Do not mix spirituality with science

Ludwik Kowalski, Professor Emeritus
Montclair State University
New Jersey, USA


Can science and religion coexist peacefully? This is a good question to start an interesting discussion.

Person 1: Did God create us on his image? Did we create God on our image?

Person 2: The answer is “yes” to each of these questions.

Person 3: That's an interesting thought, I'd like to know how both could be simultaneously true. There are thousands of verifiable instances of humans creating new religions, and none of the former option.

Person 2: The first question is theological (not scientific); the second question is sociological (scientific). Theological questions are not answered by using science and scientific questions are not answered by using theology. Likewise, theologians say that the universe was created in seven days, as revealed in holy books. But astronomers say that they have evidence that the universe has been changing for billions of years. Scientific methodology is not used to validate holy books and holy books are not used to validate scientific claims. Mixing science with religion is not useful.

Person 3: I think that science can be used to test the claims made in holy books. If the claims made in holy books were correct, we would expect scientific inquiry to support them. Yes, holy books contain pronouncements about the physical world. Such pronouncements should not be taken literally. They represent incorrect beliefs of our ancestors. Faith and science were not yet separate disciplines. The world was not created in seven days, six thousand years ago. Theologians know this; many of them do not take such stories literally.

Person 2: Holy books do not define God in terms of material attributes. The best a scientist can do is to confirm that God is not a material object. But that would not be a surprise to sophisticated theologians; they have already accepted this--God is a spiritual entity.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Questions asked by Persons 1 and 2 were mine, other questions were from the Internet strangers. My goal was to generate more Internet comments, and to learn from what other people think. I was overwhelmed by the number of replies, some of which are shown below. They made me think but they did not enable me to write the intended essay. Instead of abandoning the project I decided to share selected message, as received, and add my own comments. I hope that this will be useful to some people.

Replies and comments

What follows are comments made by strangers and my insertions (in red).

Comment 1
...The answer "YES" to the first question and "YES" to the second question is a mental incoherent developed by a person trying to play semantics. It is like asking "Does cat catch mouse? Does 'mouse' catch cat?" and that person answered "YES YES" because he think "mouse" is a dog named "mouse. ..."

No, the “cat and the mouse” is not a good analogy. The accusation of mental incoherence would be valid to a person who rejects the idea of peaceful coexistence of science and faith--a person who wants one area of inquiry to win over the other. Does it have to be this way? Who benefits from such conflicts? “God created us in his image” is spiritually acceptable. And “we created on God in our image” is physically acceptable; God belongs to the spiritual world, not to the physical world. Our ancestors believed that God is a material entity but we do not have to accept this.

A year ago my dentist was very frightened, after a diagnosis of aggressive cancer. Six months later I saw her again, still working. But her head was covered; she had lost her hair. But she was very different yesterday--her hair had grown back. I am fine, she said, because God is in my heart and because he does not want me to die. How can anyone have doubt that God exists in her spiritual sphere? Telling her that God does not exist would be just as arrogant as telling Galileo that his astronomical findings should be ignored.

Comment 2
Religion is the science of our distant ancestors. ... Attempts to qualify or defend religious truth claims with scientific terminology are not only inaccurate but I would say demonstrably fraudulent both by the standards of science and by the letter of the religious scriptures themselves. There needs to be a line in the sand on this issue. ...

Comment 3
... Clearly, most humans “mix” theistic precepts quite often with both secularist values, as well as scientific idea.  The inconsistency does not seem to bother them all that much...

Comment 4
You wrote: "... If I believe that the purple dragon will build me a space ship and take me to the planet he made just for me, no amount of faith in this idea will change the fact (proven by observation) that I in fact have not found myself in possession of a spaceship made just for me to travel to a special planet. ..." I agree. I was referring to the concept of God, not to poetry (psalms), glorification, or "events" described in holy books. Some of these events are no longer taken literally, even by some theologians. Many theologians are not hostile to science; many scientists are not hostile to theology. That is how it should be--the more the better.

Comment 5
You wrote “We have absolutely no reason to accept the premise that there is even such a thing as a ‘spiritual entity.’ What makes us, us is our personality, our thoughts, our minds. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that a mind can exist outside of a physical brain. So start with that...if you can even offer some kind of plausible theory as to how a mind...what makes an entity sentient...can exist outside of some kind of physical, MATERIAL, brain....then we can move to the next step of asking if God....or any entity...actually exists.” By spiritual entity I meant God, not “what makes us us.”

The “soul” is also not a material entity, as imagined by our ancestors. My arguments are based on the assumption that we live in two words, material and spiritual. The brain is a material entity.

