The tussle between Science and Religion

By Saba Zia Hassan

Science is a method. It’s the method of critically testing competing theories. Failed theories are tossed and successful theories are accepted until a superior theory is devised. “Science” refers to a way of pursuing knowledge, and not the knowledge itself.

The word “religion” is often used, rather effectively, to demonize a category of people who hold a strong conviction about something heavenly or metaphysical and propose to translate that belief into action. Time and again the world has witnessed the conflicts between Science and Religion. Irrespective of the progress we have made in Science, many sections of the society still deem religion to be above all other things. In fact, more than often, scientific ideas have posed a direct challenge to the religious sentiments of many people.

Many studies conducted have found that generally scientists are less likely to believe in God than the rest of the population. Precise definitions and statistics vary, but generally about 1/3 of scientists are atheists, 1/3 agnostic, and 1/3 have some belief in God. This is in contrast to the 3/4 of the general population that believes in some God. Belief also varies slightly by field. Two surveys conducted on physicists, geoscientists, biologists, mathematicians, and chemists have noted that, from those specializing in these fields; physicists had the lowest percentage of belief in God (29%) while chemists had the highest (41%).

Having a look at these figures, one might wonder: Can science and religion really work together? What is it about religion that scientists are skeptic about it? What is it about science that makes steadfast religious people, anti-science?

Scientists, or for that matter even regular people, who have a critical way of thinking, are only persuaded by evidence and explicit proofs. The scientific methods pretty much outline the way they think about everything, and their reasoning behind how things work. People with scientific minds do not want to blindly accept a notion (be it religious or not). Feelings and other subjective forms of evidence do not easily persuade them. One must further state that disbelief in God has nothing to do with one’s profession. It is an individual’s personal choice, quite segregated from the field he/she might be professionally involved in.

Religion gives a huge deal of importance to the supernatural phenomena, which we can experience and feel. These emotions are directly linked with people’s belief in God or a divine power ruling our lives. Science tends to discard the notion of any divine intervention affecting the functioning of the universe. The fear of the unseen makes people discard facts that tend to hamper their belief in the divine authority.

There is a famous saying quoted by people who claim comity between science and faith. It comes from Einstein’s essay “Science and religion,” published in 1954. ?“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

People can make science and religion jive together in their minds, but hardliners on either side tend to have major issues working with the opposite side. Those who are religious hardliners view many scientific discoveries as direct contradictions of their religions, and those who are scientific hardliners view everything as easily explainable by scientific inference, and therefore believe that religious sentiments pre-empt logical thoughts. The hardliners tend to be the most vocal about their views, so they make it difficult for the two ends to work together.

Science and religion, in practice both seek to acquire knowledge about the functioning of the universe but via different ideologies. Science lays its foundation on evidence and facts whereas the basis of religion is primarily revelation. One simply cannot disprove or neglect the existence of another and must march ahead seeking each other’s concordance for the common good of present and future generations.

Science and religion, surely “can” work together but they usually “do” not. The people always have their preferential views making them choose one over the other.

Religion mainly accentuates the existence of the supreme power, God. However, the existence of God doesn’t have to be a scientific question, simply because science restricts itself to the search for natural explanations of observed phenomena. Since God is a transcendent being who is believed to exist beyond space and time, the search for the truth of God must primarily use philosophy, or careful reasoning, and not science.

She is a second year student pursuing Bachelor of Science in Physics (Hons.) at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. She believes that the youth of the nation must gear up to scrutinize and reform the present condition of Indian Society. She hopes that with her thoughts and ideas, she would bring some improvement in the society, no matter how small it is. Besides writing, she is also fond of composing poems. Gleeful at heart, she likes meeting new people and is always keen to learn new things. Contact her at: