Science and religion

Religion isn’t an impediment to science. It’s the interpretation of religion that makes science and religion irreconcilable. In the Middle Ages, the Church was seen as anti-science. Galileo Galilee had to spend the remaining of his life under house arrest for his scientific beliefs concerning among other things that Earth wasn’t the centre of the universe. At the same time the Muslim world had a flourishing civilization in Baghdad and Andalusia.

Centuries later, the order was reversed with the Christian West saw its scientific advancement flourish while the Muslim world retracted from its glorious achievement.

It isn’t religion per se that it is an impediment to progress, but it is the mentality of those who consider that religious teachings are supreme and there is no way to adapt them to modern times. The USA is one of the most technologically advanced countries and yet it is perceived as one in which religion has been a key factor since its foundation.

Religion concerns the spiritual side based on (unquestionable) beliefs. Science is about the material side based on evidence. Religion is concerned mainly about after-life, science about this life. There are those who succeed in reconciling the two. They find time for prayer and scientific research. There are those who find religion as a myth when it talks about the origin of creation or simply nonsense when it talks about morality.

There are people who can’t live without religion and for them science is a means to be physically stable and comfortable to achieve spiritual fulfilment. For example, they need a car to go to mosque or church as they take a plane to go on a pilgrimage to a site far from their homes.

Spirituality and discoveries are what make humans special. They may sound at odds from time to time concerning for example the limits that should be set concerning among other thing human cloning or the use of contraceptives. But there are areas in which they can have common gaols which are fundamentally the happiness of the human race in a morally balanced environment.


  1. Looney said,

    April 2, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    The Galileo story is much more complicated than this. The battle was between Galileo and the universities who were promoting the teachings of Aristotle and Ptolemy, non-Christian thinkers of ancient Greece. The church was brought in as a referee because the university scholars were offended. Better to silence one scholar than have a horde of them offended!

    The solution was actually quite good for Galileo. He was old and his health was poor, so he wasn’t going very far anyway. By putting him under house arrest, he could be taken care of better; he continued his research and writing, and the scholars were content and stopped yelling.

    This story got a twist about two centuries ago when the universities (which were 5 centuries old in Galileo’s time) and the scholars were deleted from the re-telling of the story and it was portrayed as Galileo vs. the church and the Bible. The real story is that scholars can’t control religion, so they are offended by it. It is just basic human nature involving envy and a desire for power. Hence, the myth of a war between religion and science, promoted by scholars who represent neither religion nor science.

  2. Abdelilah Boukili said,

    April 2, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Thanks Looney for your clarifications.

    But as you know,in 1992, Pope John Paul II gave an address on behalf of the Catholic Church in which he admitted that errors had been made by the theological advisors in the case of Galileo. But he did not admit that the Church was wrong to convict Galileo on a charge of heresy because of his belief that the Earth rotates round the sun.

    So the Church was influenced by scholars who were fearful of galileo galilee’s scientific revolutions.

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