Comment 6
I would argue many religions disagree. Mormonism and Islam both came to be by God issuing "orders" to people. But I agree that mixing science with religion is not useful. Person2 wrote: “Holy books do not define God in terms of material attributes. The best a scientist can do is to confirm that God is not a material object. But that would not be a surprise to sophisticated theologians; they have already accepted this--God is a spiritual entity.” God is not natural, however he does have an effect on the natural world. Therefore we should expect to come across some sort of inconsistencies in the natural world which would give evidence to a supernatural. Even then, if we did, they could simply be a matter of our own ignorance and not god. So, its a tough question.

Yes, the idea of living in two worlds, spiritual and physical, will generate many difficult questions. Are these two worlds influencing each others, and to what extent? That is one of such questions. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to answer.

Comment 7

Person2 wrote: “...theologians say that the universe was created in seven days, as revealed in holy books.” Not all theologians. Many liberal Christians do not read the Bible literally, and "creationism" is very rare among modern Jews. Person2 also wrote that “Scientific methodology is not used to validate holy books and holy books are not used to validate scientific claims.” That is true, which is why mixing science with religion is not useful. Science cannot be done with an eye to supernatural intervention, or we would never have learned that thunder isn't the sound of the gods' bowling alley -- and we would still be dying of diseases that are easily prevented and cured, assuming that illness and death were the will of God. A scientist may or may not be personally religious, but his or her religion cannot directly be applied to the scientific work or it ceases to be science; but then, that's true of a given scientist's politics, too. Cf. Trofim Denisovitch Lysenko. Science must be objective and free of philosophical, political or religious influence.

How can I, a nuclear physicist, disagree with this?

Comment 8

Yes, mixing science with religion is not useful. Science can only answer falsifiable questions; Faith is belief in the absence of evidence. A lot of otherwise intelligent people have a lot of misconceptions about science, and I did too.

Comment 9

The notion that theological questions are not answered using science is nonsense. Religion makes claims about God. Some of these claims are falsifiable thru testing. Some of them are falsifiable thru application of logic. As science progresses, the number of claims made about God that can not be answered by science dwindles. Religion originated as what people had BEFORE science as a means to answer questions beyond direct perception. Religion offers narrative concerning creation, concerning the nature of the world, and concerning the causes of real world events. These narratives can be tested.

Yes, indeed, many of ancient beliefs, such as flat earth, age of the universe, etc. were shown to be wrong. That is why I think that it is useful to recognize that God should not be associated with beliefs of our ancestors. S/he is not a material entity. This is just as important as recognizing that scientific findings, such as moons of Jupiter or process of evolution of species, should not be rejected when they disagree with holy books.

One famous religious assertion is that God works miracles and answers prayers. This is a testable hypothesis. Proper scientific studies demonstrate that praying has zero effect on outcomes. Ergo, science just disproved an theological assertion. God does not answer prayers. Religion was invented to provide answers to the questions that terrified early human cultures. These answers were made up.

Prayers might not result in miracles but they often help people to deal with difficult situations. This is one of the topics to address, in thinking about the interactions between the two worlds, spiritual and material.

With the advent of science, MOST of these questions can now be addressed experimentally. Floods and droughts are Not divine retribution. Disease is Not the result of witchcraft. Saying God is not a material object is meaningless as you have NO evidence for what God actually is or is not. I can as readily say that, because immaterial things simply do not exist, God does not exist, and my statement has the overwhelming weight of evidence behind it, since all things that do not exist show zero evidence of material existence.

I also do not think that God is a material entity.

Saying it is beyond the purview of science to address these religious issues is simply a delusional dodge. The religious claim God has an EFFECT on the material world, on material existence. Fine, demonstrate that effect thru proof. Anything that has effect in the material world is the subject of scientific inquiry.

This is another topic to address in discussing interactions between the two worlds, spiritual and material.

Most people are neither professional scientists nor professional theologians. Some of them believe only what theologians say, while others believe only what scientists say. Some accept the authority of both and some are indifferent to both. Peaceful coexistence, between science and faith, is threatened by those who attack theism pretending to be scientists, and by those who attack science pretending to be theologians. It is also threatened by politicians who exploit people’s beliefs (to promote wars and revolutions).

Many scientists and many theologians believe that peaceful coexistence between these two fields is possible, at least in principle. Yes, methods of validation in these fields are very different (authority of holy books versus reproducible results from experiments and observations). Methodology of validation used by theologians does not apply to the material world and methodology used by scientists does not apply to the spiritual world. That is what should be recognized by all. Mutual respect is possible and desirable. What is wrong with trying to promote this idea. What is gained by endless fighting?

Comment 10

Yes, there are many theological questions. I am a physicist, not a theologian. Holy books, by the way, are also moral authorities to many people. But that is also a different topic. My point is that mixing religion with science is not useful. Many theologians are not hostile to science; many scientists are not hostile to theology. That is how it should be--the more the better.

