Religion vs. science

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Revision as of 21:59, 15 January 2007 by Woozle (talk | contribs) (→‎Differences: more explanations)
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Religion and science often come into conflict on certain matters.

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  • Articles
  • Concepts
    • God of the gaps "refers to a common theistic position that anything that can be explained by human knowledge is not in the domain of God, so the role of God is therefore confined to the 'gaps' in scientific explanations of nature."

Areas of Conflict

  • Evolution vs. Intelligent Design
  • In the debate over abortion, the anti-abortion point of view seems to be largely fueled by religious arguments claiming that the newly-fertilized egg has a soul – which contradicts scientific understanding of fetal development, i.e. the embryo does not even have a nervous system (and thus is incapable of feeling pain, much less consciousness of any sort) for several weeks after conception. Although we have so far achieved only the very beginnings of a scientific understanding of consciousness, there is as yet absolutely no believable evidence that it can exist that early in life; furthermore, based on what we do know, it would seem unreasonable to treat an embryo as being morally equivalent to a fully-developed human, or to put the needs of that embryo over the needs of its parents. Only when the fetus is rather closer to birth can such a comparison reasonably be made.
  • In the various debates over homosexuality, the anti-gay arguments seem to be largely fueled by insistence that God condemns homosexuality in the Bible (which appears to be arguably true). Scientific investigation of sexuality (often hindered and condemned by religious extremists) has revealed no reasons why homosexuality should be in any way discouraged, especially in an era when overpopulation is a significant worry (and in which there is always a significant backlog of children needing adoption into good homes). Moreover, scientifically-guided medical advice encourages the wide distribution of both sex education and condoms to help homosexuals (and everyone else, for that matter) to avoid spreading sexually-transmitted diseases; both sex education and condom distribution (and contraceptives in general) are discouraged by many religious groups, for entirely religious reasons.
  • The Bible labels as "unclean" or "abomination" many practices (e.g. masturbation) which we now know through scientific investigation to be harmless or even healthy, especially when practiced in a sanitary way. (The Bible, unfortunately, does not inform us of the advisability of washing one's hands frequently, much less the existence of germs.)


It is often said that "science is just another religion". This is certainly true if you define your terms narrowly enough.


Religion and science have the following characteristics in common:

  • Both are collections of beliefs


Religion and science are different in the following ways:

Religion Science
There are multiple religions, each of which disagrees with the others on certain points There is only one body of science, with sub-branches – but nothing within each branch conflicts with knowledge in the other branches
Each religion's belief-set depends ultimately on black box explanations which cannot be further investigated Anything science can't explain is left as an open question, to be studied further and eventually answered
New knowledge, arguments, or practices must be shown to fit within the existing belief-set, or it is discounted (often quite [[wikipedia:Religious persecution|vigorously) New knowledge and arguments are encouraged, often overturning significant areas of scientific understanding; new practices are encouraged if they produce useful results, and otherwise generally tolerated unless they are somehow destructive; intolerance is strictly limited to censuring of practices found to be intolerable, rather than active punishment of the perpetrators
Religion has a membership: you either belong to a particular religion or you don't Science has no membership; anyone can be a scientist, and there are no universal requirements for attending scientific meetings or holding scientific arguments
Each religion has a set of core beliefs with which all members must agree, or be disqualified from membership Science has no beliefs which cannot, in theory, be overturned by new observations


  • Violence:
    • What incidents have there been, either historically or recently, of individuals or groups being inspired to commit violence "in the name of science"? How does the resulting list compare to the record of violence committed "in the name of" God or any other religious figure?
    • Should the comparison be between (a) deeds done in the name of religion and (b) deeds made possible by science, such as Hiroshima? (Personally, I don't think this is a fair comparison, as any tool can be misused; the debate should be over whether the usage was appropriate, and if it was inappropriate we need to figure out how to prevent inapprorpriate uses – but I suspect this point will come up, so a more detailed rebuttal might be a good idea. --Woozle 09:23, 1 October 2006 (EDT))






from David Brin [1]:

The incantatory mind set probably STILL makes up a majority of the human species. In most civilizations, it was THE official mind set... that the greatest power is achieved through right incantations.

The fact is that opponents of science cannot view science except as a competitor or rival to their own preferred incantatory systems. Hence the profound hostility toward science that you see among romantics of all stripes, including BOTH the "far right" and the "far left."

In parsing their disdain for science, they reveal their inclination by constantly misunderstanding (or deliberately misconstruing) what science is about. The postmodernists say that it is just another system of incantatory semantics, and a rather oppressively bullying one. The neocons and fundies call it "just another religion" without ever pondering how this logically disses religion, in genral!

It is useless to try (endlessly) to explain the myriad ways that science is simply OUTSIDE of the incantatory worldview. Indeed, there is a very real minority of SCIENTISTS who – by fundamental personality – can never escape viewing their fields through the lense of incantation.