Science & Religion

Science and Religion

“In the beginning, God created the heaven & the earth”, says the religion. But if you intervene to question “beginning of what?” religion at once condemns you declaring that you are a non-believer. Thus the quarrel begins. But on the other hand, if the religion asks you to explain it yourself, you would perhaps say, “In the beginning, there was chaos.” It will then be the other man’s turn to smile and say “the beginning of what?” the question would remain unanswered, for, you do not know the answer. Neither science nor religion has answered it satisfactorily so far.

Science and Religion have been in the opposite camps since Victorian age. While Science speaks of facts and logic, religion rely on hope and faith. Science deals with material world that we know; religion is concerned with a divine order that we imagine. Science believes in things that can be proved; religion deals with spiritual ideas that cannot be proved. Science depends on reason; religion on intuition and inner conviction or faith. The scientist works in the laboratory of material world; religious teacher probes into the chambers of the inward mind. The goal of science is achievement; that of religion is realization.  The truths of science can be proved to all; the truths of religion have to be taken on trust. Thus, the two worlds are antithetical.

As Bertolt Brecht describes, “The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error,” science adopts logical tools to limit the questions to a particular reasoning, thus eradicating old beliefs. On the other hand, religion is the refuge of man where science has failed to resolve his doubts. Earlier, church said, the sun revolves round the earth. Later, Galileo scientifically proved that it is the earth revolving round the sun. Science answered correctly as to who revolves around whom? But science remains incapable to answer, why does the earth revolve?  Religion calls it the act of god; science denies the existence of supernatural element – God. As a matter of fact, not all religions assert the existence of God. One of the greatest religions of the world, Buddhism neither accepts nor negates. It remains silent on the issue saying that the search is useless. What matters is, says Buddhism, the way we conduct ourselves in this world, making our life and life of others as happy as possible. Hinduism, as many believe, is not a religion at all in its true sense, but only a way of life and goes further, keeping the mind always open and offers every possible but rational explanations. As far as god is concerned, it says, He is the one, no doubt all powerful, all merciful, bounteous and forgiving. But where does he live? In his paradise, says Islam & Christianity. His state is kingly, said Milton. But Hinduism unequivocally declares that he is everywhere in you, in me, I never human being, in the bird and the beast, in the fish and the plant, in the animate and the inanimate. What are his attributes? Love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness? Yes and many more and destruction too.”I am the creator (brahma), sustainer (Vishnu), destroyer (Mahesh) of everything.” However, science disagrees with this idea of God. It questions the presence and visibility of god. On the other hand, science believes that everything is made of constituent particles called atoms. How do these atoms come into existence? This is an unanswered question. Religion answers it in context of god. The first particle out of which the ever expanding universe is created must have some source. Science has neither any answer nor it has any proof for opposing the theory that the constituent particle is the gift of God.

The purpose of both science and religion is the same- to seek the ultimate truth, to find out the reason and purpose of our life here on the tiny planet of ours. To be precise, while science tries to find out the reason, religion seeks to know the purpose. Both demand exceptionally brilliant faculties, high degree of concentration and constant application – to sum up ‘thapasya’ in one word – to succeed. That is why both the scientist and the religious man experience the same type of fulfillment – ananda – when they perceive the truth. The difference is in the paths they pursue; science submits the theory it postulates to experimental verification, while religion rests on implicit faith.

Science and Religion, on the surface appears to be antithetical to each other, yet a closer look at the two reveals their interdependence on each other for a rational kind of life. Religion, on one hand, preaches tolerance and understanding; on the other hand, the religious man has fought for hundreds of years in the name of god –as to what we should call him by? Jonathan swift’s statement given in 17th century is relevant even today.

“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love each other.”

 Unless religions are seen with a scientific perspective, the sole purpose of religion for man cannot be achieved. If we look at science individually, we can see immense advantages that it has given us. Science has created modern civilization with multistoried building, swift means of transport on land, sea and air, life saving medicines and so on. However, science, without exercising guidelines laid down by religion, can do immense harm. With conveniences of modern life, science has also invented weapons of destruction lie artillery bombs, which caused world wars. The principles laid down by the religion are only guidelines which can prevent man from using these weapons. Every religion teaches man to practice non-violence and respect the individuality and integrity of the human being. Without a faith in these virtues preached by religion, man would lose his humanity and destroy the very civilization he has built. Martin Luther King, in his ’strength to love’, stated:

“The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

Similarly, when religion lays emphasis on rituals and ceremonies, the original meanings of which have been lost or are no longer relevant in our scientific age, it is the task of scientific thought to point out the irrelevance of outdated customs in modern scheme of things. Without exercising scientific thought, one becomes narrow-minded and intolerant and blind to all the times.

It is not that science and religion have always shared different opinions in all aspects. Worship of sun god is a practice for religious man, for science it is an intake of vitamin D early morning. This is beneficial for human body. Muslims keep Rozas during Ramzan, so do Hindus fast in the month of shravan. This period of fasting comes during rainy season, when digestion is difficult. Fasting also holds scientific viewpoint. After funeral, according to Hinduism, people should take bath. Scientific point of view, bacterias from the dead body, disperses through the surroundings. These bacteria may invite diseases. Hence, after cremation, bathing is done. Science and religion shares same ideology in this case. Hindu scripture says, “As is the karma, so is the fruit”. If our karma is god, beneficial for others, we are equally rewarded. If our karma is bad, malicious for others, we are equally punished. Every religion has the same stand on deeds. On the other hand, science also holds a similar principle. As per Newton’s 3rd law of motion, “action & reaction are equal and opposite in nature.” Comparison shows that action is analogous to karma and reaction to fruit. This is a universal law. Although science has never agreed to the existence of God, it accepts the presence of some almighty force that has led to the creation of life and universe. That is the reason why Higgs-Boson particle was coined ‘God particle’ – the constituent particle believed to be the beginning of universe.

Science and Religion are not at loggerheads, neither one is the enemy of the other. Both are necessary for well being of man. If one can ensure a comfortable living for man, other can bring peace and tranquility, he ardently desires. Thus science and religion should be linked together if one is to live a rational sane life.

Science without religion is lame;

Religion without science is blind.

                       -Albert Einstein



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