Comment 11

... If science and religion don't mix, it is because they have radically different goals, and incommensurable "methodologies" (or would be seen to be so, if the latter could be reduced to a "method" at all). Religion, but not science, seeks to confer meaning to life through locating the individual within a narrative involving higher, superhuman purposes. Causal explanation always takes a backseat to teleological explanation. Religion not so much attempts to "explain" the universe as to justify it. Modern science, by contrast, methodologically precludes teleological narrative from the outset. It eschews any discourse of ultimate purposes in favor of testable causal accounts of phenomena. A supernatural explanation is, by definition, outside the scope of experimental confirmation or falsification. When confronted with such a "theory," there is nothing for scientist to do, no experiments to run, no research program to pursue. This is why Intelligent Design will never be an attractive alternative for natural scientists: it has zero theoretical fecundity, a point fundamentalists and the politicians who pander to them never seem to grasp.

Yes, methodologies are different. But I do not think that science and faith have “radically different goals.” The goal, in each case, is to improve our lives, both materially and spiritually. The word “supernatural” probably stands for “non-materialistic.” Both physical worlds, material and spiritual, are part of nature, according to my terminology.

Comment 12

God means something more sophisticated that the old man in the sky, rewarding the good and punishing the bad like a cosmic santa Claus. It is not what proselytizers tell us, or what tells terrorists to bombs buildings and trains. Abandoning theology to the credulous [those who believe really] and zealous undercuts the very real benefits it can have for the rest of us. Belief was never the point: Religion is not about what happens after we die. It is about what happens when we live: how just we are,how kind and how we infuse our lives with a sense of gratitude and mystery. To throw out such powerful spiritual technology because we do not like the language in which it is expressed approaches the level of tragedy. Theology should not be left to dogmatists--to those who cling to dogma precisely because of the insecurity of fanaticism. There is a wide spectrum of belief. To some God does not exist--God is Existence itself. To others, God is known in the forces of eros, or justice, or both.

Comment 13

The two don't mix because religion is largely subjective and science is largely objective. You might as well try to scientifically prove that roses are pretty. The world was created in 6 days 6000 years ago. If you provide "proof" that the world is 4 billion years old a religionist might say "yeah - but we don't know how long a 'day' was when god was creating the earth - (which is a good point). It might have been 800,000,000 years!" and so on.

Pure folly. Leave religion to the "Believers" because you will never be able to scientifically "prove" that god is - or is not - 'x'. Leave science to the scientists because you will never be able to "prove" that god did 'y'. It's a waste of time. Although it's certainly an entertaining way to socialize with other philosophy nerds over a joint and an espresso.

Comment 14

Religion can and should be examined in the light of science. If your beliefs are contradicted by empirical evidence, you need to rethink your beliefs. Religion can be used to fill in questions not answered by science, and in that regard they do not mix -- however, there are fewer and fewer of these questions. There was a time when it was not believed that science could tell us where we came from, or where the universe came from, and religion stepped in to answer those questions. But science now CAN tackle those questions, and religion must retreat further into the shadows.

Yes, theologians should not use their methods of validation to answer questions concerning the material world. And scientists shouldn’t use their methods to answer questions about the spiritual world. But I see nothing wrong with people who are both scientists and theologians, as long as they do not mix the two fields of investigation.

Comment 15

To the extent that religion makes claims about the nature of reality, those claims can reasonably be examined and compared to existing fields of knowledge.

For instance, the Christian doctrine of Original Sin states death did not occur prior to the first human; but evolutionary theory is clear that death did in fact occur long before the first human. There appears to be no theological middle ground here, it is either one or the other. ... The fact is that holy books are often used to make claims about the nature of reality, even though such claims are more properly left to science. It is normally not those using science who are stepping on the toes of religious faith - it is more often the religious who seek to force an unscientific circular viewpoint into the square hole of the scientific method.

Yes, the two worlds, science and belief, should not mix.

Comment 16

Religion should be the preserve of the things that aren't inherently empirical. I know I risk being kicked out of Secular Gang, but I don't want every question to be answered purely by empiricism. I honestly believe there are some questions, issues and concepts that function outside it. Religion and Science are different things, they have different roles and work in different ways. They can coexist, and they can support each other, but I think this current obsession that we have to make them fight is a serious mistake, and generally something that the knobs on both sides are responsible for. The danger of putting them too close together is that science becomes a way of testing belief, and religion becomes a way of filling in the gaps between proof. This cheapens both of them.

Yes, it is “a serious mistake,” and yes, “it cheapens both of them.”

Comment 17

There was a time when it was not believed that science could tell us where we came from, or where the universe came from, and religion stepped in to answer those questions. But science now CAN tackle those questions, and religion must retreat further into the shadows. Ha ha ha! You will never be able to say "where we came from" by mixing something in a test-tube or looking through a radio-telescope, for instance. You atheists don't fool me!

