Academic journal article Islam & Science

Some Important Questions concerning the Relationship between Science and Religion

Academic journal article Islam & Science

Some Important Questions concerning the Relationship between Science and Religion

Article excerpt

This article reports the results of a survey about the relationship between science and religion. Fifty-eight scholars and scientists respond to eight fundamental questions which cover some of the most important areas of science-religion discourse. The results of the survey show a remarkable similarity between views of leading scholars in the discourse.

Keywords: Science and religion discourse; definition of science and religion; warfare model; harmony between science and religion; Christian and Muslim perspectives on science; Islamic view of science.


In 1996, I sent a questionnaire to a number of Christian and Muslim scholars, asking them to respond to the following eight questions:

1. What is your definition of science and of religion?

2. Do you see any conflict between your definitions of these two concepts?

3. Where do you think there may be a conflict between these two?

4. What has been the grounds for the development of conflict between these two?

5. What has been the role of religion in the development of science in the West?

6. Can we have a religious science?

7. Can science dispense with religion ?

8. Can one separate the domains of activity of science and religion completely?

The first round of responses, consisting of thirty-two contributions, was published as Can Science Dispense With Religion? (1) The third edition of this book, published in 2005, has been expanded to include a total of sixty-two contributions from Christian and Muslim scientists, philosophers, and theologians.

When I received responses to my questionnaire, I was astonished to find that there is a great deal of similarity between the views of the scholars involved. Of course, at the science-religion and science-theology conferences that I had attended since early 1990's, I had noticed a lot of common views between the scientists committed to monotheistic religions, but the responses reflected in this volume went far beyond my expectations. Here, I shall give a brief analysis of the answers given to my questions, mentioning the extent of agreement and disagreement.

The Definition of Science and Religion

In the questionnaire, "science" meant the sciences of nature. The definitions given by respondents could be summarized in the following form: "Science is the systematic search for understanding of the way the natural world is structured and functions." (Ellis).

Byl believes that science involves much more than empirical observation and mathematical analysis. He refers to the observational aspects of science as science 1 and to the theoretical extrapolation and explanation of these observations as science 2.

According to Haught, science seeks quantitative knowledge of recurrent natural routines on the basis of which practical prediction is made. In doing so, it deliberately leaves out any adequate consideration of value, purpose, God, meaning, novelty, and subjectivity.

In the case of religion, the definitions given by the respondents were apparently different. But, all of their definitions of religion fell within one of the following categories:

* Religion is a response to the transcendent by which meaning [that underlies the physical world] is provided and human lives are transformed (Clayton, Fulljames).

* Religion is the right pattern of knowing and worshipping God (Bell).

* Religion is a way of life and a philosophy of life based on humanity of man and for guiding him to the belief that the universe has a Creator and Sustainer (Butt).

* Religion seeks to understand and to bind us to the scheme of things in which God is preeminent (H. Smith and Wintermans).

* Religion has to do with the ultimate good of man and is concerned foremost with the relation of man and God. It is based on a divine revelation (W. …

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