When did science become the antithesis of religion?
I know the schism in thinking goes back millennia…sort of. Religion has allegedly hated science for ages but that isn’t really the case. Religion and science have largely been at worst indifferent to each other, if not closely related. Remember, many of the greatest scientists were religious people, either personally (like al-Khwarizmi) or professionally (like Mendel). The idea that there is some diametric opposition between the two is a very new construct, only a few centuries old (if even then). And the modern scientific community certainly doesn’t have any issues with religion. Many modern day scientists are still every bit as religious as their predecessors. So why does so much of the religious world not care for science these days?
Science is not a belief structure. Quite the opposite, science is an investigative system. Saying it is a belief structure is as valid as saying deductive reasoning is a belief structure (maybe not the best example, given the Sherlock Fandom these days). Anyway, science is a way of parsing out facts from assumptions. If you aren’t up on the scientific method, it basically boils down to 1) make an observation, 2) make the best guess you can as to why that observation may be, 3) come up with and test that guess, 4) using the results of the test, try to develop a theory around the whole thing, and 5) repeat again, this time with the benefit of the results of the previous test(s).
In an overgeneralization, science is trial-and-error and repeatability. It isn’t enough to be successful, that success must also be duplicated by others.
Slight tangent : one thing that bugs me endlessly in any debate on science is the (mis)use of the word, theory. In science, theory isn’t some hunch or guess, as we use the word interchangeably in casual parlance. In science, theory is only applied after rigorous testing has been applied to a hypothesis (the ‘best guess’ from step 2 from above) and arrived at by a pretty wide consensus. Theories aren’t explanations for what will happen, but complicated constructs that explain why and how a phenomenon occurs (a scientific law is what will happen, thus the Law of Gravity and the Theory of Gravity are related but distinct). Basically, in modern usage, we use the word theory as something of a starting point. In science, a theory is where you ultimately wish to arrive.
But I digress…
What does this have to do with religion? Not a damn thing. Which is why I’ve never understood why they are opposed. If anything, it seems like religion would welcome and embrace science as it had for ages prior. Remember, for much of human history, religion has been the seat of learning. Temples, Churches, Synagogues, and other places of worship have long been the hubs of literacy and learning. So from where did the schism come?
Without delving into anti-theism (which I’ve never seen much benefit of or validity to), it seems the only reason to oppose science is not on religious grounds but on political grounds. Science educates and illuminates. Science proves. Nothing is beyond reproach with science.
Politics, on the other hand, does have areas that are off-limits. Politics does bar and forbid. Sometimes, not without reason either. The Nazi and Tuskegee experiments didn’t happen in a vacuum. But in today’s current political climate – where whole swaths of elected officials are trying to bar citizens in the United States from voting, while actively disputing well-established fact as well as vilifying genuine experts in fields like education, finance, and medicine – one cannot help but see the forbidding of science, the downplaying of science, as a form of control on a malleable populace. Science, then, as an anti-religion, ceases to be a genuine construct or feud and more a scapegoat to distract from what’s really happening: politically-engineered ignorance.
Science is an investigative method. It is not a religion. It does not oppose religion. In fact, it has a lot to offer religion, and religion has a lot to offer science. The feud between the two, the breaking point, looks to be nothing but an age-old method of political distraction. When a nefarious and/or corrupt group wants to seize or maintain control, one way that works with terrifying efficiency and effectiveness is to focus all of the majority’s ills on something else. ‘They are to blame; I’m here to protect you from them’ is the cry of the would-be conqueror.
Science has no bone to pick with religion. They aren’t competitors and anybody who tells you otherwise should be suspected for having an ulterior motive to drive you away from a proven investigative method. Saying science opposes religion is like saying email opposes marriage or a dog opposes carpentry. When a person denounces and vilifies science, they aren’t denouncing or vilifying a different belief structure, they are denouncing knowledge. They are vilifying the pursuit of facts.
Can you give any other reason why someone would do that, except to maintain and weaponize ignorance?
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