Religion Versus Science

Historically, Christianity (my own cultural area of exposure in religion) has survived despite what some religious followers assumed were challenges from people like Galileo and Darwin. The ideas of these scientists were regarded as obligate heresies to earlier religious sects. Inevitably, there are extant pockets of resistance – as in Kansas – but I doubt that this represents a Christian-wide majority view.

It is a belief in "The Truth" that is the stumbling block for both science and religion. Science has basked in a specious reputation for finding "The Truth". For its part, religion decrees it knows "The (preordained) Truth".

Just as "love" has many features (consideration for others, a head-over-heels genetically programmed infatuation, copulation) so has theism. Religion – the rigorous application and adherence to a way of life and belief – probably resides closer to the animal end of this intellect-to-animal spectrum. Religion (rigid beliefs/rules) is a different to faith in God (watch out for my upcoming section on "the monolithic whole").

A closer look at history will tell us that science finds powerful models leading to explicatory, predictive and manipulative power. It is likely that these models do subtend to the truth. However, it is perfectly possible (given the alleged omnipotence of God – though, to my mind, vanishingly improbable) that he did conjure up the Earth and life 6000 years ago in just the way stated in genesis but left all this suggestive evidence of gradual evolution, the big bang and the apparent 4.5by age of the Earth as a test for true believers. Whatever, this "Truth" would be a bankrupt resource in explicatory, predictive and manipulative terms. Science needs to go with the power and the apparent; it can leave "The Truth" to look after itself. Atomic bombs are about power, not the truth. Theism encompasses ethics as a major arena for its application (and it often applies this well).

When science believes it has discovered "The Truth" it becomes a religion itself. The conflict that has put religion in opposition to science is that religious believers often bring with them dictates and predicates that they consider inviolate. These constitute key foundation stones for their creed. Their demolition could bring the whole edifice tumbling down. Listen to any fundamentalist preacher and you will hear a battery of subsidiary hypotheses and interpretations that have no concrete "word-of-God" justification. However, challenge a cornerstone belief and you are seen to threaten its survival. So, heresy must be exorcised before it does any damage. This is a meme survival strategy.

The scientific community suffers from the same problem. Many have become deluded into believing it has discovered "The Truth" when history tells us it has simply found a more powerful model (see Thomas Kuhn's "The structure of scientific revolutions").

My conclusion is that "heresy" is good for both science and religion. Belief system that are sound will grow sounder in countering challenge. Belief systems that are weak are in need of restructuring.

One last point. The human soul, I contend, is not in a neurone, the pineal or a single brain. It is in society. You only have to isolate a human baby in a chicken pen, without human contact, to emphasise this point. And the same thing happens with differing cultures. That should not shock any religious believer for what better residence for the Spirit of God is there than in a society of like minded theists. The Christian faith even proclaims this; "where two or three are gathered together in my name . . . "