Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Coupling of Science and Religion

While I don't quite agree with the conclusion of this article (and I'll explain why in a few minutes), it is still a very good read and I highly recommend it. The author explains why the conflict between science and religion is a rather recent phenomenon, and that throughout the history of human civilization, religion and science have complimented each other. He brought up specific examples from the Islamic and Christian histories where advancement in science and scientific methods were made by devout followers of those religions.

He then mentioned why this conflict is occurring only now, and that in some sense, the blame for such conflicts can be attributed to the extremes in both camps.

I actually don't have that much of a problem with this article, even if I can't fully verify the authenticity of the historical events. However, the conclusion that the reason why the science-religion conflict is only a recent event may not be complete. The author has failed to attribute the change in individual liberty whereby one can now speak against religion without fear of prosecution and even punishment of death! One can easily imagine that during the golden age of Islamic science, and during the Renaissance period, the discussion of the philosophy of science that contradicts such predominant religious beliefs would meant a nasty consequence for those who profess such point of views. The Galileo prosecution is proof of that. It has nothing to do whatsoever with the science. It has everything to do with the inability to voice a contradictory opinion. So it is not that there aren't any conflict between science and religion at that time, it is that climate that allows for one to do that without repercussion was simply not conducive to do that!

It is only within the past half a century or so that such personal liberty to speak on something that isn't widely accepted become common. Scientists now can, in fact, speak freely about scientific results and philosophy that contradicts various aspects of religion without being burnt at the stake. And scientists are also better organized to speak as a voice against the already organized religions. What we hear now is no longer coming solely from one source, but also coming from another source that may not necessarily always agree with the first.

It is like people claiming that in the "old days", there was very little crime such as wife-beating or child abuse, and that times are worst now because we here a lot of such disciple acts. Yet, what has changed is that there is now a better system and better environment where the victims can now report those acts and be protected, whereas back then, such acts remained predominantly unreported.

There is now a "conflict" between science and religion because for the first time in human history, scientists can stand up to religion and talk back. As Steven Weinberg has said:

One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Scientists now can, in fact, speak freely about scientific results and philosophy that contradicts various aspects of religion without being burnt at the stake.

Besides the idea of evolution, this has to be the most important idea of our time -- and one that deserves intellegent recognition and analysis.

Thank you for voicing it!