72: War


Are science and religion truly conflicting disciplines?

Show notes and links:
Statements from Religious Organizations (National Center of Science Education)

Full episode text

One of my favorite classes that I took in college was called “Science and Religion”. At a religious school (and as a member of not-that-religion), I expected it to be a class that was entirely about how science and religion were at each other’s throats, since before – and after – Galileo.

Instead what I found was a very cogent discussion of the fact that science and religion, at their base level, really shouldn’t conflict. I have spent years trying to track down the book that served as our source in that class, but haven’t yet been able to find it. So we’ll have to rely on my bad memory of that really awesome priest’s discussion.

Essentially, the book (and the retired priest that taught the class) argued that at their base, science and religion try to answer two different questions. Religion is an attempt to answer metaphysical, supernatural, and philosophical questions, while science is an attempt to answer questions about the physical and natural.

The challenge comes in the fact that things that often begin as metaphysical are often investigated by science, and the answers that science comes up with may transition something from the metaphysical to physical. For example? It used to be a scientific “fact” that peacocks, when they died, did not decompose. Why? Because peacocks were often an artistic stand-in for Jesus, who also did not decompose, so scientists were literally banned from actually just killing a peacock and keeping the corpse around to see what happened.

So – in this line of thinking – the problem is not that the disciplines conflict, but that they deal with possibly intersecting details. Yet as dozens of religions have come out to officially say, religion can often only be helped through scientific inquiry by making it a more true study of metaphysics.