Religion and Science

Religion and Science need not be seen as opponents. This is especially so if some of the language they use is recognised as being figurative rather than literal. Religious people can only paint ‘pictures’ of their conception and experience of an unseen and indescribable divine realm. Scientists, in exploring the unseen and indescribable sub-atomic realm, use the language of mathematics, but can only paint ‘pictures’ when they try to relate that to the physical world. Jesus pictured as sitting in heaven at the right hand side of God is no more ‘real’ than an atom being pictured as a miniature ‘solar system’ with electrons orbiting a central nucleus. That’s just isn’t how things actually are. Let’s do a little bit of juxtaposition :

Religion : In the opening verses of the Hebrew Bible, the earth is pictured as being  ‘tohu and vohu’, which probably means desolate and empty. Buried under pitch darkness is an abyss of unknown depth – a limitless void. And yet it’s also a heaving ‘ocean’ with a wave torn surface, buffeted by a powerful wind like the beating wings of a hovering bird of prey. So it’s a dark, featureless void while, at the same time, a turbulent, churning chaos. There’s also a God there, though with no indication of when and how ‘he’ appeared. This God ‘speaks’, and order, light, matter, life, sentience and self-awareness come into being.

Science : The fundamental reality is a universal field, or ‘ocean’, of Energy. It is intangible. There’s nothing to be seen and, in that sense, there’s ’emptiness’ – we’re in the dark. And yet, this void can also be likened to a confusing chaos, a whirling storm of energy, out of which ‘particles’ emerge giving rise to atoms, molecules and the elements, and photons emerge giving rise to light and warmth. Rather than a voice that ‘speaks’, there are mathematical equations – ‘laws of nature’. No one can explain how it is they exist but, because they do, all that now is, has come into being.

Science and Religion are not the same. The first is primarily about measurable quantities, and tells us how things relate to one another. The second is primarily about immeasurable qualities, and suggests to us how we might best live. Religion can’t tell us what ‘God’ actually is. Science can’t tell us what ‘Energy’ actually is. They can only employ the language of mathematics and metaphor, of allegory and myth. They can only paint pictures, however beautiful or awesome some of those may be. 

How interesting it is, when a couple of pictures show some resemblance to one another. This suggests that something is being touched on that is deeper than in either on its own, which evokes thoughts of complementarity rather than contradiction. Albert Einstein said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” The New Testament says, “The Truth shall set you free.” With all due respect to Friedrich Nietzsche, it seems to me that we should keep searching for ‘the truth’, in every discipline, with open minds, unblinkered eyes, and unplugged ears, in a collective, collaborative and constructive endeavour.

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