Religion was pitted against science in the first half of the 17th century thanks to Galileo's studies of heavenly bodies through his magical device, telescope thereby belying the tenets of geocentric theory. The antagonism gained momentum with the entry of Origin of Species (1859) through the powerful pen of Charles Darwin. However during that phase, it was more a Church vs Religion than science versus religion, as the question that mattered was whether Pope holds sway over knowledge or a scientist dictates the same for people. But with the rise of more freethinking among philosophers and scientists aftermath of Darwinian Theory on the origin of man, science first time confronted religion as a general category seriously but systematically. It was now the time for the scientists cum philosophers to strengthen the arguments of Darwin and for the theologians to undermine them.
However as exception to the rule certain men from both the groups sought reconciliation and compatibility of the two disciplines i.e. religion and science. While religious scientists identified God and moral laws in the book of nature, religionists proper clang to the book of scripture for required details. But later on certain theologians oversimplified the relationship between science and religion. They began to reconcile every known invention and discovery of science with the scripture and anticipated the signs for every new discovery and invention in them. Such an approach formed a part of apologetics for science seemed to challenge certain established teachings and practices of religion. M.A. Sofis' write-up 'Scientific Reason and Religious Faith' (GK, Friday, Jan, 6, 2017) comes in the same backdrop.
We agree with the author on certain points when he says that religionists often shut their eyes to the service science has lent to the cause of humanity. They overlook the contribution of the scientists merely because they don't subscribe to the teachings of Scripture. We can further agree with him to a considerable extent that in the contemporary world it is Muslims [earlier it were Christians] who discard researches and findings of scientists as rubbish merely because they are atheists.
And it turns partly true that Muslims turned their back from science thanks to the parochial interpretation and hypothetical rivalry of religion (Islam) with science facilitated by some pseudo scholars. We should also agree with the author that the beliefs and personal life of scientists should be distinguished from their contribution to science and scholarship. However there are some imbalances in the write-up. While the author emphasizes both the factions of scientists and theologians not to criticize each other's ways in the beginning of his write-up, later he seems to plead more for science than religion. In his effort to save the scientist from the onslaught of a theologian, he fails to do vice-versa. If there are theologians ignorant of science, there are scientists who too are badly-informed about religion. The write-up ends up with a reader sympathising with science as a victim of religion. The author falls short of imploring in favour of religion that encounters fierce criticism from scientists.
Furthermore there are some points where we may differ with the writer. The author calls reason as the foundation of science but assigns no place of rationale in the sphere of religion. On one hand the author says that a certain amount of faith is inevitable even in science and on the other hand denies the scope of reason in religion. The author fails to recall the teachings of Qur'an wherein God says that reason and revelation in combination leads to truth and salvation. The Quran abounds in verses where an individual is urged to reason and reflect on the creation of the universe. Else the author advocates for the radical separation of science and religion along with politics. This way he denies both religion and science benefitting from each other. If science forms the ship, religion forms the rudder. Without religious ideals politics becomes synonymous with injustice and exploitation.
I agree with the author that absolute compatibility between science and religion is not possible but there are areas where they can turn compatible. The advocacy of certain known scientists in the contemporary times about the "Intelligent Design" (ID) [as part of natural theology] as the proof of God's existence and moral laws, and some Muslim organisation's like US-based International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) project of 'Islamisation of Knowledge' seems a welcome step towards the reconciliation of the duo- science and religion.
(Ashraf Amin Malik is Research Scholar, Shah-i- Hamadan Institute of Islamic Studies, Kashmir University)