Magazine article USA TODAY

SCIENCE vs. RELIGION: The Challenge of Interpretation

Magazine article USA TODAY

SCIENCE vs. RELIGION: The Challenge of Interpretation

Article excerpt

SCIENCE and technology have become the most ubiquitous of human creations, changing how we perceive our world and shaping the way we live. We live in a home built with materials fabricated by technology. The food we eat was likely grown and processed using the tools of technology. Wherever we travel, technology provides the mode of transportation. Much of our entertainment comes to us through the medium of technology. When we seek medical care, science and technology usually provide the instruments for diagnosis and treatment, and give us the means and the information to care for our health.

Science serves our innate need to know, helping us to deal effectively in some measure with the forces of nature. For many, it provides meaning and understanding in facing life's realities and challenges.

Science coexists and competes for influence with religion, which once dominated intellectual life and explained the world. Religion no longer has the preeminence it once had in the field of learning. Science gains influence each year as it brings forth discoveries, embraces new knowledge, and abandons old inadequate concepts.

Science and religion have their respective reasons for being. Each stand alone as independent human endeavors, having their own culture, body of knowledge, processes and procedures for verifying truth, and ways of serving humanity. They do not have the same viewpoints about the nature of the world or agree about how truth is perceived or confirmed.

Traditional religion endeavors to give life meaning and reason for existence in terms of its conceptions about God's actions and His authority as the guide for human behavior. A number of religions explain the existence of the world and the universe as due to a creative act of God. Science seeks to know the world and acquire understanding in terms of the laws of nature, gaining information by observing natural phenomena, testing and experimenting, and using reason in interpreting data.

Science earns acceptance by pragmatic demonstration of results. Most religions do not gain believers by demonstrating through evidence, as science does, the efficacy and validity of their claims. They rely, in large measure, on the cultural identification people have with traditions as they adopt the religion of their parents or community. Religions further have promotion techniques to convince uncommitted people, and those outside their cultural domain, to bring them into their fold.

Science is committed to furthering the advance of knowledge about the universe. It succeeds because the intellectual processes that guide those in the pursuit of scientific knowledge yield results which can be confirmed by independent investigators everywhere.

In contrast, the various religions do not have their beliefs confirmed by independent investigators. Instead, the authority of their belief system is independent of evidence the scientific community would regard as confirming. They promote their tenets in the context of idealized morality from God while, at the same time, promising rewards to those willing to believe.

Traditional religion makes no systemic effort to convey to its followers the findings of contemporary scholarship. However, it does have strict accountability to maintain consistency of its teaching with tradition. Under these conditions, tradition prevails as the measure of right and truth.

Science embraces a standard for verification based on evidence derived from the largest human perspectives and most comprehensive sources of information, as judged by thinking minds. In contrast, many religions demand conformity to their traditions irrespective of what critics may say or the evidence obtained outside of their traditions may indicate.

The confirmation process in science involves giving the mind free rein to look at all the evidence without emotional constraints to follow any specific preconceived point of view. …

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