflict. The dispute has transitioned into the modern age, with people debating whether religion still holds relevance to the scientific community, from topics ranging from stem cell research to whether creationism is appropriate to be taught in science classes in school.
Well does religion still have a place in science? In both our opinion... no. Before we state why we believe this, we would like disclose that our points of view in the article are related exclusively to religion being intertwined with science. We possess no negative views in regards to religion for personal belief, we simply hold the idea that they are like water and oil and should not mix.
Our main issues derive from the different intrinsic dogmas underlying both factors. Scientific process is based in empiricism, which is the theory that knowledge comes from observable experiences. Central to religious belief is a commitment to faith, requiring spiritual conviction over physical proof. If these two did mix, it would result in a multitude of problems. An integral component of science essential to its progress is that any idea, regardless of how ridiculous it may sound, given empirical evidence, will be accepted until proven otherwise. Now if religion were to be integrated into scientific research, the result would be science having to accommodate the doctrines of said faith. Primarily, this may limit progress; ideas, concepts or experiments which would contradict the faith could either be avoided or dismissed, because they would not match with the religious teachings. In this hypothetical situation unnecessary conflict could arise not only between science and religion, but also between different faiths. Surely a single religion wouldn’t be chosen? Just as different religions coexist without the need for merging their principles, religions do not need to have a presence in science and vice versa.
In current events another aspect of the debate is non-secular scientific education. Whilst from a spiritual perspective as a motivational factor and a force for good in the world, religion can claim to have a place in the scientific community; the sector in which it should be unilaterally absent is in science classes. The most recognisable case of this ongoing debate being in the U.S, and to a lesser extent regarding faith schools in the UK. The issue is that creationism is not a theory based on scientific fact but on religion mixed with pseudo-science, in order to suit those with a very literalist interpretation of creation. The example demonstrates a concern with mixing science and religion; that the more the two are assimilated, the more we compensate both to establish something that is neither religion nor science. It diminishes the empirical teaching of science as well as the spirituality of religion. Sadly, this is an unnecessary conflict as teaching religion and science does not need to be mutually exclusive, merely independent.
The Templeton Prize is an annual prize of £1.1m, and with nominations encouraged in the fields of life, human and physical sciences, the prize aims to promote the coexistence of religion with science. It is given to an individual who has promoted the spiritual dimension of life, and is typically received by members of the religious community. 2011 laureate Lord Rees is not religious, but has a strong sense of spirituality and supports the premise that religion and science may coexist on the basis that they “concern different domains”. Many however argue with Lord Rees’ assertion, with figures like notable biologists and authors Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne claiming a direct imposition of religion on scientific progress, with the latter dismissing the Templeton Prize as corrupting the core principles of scientific process by “holding doubt as a virtue”. The controversy surrounding the Templeton Prize is testament to the negative impact a greater integration of religion into science would have.
To reiterate our initial conclusion, religion has no place as an authority in the way science is performed. The aforementioned Richard Dawkins, formerly most well known as an accomplished evolutionary biologist, is now often associated with his aggressive attitude towards not just the religious presence in science, but theology in general. Dawkins as an authority in the scientific world is entitled to comment on religious doctrines imposing on fields such as evolution, but his attack on unrelated religious beliefs is superfluous. What this serves to highlight is that in our opinion, just as Dawkins’ latter comments are redundant, as is the input of religion into the empirical nature of science. The two both offer value to the betterment of society; however they contribute better as independent services than a convoluted cocktail of conflicting philosophies.