This was my first post on 3tags. A friend introduced me to the platform. I have written many posts on many different sites. Because of this, I struggled with the decision over what to write. Should I post a general introduction? Or should I simply copy and paste one of my existing articles? I chose to provide an excerpt from a book that I have been in the process of writing. While most of my articles are political in nature, and this does not address politics, it does speak volumes about the way I view the world and the way in which I interact with others. So here is the chapter on “The Reconciliation of Science and Religion”, which will probably change by the time the book is published.
View Through a Window
Freeman Dyson once said, “Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete.” Neither science nor religion necessarily provide a full picture, nor do they have to be antagonistic to one another. Some people prefer the view from one window, some prefer the view from the other. Many have decided to look through both windows, and see an even larger view.
Painting in the Dark
I will give my personal view as an empiricist, and why empiricists can remain as such, while still not outright rejecting religion. The window analogy is a very good start. But let me expand on this a little. Suppose we are painters, and we are trying to paint “reality.” It is the windows addressed above which show us every view of reality. As an empiricist, I choose to paint the view seen from a certain window. But even though I have no specific interest in the views, as seen from these other windows, I do not place blinds over them. If I were to cover up all of the other windows, I would not have enough light to paint the view from the window that I chose. Those who denounce either science or religion, and those who try to perpetuate the antagonism between them, are essentially painting in the dark. And while the view they see may be quite beautiful, their painting will be anything but.
I will admit, and perhaps this is just my bias on the matter, that I do not think that there would be much to paint, if we only viewed the world through a religious window. In fact, such a view would probably make no sense. What does the window show us about building cars, about constructing the massive infrastructure of the internet, about the economy, about sources of energy which fuel all of the things we take for granted in the modern world? Clearly, those who are religious are including some of the landscape that I see and paint, in their own works. But many also reject a large component of this same landscape.
Evolution, the age of the universe, and events following the the big bang are all components ignored by certain painters. This is where much of the antagonism, between religion and science, comes into play. Now, there are two components to a religion: the core religious beliefs (those which evade empirical investigation), and the patterns of behavior associated with those beliefs. Those patterns can include beliefs, which are inconsistent with science. Creationism is a prime example. Should religious people hold onto these beliefs? That is up to the individual person. It is not my painting to paint.
However, temporarily pushing those beliefs aside, and only addressing beliefs that are not inconsistent with science, while also using actual science to try to falsify claims, would produce religions which are consistent with the scientific theories of the universe, while still allowing people to answer questions which are currently beyond science. Would this not produce a robust painting? This already occurs in some religions, and is even beginning to occur in Christianity.
Take the Japanese for example. They are very open to keeping their religious beliefs consistent with our scientific theories of reality. If a belief in their religion is falsified, they simply reject the falsified belief and move on. This is true, even though the religion of the average Japanese person is an amalgamation of Shinto, Buddhism, and Christianity, or perhaps it is because of the highly syncretic nature of the Japanese religion, that the people are so willing to accept new ideas and eliminate old ones, as science brings to light new information.
Responsibility of the Scientist
On the scientific end of the spectrum, deficiencies in understanding science and its limits, by scientists, can be overcome through a greater push, for those pursing a formal education in science, to take philosophy courses, especially courses related to the philosophy of science and metaphysics. Many scientists do not know or understand Popper’s formulation of science, even as they discuss falsification. Instead they use a hodgepodge of methodology which “works” but makes little sense. How can we make any reconciliation between science and religion, if we do not even understand what science is?
Furthermore, a realization that we do not know whether or not science can ever lead us to all of the answers must be reached and we must reject scientism and dogmatic theorism. Scientists, and those who follow science and empiricism, also need to stop thinking that they are superior to everyone else. This sense of arrogance and righteousness does not help with the reconciliation process.