Is Science Consistent with Religion?

by blackspanielgallery

In some cases the conflict is real, yet in others there is harmonious accord. Which is the case often depends on the religion.

This question of the consistency of science and religion has started many arguments, and these arguments are often futile. In logic an argument is based on one or more hypotheses, and a conclusion either follows as in the case of a valid argument, or does not follow as in the case of an invalid argument. But, the hypotheses are always universally agreed upon. Herein lies the problem.

The question posed is either answered definitely yes or definitely no. The reason for the differences is one underlying hypothesis. First, agreement is needed on whether the Bible is to be taken literally, or whether poetic license was used in a way that the underlying idea is what is being conveyed. The Catholic Church, and many other religions that ascribe to the same belief, requires the Bible be considered accurate on faith issues, not as an historical document. Another group of Christians called fundamentalists claim as the word of God the Bible is to be taken literally. And this is a variation in basic belief among Christians, so a universal belief among all religions inclusive of religions not Christian is certainly not possible.

The point here is that if we cannot agree on the hypothesis of the meaning of the Bible, we will reach different conclusions.


One example is creation.  As a physicist I cannot accept the one-week version.  Scientific evidence suggests that our planet is about four and a half billion years old.  And, evidence from meteorites suggest other solid objects in the solar system are about the same age.  The sun is just slightly older.  And the stars in the night sky are, in many cases, older still.


Yet, I have no problem believing that matter did not just spring into existence without Divine intervention.  So, I believe the world was created, just not in a week.  Indeed, the matter used to make the sun and the Earth probably was created in the instant these bodies came to be.


Some years back I was addressing this, and a student objected claiming the ages of the Earth and sun being taught violated her religious beliefs.  So, facts being facts, she would have found an inconsistency in science and religion, yet I see no conflict.


Did the Sun Really Stand Still?

The Bible Says So

Did the sun really stand still, then change directions?   Technically, an impact by a large enough asteroid or comet could cause this to happen, but other things would have followed.  Such an impact would have been an extinction event, and wiped out most of life on earth.  So, scientifically speaking it probably did not happen, but its role in the significance in the story remains a valid point.  It is used to make a point, not as an historical fact.

What of Evolution?

This goes back to the creation story.  Did God literally create man, then the animals?  Dinosaurs are inconsistent with this.  What is important is that God created life, and created man with free will.  Did God use an existing animal and infuse free will when He created an immortal soul for the first man?  Well, that is the kernel of the belief many of us cm embrace, yet a fundamentalists will adamantly proclaim man is from clay. 

Many Scientists Are Religious

I know quite a few scientists, and many are religious.  It seems scientists who are atheists or agnostics get the attention, yet many scientists accept creation and God as its cause.  Something other than nature had to start things.  Even the big bang, if it happened, would not have been possible without the massive object that exploded into the universe having been created.

The Higgs Boson

Much has been made of the discovery of the Higgs boson, and it is often called the god-particle.  Its discovery helps greatly with understanding gravity.  So, some atheist scientists have proclaimed we have no need for God.   How do they explain where the Higgs boson itself originated?  It, by its nature, is testimony that God exists.

Reconcilable Differences

There is the case of Galileo.  The case appeared to be a conflict, but there was no challenge to dogma.  People, including Catholic Church leaders, thought his findings were in conflict with religion.  But, the conflict was with what people thought, not official doctrine.  This allowed a reconciliation, and the scientist was vindicated. 


The Catholic Church’s claim that the Pope in infallible was not an issue.  The principle of infallibility applies only to matters of faith and morals, and only when the Pope declares the statement is so.  Even the Pope has a right to a personal opinion, and unless he makes the proclamation official it does not carry infallibility. 


Here, it was how people thought God had constructed the universe that caused the problem.  We must remember God for Hs own reasons retains some mystery.  Man in this world cannot full understand God, so how and why the universe is as it is remains known only to Him.


Today, astronomy and the Catholic Church are often in accord.



The Two Problems

First there is a diversion in basic teachings among religions.  So, we will not all agree.


Second, there is a vanity among some scientists who would like to themselves be as great as God, so claims that we no longer need God to make sense of thing are made.  But, looking deeper, they cannot explain where the fundamentals originated.


Arguing is futile, since participants do not start with the same hypotheses.  Of course there is often good will at the core of such arguments.  The participants are convinced their point of view is correct, and they wish to convert the other person, or at least help the other person properly understand.  The intentions are good, and often this is true on both sides.  So, unless someone has expressed an openness to understand your point of view these arguments are usually futile.

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Updated: 04/09/2017, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 04/10/2017

Thanks for the comments. Frank adds much with comments. I could not be exhaustive in this piece, but a sampling of areas that might be of interest is given.
I am not a biologist, but the idea of human cloning is a case where science is challenging what most religions consider moral. This would be for someone in the proper field. I prefer to address physics issues.

Veronica on 04/10/2017

An excellent piece I have put it on my favourites bar as I frequently find myself in such discussion and am not sufficiently informed re the science aspects to give good account.

This is a straightforward and easily understood discourse for non specialists like I am .

Thank you.

frankbeswick on 04/10/2017

When teaching advanced level Religious Studies to eighteen year old students I was teaching religion and evolution, when one Muslim girl told me her problem. When she studies science she believes in evolution; when she reads the Koran she disbelieves in it. I pointed out to her that you need consistency in belief.

The atheists you cite, people like Dawkins, Dennet and Harris, support the philosophy of scientism, which is not supported by all scientists. It is the belief that all knowledge is reducible to science. It is a derivation of the now defunct philosophy of Logical Positivism, which failed when it came to be understood that it could not explain its own main premise, that all meaningful statements were either empirical [e.g.scientific] or analytical [e.g.mathematics.] For if so, what kind of statement is main premise? Result, one dead theory.

This was a useful article that explains the issue well to general readers, and as such it does an important job.

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