Recently, an article was published on pH7 arguing that there was no room for religion in science. I would like to pitch the opposite view, that not only is there in fact room for religion in science but that the combination of both religion and science could work in harmony in order to provide people with the answers to some of life’s most pressing questions.
Of course, it cannot be disputed that science and multiple faiths clash on countless occasions, for instance IVF, stem cell research, creation etc… And this is absolutely true for many literalists, by this I mean religious thinkers who interpret their religious teachings and writings completely at face value. For example, literal Roman Catholics believe that the Earth was created exactly in six days, as that is what is stated in the Bible. However, in modern times there are a forever increasing number of liberal faith followers. So for example, a liberal Roman Catholic would believe that the Earth was not created in six days, but that the creation of life as we know it had different stages, which took certain amounts of time to come about. Liberalists of any religion take what they have been taught and their faith’s religious writings as a way of explaining complex scientific concepts to the masses in times when science was not fully understood. Therefore, the story of “let there be light”, is seen as just that… a story, which may well have been used to theorise the gathering and collapsing of vast amounts of dust and gas which leads to the formation of a star. Even some religious leaders such as the current Pope Francis are becoming slightly more liberal, advocating a few methods of contraception. Is it really fair then to say that these people have no place in the scientific world, with just over half religious followers claiming liberalism?
The stereotype of a scientist has moved on from a crazy-haired, white lab coat wearing, bespectacled man, to a plethora of people from vastly different backgrounds. Today, religion, along with sexual orientation, race and gender, are wholly irrelevant to being a scientist. It is a widely spread myth that being a scientist is synonymous with being an atheist and there are a huge number of highly influential scientists who are openly religious. For instance, Gerhard Ertl is a Christian scientist, whose work on pollution-free energy production and development of catalytic converters earned him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2007. Furthermore, a man seen, ironically, as a God of science, Professor Brian Cox, has expressed the view multiple times that science and religion are in no way incompatible.
What are both religion and science searching for? They are searching for the answers to life’s most compelling questions. How did life begin? What is beyond the universe? What happens after death? Neither science nor religion has been able to answer these questions so far and yet they are both looking for the same answers in many cases. When you think of the two like this, it seems very illogical to spend time searching for the truth, yet limit the places you are willing to look.
“Science without Religion is Lame, Religion without science is Blind”
- Albert Einstein
To discount either faith or science is to close doors to possibilities. More and more scientists from many fields are identifying as agnostics, who neither believe nor disbelieve the existence of a God-like presence. The message these scientists are giving out is simple: We do not know why life is as it is, and we are willing to have an open mind to more than one possibility.
In times gone by, religion and science have rubbed alongside each other harmoniously, as they have been seen as a synonymous way to search for the mysteries of life. Scientists, philosophers and faith-followers are not distinct types of people who cannot overlap; with thousands of scientists worldwide subscribing to their own, often unique thoughts on religion. Moreover, the cartoon stereotype of scientists as religion-hating atheists is not only misleading, but seriously harmful, reinforcing the idea that only a certain type of person can become a scientist. Science still has many diversity problems in developed countries, with both women and minorities still hugely under-represented, there is no need to segregate religious thinkers too; we need as many free thinkers as possible to try to tackle these mammoth questions. As I am sure many people will agree, our world is far too complex to limit what people think and believe.