Reconciling faith and science

Reconciling faith and science

Religion has remained a central element in the lives of all civilizations

Ever since the dawn of civilization, humans have been in search of eternal truth about the world, the cosmos and the creator. The fear of death and the unknown reality has haunted him since time immemorial. Therefore religion has remained a central element in the lives of all civilizations. It has shaped cultures, laws, lives and values of people for thousands of years. On the other hand, the evolution of scientific theories and technological advances during the last few centuries has made a phenomenal impact on our lives. This progress has undoubtedly brought about unprecedented economic growth, raising the standards of life and prosperity of mankind. It appears that science and religion are the two great blessings for the mankind. However, a major conflict in the world today is the widespread belief, that there is incompatibility between science and religion and, that scientific truths contradict religious beliefs.

History has witnessed a long war between science and religion. Copernicus and Galileo were persecuted by the church and declared great heretics and their books were banned. Legend has it, that when Galileo was forced to abjure his opinion on heliocentric model, he muttered at his inquisition his famous words "e pur, si muove" even so, it does move. It took more than 350 years for the church to officially apologize Galileo in 1992 and declare that he was right. The theory of evolution is not just a theory but a scientific truth which is taught in universities and colleges throughout the world. But the debate between Darwinism and Creationism is still on. Religious scholars are challenging professional doctors in the medicine. How is it that you are using the scientific inventions viz mobile phones, motor cars, aeroplanes, medical care and you are challenging scientific theories. How can an educated and intelligent mind accept this version of faith? Many scholars believe that scientific theories do not contradict religion, unless the sacred texts were read too literally and that an attack on any theory should be done scientifically without maintaining the status quo. Those who disapprove secular thinking regarding science in the belief that they are safeguarding their religion, are actually the enemies of that religion?

There is nothing like bizarre or magical about science. Science, at its most basic level, is a search for explanations about the natural world, understanding of reality, discovering the laws that rule the nature. These laws were already there prior to science itself. The beauty of these laws only reinforces our faith in an intelligent, divine creative force at work, dispelling the myths peddled around that advances in science are discrediting religious beliefs and the existence of God. The cynicism that we can’t know anything unless we can verify it scientifically seems also ridiculous. God’s title has always been a creator and science just understands the creation. The good thing about science is that its language and influence is same everywhere in the world. The real world depends on logic and reason and the   scientists do not invoke supernatural explanations. The professionals with scientific backgrounds are secular and more open to ideas. Then, why is it, that science is taunted as anti-religion? When a study is reported overturning a previously held fact or idea, it is not suspecting science but the real advances in our understanding of nature. Until a theory can be proven contradictory to the evidence, it remains the best explanation available to us. Despite that, non-scientists often perceive science to be a collection of immutable, unchanging facts.

Though scientific and technological miracles have been fascinating people immensely, there are many who believe that its revelation is already present in religious scriptures. They are hitting, left, right making hotchpotch, imaginary and contradictory statements, generating Inconclusive debates and in the end wasting a lot of time and energy. There is a grave danger in relying on scientific theories which we are trying to corroborate with sacred literature. If a particular theory in vogue today is abandoned tomorrow for another theory, does that mean that eternal scripture will also not be valid tomorrow. The religion and science have their own independent existence and neither is subservient to the other. Many religious scholars believe that sacred texts are books of ethical guidance rather than a reservoir of modern science and they cannot be translated directly as their connotation is secret. There can never be a competition between faith and reason. You cannot ask questions to the people which side you are with, faith or proven fact. Most of us are exploiting and misinterpreting religious scriptures, commandments and insist on the absolute truthfulness of things, thereby intervening into the sphere of science. 

Einstein wrote extensively on the philosophy of religion and his thoughts have been widely studied which attract conjectures but often misunderstood. In his essay published in 1954 he says that “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” explains the symbiotic relationship between science and the religion. This aphorism has been the source of endless debate between believers and the non-believers claiming Einstein as their own. However Einstein argues that science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration for the search of truth and its understanding and this source of feeling springs from the sphere of religion. The faith for the scientist is that there is an order in the universe that actually comes from religion and that can’t be verified without science. The faith that there’s a God and there is a higher order in nature, can be confirmed through scientific research and this endeavor can remove the blindness. Thus, one can construe that scientific research promotes understanding about the physical world; the religion inspires us about the cosmos and shows us the most appropriate way to live our lives purposely. This can be the best way to reconcile science and faith. The harmony between the two   is so essential for our peaceful co-existence and all-round development.

Dr Muhmmad Amin Malik is Associate Professor, Higher Education Deptt,J&K