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Science and Religion: Conflict or Misunderstanding?

Brett Nichols

Posted on August 23, 2020 22:45

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I present a case of how science and religion's relationship tends to be misconstrued to be at odds based on science, but in reality, the conflict lies on a more personal level.

For the last year and a half, I have been working on getting my Master's of Arts in Science and Religion at Biola University. Before that, I earned a postgraduate certificate at the University of Edinburgh under a similar program. I found it enlightening to learn how deep the roots between science and religion go, I have also been quite eager to hear what people from both sides of the spectrum (both believers and non-believers) think about the relationship between science and religion. To my chagrin, both sides typically seem to believe there is an extreme conflict between the two. Some skeptics believe that science makes religion futile, and many people of faith find that religion, namely Christianity, find that science is a threat to their faith. In perfect honesty and kindness, I think both seem to misunderstand the relationship between science and religion.

Some people think there is a significant conflict between science and religion, but in practice, such an explicit division between the two is quite ambiguous. If anything, many philosophers of science and scientists hold various views towards the relationship between science and religion. Some scientists either practicing in faith themselves, believing in God but not being associated with any particular faith (Deism), and others being indifferent with the notion either way.

Where some scientists may argue that God has been removed from the picture due to scientific discovery, others state that developments in science require even greater explanation than ever before -- even when they do not necessarily identify as religious. If these individuals with scientific backgrounds don't see the conflict that we all see, maybe the relationship is a bit different than we thought.

The interesting element in academic conflicts of opinion is that they do not typically arise from explicit scientific disputes, but rather philosophical predispositions between various scientists and philosophers. On an admittedly anecdotal level, I have seen that the use of science on both sides typically draws a stalemate within (academic) debate. The respective sides of opinion typically require additional philosophical arguments behind their scientific reasoning, such as raising the problem of evil to the person of faith, or the concept of objective morality to the skeptic. These arguments, though not exclusively, can have a meaningful impact on whether an individual ends up as a skeptic or believer. Such questions may not be "scientific," per se; they are of crucial importance to one's worldview and understanding of the subject.

With all of that being said, one can only hope that this dialogue will draw healthy (and courteous) conversation between people of faith and skeptics alike. Such discussions are one of the reasons I chose to pursue a degree in science and religion, and as a Christian myself, it definitely has opened up great opportunities for conversation between others that think differently than myself.

We must all learn to love one another and listen to opinions we might disagree with -- we might all actually learn something!

Brett Nichols

Posted on August 23, 2020 22:45

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Religion and science have often been seen as being in conflict. But are religious faith and the scientific enterprise really...

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