Science and religion have been largely incompatible for centuries. Recent studies have renewed old debates.
This article is free of bias and based on science postings and related media reports. All linked information within this article is fully-attributed to the following outlets: Wikipedia.org, National Academy of Sciences, The Los Angeles Times, Time.com, Pew Research Center, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, MindMatters.ai, Google.com, and BBC.com.
Historically, when scientists have been asked about the existence of “God,” the first responses were invariably science-based, offering instead theories of The Big Bang and evolution as explanations for life and man, neither of which, they said, related to a deity.
See here for Wikipedia page on the matter, which states: Both science and religion are complex social and cultural endeavors that may vary across cultures and change over time. Most scientific (and technical) innovations prior to the scientific revolution were achieved by societies organized by religious traditions. Ancient pagan, Islamic, and Christian scholars pioneered individual elements of the scientific method. Roger Bacon, often credited with formalizing the scientific method, was a Franciscan friar.
Wikipedia’s entry, which is comprehensive in content and well-attributed, goes on to identify rare compatibilities of certain religious belief systems, such as Buddhism, to science.
Further, it should be noted early that “God” holds different meanings to different cultures and religions, several of which serve multiple deities. Science tends to generalize “God” as a concept, the discussion of which applies to all faiths.
As also stated on the page: Some historians of science and mathematicians, including John Lennox, Thomas Berry, and Brian Swimme propose an interconnection between science and religion, while others such as Ian Barbour believe there are even parallels. Public acceptance of scientific facts may sometimes be influenced by religious beliefs such as in the United States, where some reject the concept of evolution by natural selection, especially regarding Human beings. Nevertheless, the American National Academy of Sciences has written that "the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith", a view endorsed by many religious denominations.
Let us explore further.
Science and Religion Today
To elucidate matters of contemporary scientific thought as it regards religion, I’ll link some older articles here as well to offer some perspective.
In an archived November, 2009 article from The Los Angeles Times, entitled “What Do Scientists Think About Religion?” writer David Masci discusses conclusions of a then-recent Pew Research study: According to a survey of members of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science, conducted by the Pew Research Center in May and June this year, a majority of scientists (51%) say they believe in God or a higher power, while 41% say they do not. Furthermore, scientists today are no less likely to believe in God than they were almost 100 years ago, when the scientific community was first polled on this issue.
On a similar note, Time.com published “Why Science Does Not Disprove God” in April, 2014 by writer Amir D. Aczel. Once again, it is disclosed that many scientists — including Aczel — are indeed open to what they consider the concept of God: Lacking convincing scientific evidence to the contrary, such a power may be necessary to force all the parameters we need for our existence—cosmological, physical, chemical, biological and cognitive—to be what they are, he writes.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy also, in their January, 2017 piece titled “Religion and Science,” discusses why the two fields may not be as incompatible in current times as they once were: For the past fifty years, science and religion has been de facto Western science and Christianity—to what extent can Christian beliefs be brought in line with the results of Western science? The field of science and religion has only recently turned to an examination of non-Christian traditions, such as Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, providing a richer picture of interaction.
Taking the Stanford thought into consideration and as we come closer to today, The National Academy of Sciences addressed the issue in “Does Science Disprove the Existence of God?” As excerpted from the article, which effectively boils down the question into a digestible statement: Science doesn’t have the processes to prove or disprove the existence of God. Science studies and attempts to explain only the natural world while God, in most religions, is supernatural.
As scientists have consistently agreed that proving a negative was not possible, MindMatters.ai, in a March, 2020 article by neurosurgeon Michael Egnor that has received substantial attention (per a targeted Google search), stated in its very title “God’s Existence is Proven by Science.”
As excerpted from the article, which references a dispute with an atheist regarding prayer and the coronavirus pandemic: I argued that prayer makes sense because God exists, and His existence is demonstrable via the ordinary method of scientific inference. There’s a name for this demonstration — natural theology, which is the science of demonstrating God’s existence using evidence and logic. Natural theology may be contrasted with revealed theology, which is the study of God via revelation in Scripture.
BBC.com assumeed the task of using science to prove the concept of God to yet another level. In her March, 2021 piece titled “Can Physics Prove That God Exists?” author Monica Grady formulated her opinion in a contrary manner based on a provocative question: I still believed in God (I am now an atheist) when I heard the following question at a seminar, first posed by Einstein, and was stunned by its elegance and depth: "If there is a God who created the entire universe and ALL of its laws of physics, does God follow God's own laws? Or can God supersede his own laws, such as travelling faster than the speed of light and thus being able to be in two different places at the same time?" Could the answer help us prove whether or not God exists or is this where scientific empiricism and religious faith intersect, with NO true answer?
Again, scientists appear today, as with the periods discussed in the 2009 Los Angeles Times article linked above, to be nearly evenly split on the matter.
To wrap up with a modern Pew Research comment, from PewTrusts.org: More recently, we sought to better understand the ways in which science relates to religion around the world and engaged a small group of Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in Southeast Asia to talk about their perspectives. The discussions reinforced the conclusion that there is no single, universally held view of the relationship between science and religion among the three religious groups, but they also identified common patterns and themes within each one.
On the side of science, the belief in a God or gods may be split, but on the side of religion, the compatibility factor of faith and science appears dependent on the particular belief system.
Regardless of your belief or lack thereof, I hope this article has offered some food for thought.
Perhaps as time goes on, the answer to the deepest mysteries of the universe will one day be answered with assurance.
Thank you for reading.