Information icon.svg Results for the 2023 RationalWiki Moderator Election have now been posted. Thank you for participating in this election, and congratulations to the winners!

Science and religion

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Preach to the choir
Icon religion.svg
Crux of the matter
Speak of the devil
An act of faith
Poetry of reality
Icon science.svg
We must know.
We will know.
A view from the
shoulders of giants.

Science and religion represent two views of the world. While some say these views can be complementary, others regard them as mutually exclusive.

Science appeals to the human intellectual desire to learn more about the world we find ourselves in, whereas religion appeals to the emotional desire to mitigate uncertainty, misfortune, and fear. In principle, both can be used to advance humanity, but in practice, the vast majority of established religions have very strong dogmatic standpoints, which work to suppress any deviation from said standpoints, let alone human development, even in areas such as moral responsibility, social conduct, or global issues, where religious organisation would have a great potential.[note 1] Instead, they tend to only focus on gaining more followers and public funds.

The relationship between science and religion[edit]


Historically, the relationship between Christianity and science has been difficult. Many ideas, such as the idea of a heliocentric solar system, as advocated by people like Galileo, were suppressed to an extent by the Church. The Church did eventually, however, decide that science was okay because it dealt with a different sphere of knowledge than religion[1] and that it could be used to understand more fully about "God's creation".


See the main article on this topic: Islam

In the Middle Ages, Islam was very encouraging of science, helping the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates and their successors be at the forefront of mathematical and general scientific advances. However, Islam in general took a turn towards anti-science fundamentalism centuries ago.[2]


See the main article on this topic: Bahá'í

A central teaching of the Bahá'í faith is that science and religion are interconnected. Since Bahá'ís view God as unknowable, the only way they can understand "him" is through what "he" created.[note 2] This also fits in with a second pillar of the faith, the evolution of the world. As more discoveries are made, the world changes.


See the main article on this topic: Judaism

Many of the Christian issues with science listed above stem from the Old Testament, so Judaism has also been plagued by young earth creationism and geocentrism, for example. These still exist in some sects, such as Chabad.[3] Many elements of the Orthodox branch, particularly, remain superstitious.[4] Nevertheless, there have also been attempts at rationalism within the religion, including Maimonides.Wikipedia Like the Bahá'ís, Maimonides felt that all we can know about God was what He created. Most branches now embrace science, and since the time of Einstein, people of Jewish background (not all practicing Jews; many are atheists like Carl Sagan) have been prominent among scientists: see List of Jewish Nobel laureates.Wikipedia Inevitably, this has led to antisemitic conspiracy theories that science is a Jewish plot.

Modern fundamentalism[edit]

In the modern world, the principal opponents of scientific progress are the fundamentalist sects of several religions. Although many educated theists do, in fact, accept theories such as evolution, many others who are more literal in their reading of their "holy books" believe it to be false.[5]

They have attempted to support their view by much grabbing at straws, for example, (refuted) claims of evolution violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or so-called irreducible complexity. They construct arguments like "the Bible says that the first humans were just like present humans", then go off into a long circular argument. Evolution has not been disproved yet, but is possible to disprove — that is, if evidence were found against it, which it has not, the theory would be modified, or even discarded — see 'Disproving Evolution' for details.

Creation Science[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Creation science

The term "Creation Science", coined by modern fundamentalists in a bid to get their theology and mythology taught in science classes, is an oxymoron. Creationism is not science. In fact, it is often explicit anti-science. Creationist activists will gladly misrepresent scientific concepts in order to indoctrinate their audience with the view that faith is superior to reason and more valuable than (empirical) knowledge.

Science vs. God[edit]

God is often said to be "outside of science". While this is all well and good, it in effect states that the nature of "God" is outside the scope of rational inquiry. The notion of "blind faith", as is often the basis of religion, is quite contradictory with the scientific method. This is not to say that a person cannot be both a scientist and theist (though among modern scientists, the theistic population is a minority),[6] as many theists view science as the "Study of God's Creation"; this definition is often used by theistic scientists, and often crops up in debates about science and religion. It is not an immediately damning view, as one can certainly conduct substantive work in a scientific field while believing that a supernatural entity created the Universe, but as we have absolutely no evidence that this is the case, it may indicate that the scientist will apply skeptical thought to his or her own field(s) while deliberately or unknowingly avoiding it otherwise.

If one accepts the common claim that God is supernatural, one must conclude that any investigation into the nature of God (or gods) is in fact outside the realm of science, and potentially outside the realm of any form of human inquiry. Since science only addresses phenomena that can be observed and tested, any pursuit of knowledge about supernatural entities can only be considered unscientific.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Indeed, arguments can be and have been made that promotion of moral responsibility and management of social conduct, along with maintaining the cohesion of a community, are huge parts of the entire purpose of religion.[citation needed]
  2. Bahá'ís don't believe God has a designated sex, but it's apparently degrading to refer to God as "it".


  1. See e.g. the encyclical Providentissimus Deus (18.11.1893), §18: "There can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us, 'not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known.'"
  2. One possible introduction to the topic can be found here.
  3. Translated Correspondence by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, May 14, 1964, accessed Sep. 15, 2019.
  4. Mintz, Jerome. Hasidic People: a Place in the New World. (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1992)
  5. Living proof is here.
  6. Leading scientists still reject God