In the contemporary world, we could not imagine something further apart than the notions of religion and science. They seem as different as apples and oranges. This, however, has not been the case throughout history, and it need not be the case in the future.
What is the difference between religion and science?
Fundamentally, religion and science serve the same purpose. They both originated as the tendency of people to explain the world around them and decipher its purpose. Philosophers and scientists from the dawn of time struggled to notice patterns in nature, and deduce laws that lie behind them, in order to better understand their nature. Today, religion has the same goal, and the same way of functioning, whilst science has considerably changed, especially in the last couple of centuries. Thus, the relationship that science and religion once had has also noticeably changed.
How has science changed?
Science has seen rapid growth in the past two centuries. Owing to that, it has provided numerous answers that were unknown to us and clarified many mysteries that were deemed to be unsolvable through history. Most things that we use in our everyday modern life, we use thanks to science. That is why science has built up a reputation of a reliable branch of knowledge, open to revision, experimenting, and change.
How has religion changed?
Here is the key thing –it hasn’t, for the most part. Aside from some minor changes it suffered to survive the new age, religion, or rather the principles religion rests on have mostly stayed the same for centuries. Arguably, one of the strongest sides of religion is exactly that unyielding rigidity that makes up its essence. Although there might occur some smaller changes, those are not really notable and do not make any noticeable changes, i.e. they do not change the basis of religion. This boils down to the concept that there is a divine entity involved in the creation of the world, and that an individual is both important and responsible for the ‘bigger picture’.
Are science and religion mutually exclusive?
Despite the fact that they are now viewed as two opposing teams, and that supporting one means refuting another, it does not need to be like this. History may provide the best record of that. Many of the greatest scientists, who pushed the boundaries of knowledge in their own time, were religious people. Even Charles Darwin, who is now praised as an icon of the scientific worldview and a synonym for atheists worldwide, has never clearly denounced the idea of a God. However, due to the rapid advancements in science, this tends to be forgotten, as people are more inclined to be attracted to the scientific viewpoint and disregard religion. But even though things seem grim for religion, there is a silver lining to this cloud.
Are there any positive prospects for religion in this scientific world?
Ironically, the only thing that can save the position of religion in the world is the advancement of science that now threatens it. As it is seen on the example of physics, which is one of the sciences that has progressed the most, and practically reached its limit of progress, the more one knows, the less one knows. In other words, even though physicists know how the world works better than ever, they are still no closer to answering the ‘basic questions’: how we came to be and where do we go. All possible answers to this question are still in the domain of speculations. It is precisely this lack of fundamental answers that presents a possibility for religion to coexist with science. To summarize, the relationship between science and religion doesn’t sound impossible in the future, after all.