Comment 18

Whether we evolved from ape-like creatures or not, it does not tell us where we came from or what we're here for!

Comment 19

In terms of what your post says, I completely agree with Person 2 in his or her first statement. God created us in HIS image--we don't know what that image actually was--and we, in turn, created Him in our image...because it was the easiest for us to understand at the time. If a being is supposed to be extremely long-lived--if not eternal, because eternity is a concept beyond human comprehension--then a day could be thousands, or even millions of years, to their reckoning.

Comment 20

This always seems like a cop-out to me. It's admitting there's no logic or reason for believing in god, so we'll just make up some special rules that basically define it into existence. No evidence - no problem, spiritual beings don't require evidence because I say so. Contradictory attributes - no problem, mystery is a part of the spirit world so just believe because I say so.

If you have to totally divorce god from reality like this, what's the practical benefit of believing in it in the first place. It's obviously not able to survive here in the real world (it's only barely hanging on in theology-land) so it really is just a bunch of mental gymnastics to convince yourself of something you really really wish were true.

Spiritual claims also require evidence, but not material evidence. You are free not to believe, and others should be free to believe. What is gained by harassing them?

Comment 21

Person2 wrote: “Holy books do not define God in terms of material attributes. The best a scientist can do is to confirm that God is not a material object. But that would not be a surprise to sophisticated theologians; they have already accepted this--God is a spiritual entity.”

I would agree if holy books limited themselves to descriptions of God. But they don't. Almost all of them make claims in other areas that science can validate or invalidate. Science is a method deliberately designed to be useful. Holy books are not. If anything, science is always useful and holy books never are. Even when a holy book includes some nugget of truth, its validation must come through science and philosophy which are independent of the content of any book.

As I wrote earlier, theologians should no longer make claims about physical reality. Holy books in the 21 century should not be interpreted in the same way as they were one thousand years ago.

Comment 22

Most people seem to forget that most religious texts are allegorical.

Comment 23

According to Person2: “Holy books do not define God in terms of material attributes. The best a scientist can do is to confirm that God is not a material object. But that would not be a surprise to sophisticated theologians; they have already accepted this--God is a spiritual entity.” I would agree if holy books limited themselves to descriptions of God. But they don't. Almost all of them make claims in other areas that science can validate or invalidate.

Science is a method deliberately designed to be useful. Holy books are not. If anything, science is always useful and holy books never are. Even when a holy book includes some nugget of truth, its validation must come through science and philosophy which are independent of the content of any book.

Yes, interpretations of holy books should be changed. I suspect that some theologians are working on this. It will probably be a difficult and slow process, considering the accumulated tradition. But this is necessary, to create preconditions for peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.

Comment 24

... So since you are the person who has cited "miracles" as evidence for some sort of deity (several times on different topics), where is your objective, scientific evidence for such things then? Science and in particular evidence to you seems to be totally one way.... you expect non theists to produce evidence to DISPROVE propositions - such as the existence of some sort of "God", or of "miracles" - which you yourself have totally failed to produce so much as a shred of evidence for. Thereby of course kinda conveniently turning the entire scientific process on it's head, since if someone proposes the existence of something (such as "God" or "miracles"), the onus is then on them to produce evidence in support of it... not on everybody else to somehow disprove evidence which no-one has actually produced. In so doing, you're both applying a total double standard (demanding evidence which you yourself have totally failed to produce), you're also demonstrating a total lack of understanding of scientific process, in actual fact.

One should recognize that scientific methodology is not applicable to either validate or refute spiritual claims, and vice versa. Why do I keep repeating this? Because I want everyone to accept this position. Each comments helps me to see it from a slightly different perspective.

Comment 25

Kowalski wrote: “Yes, there are many theological questions. I am a physicist, not a theologian. Holy books, by the way, are also moral authorities to many people. But that is also a different topic. My point is that mixing religion with science is not useful. Many theologians are not hostile to science; many scientists are not hostile to theology. That is how it should be--the more the better.” I can not agree with this.

More Delusional and dogmatic belief is never better...The magical religious mindset is the enemy of rational thinking... and in a society utterly dependent on technology and science to survive, we can increasingly ill afford a significant percentage of the population to be incapable of understanding evidentiary argument, because they have been told that you don't NEED evidence to support a position or a policy.

The truth is the religious folks who 'get along' with science are simply not very religious, or do not really understand nor endorse the teachings of their faith. In which case... why bother labeling yourself as something you are not? Convenience? To get along with the neighbors or family? And the scientist who embrace religion are either not very good scientists, or also doing so only out of convenience.

Accepting unproved or unprovable assertions as true without evidence is bad. Its how we get poisoned with nonsense concepts like the 'invisible hand of the market" and other absolutist idiocy that literally threatens our survival. There is a direct correlation between how strongly a person believes in Christian doctrine, and their skepticism about global warming. Between the intensity of their faith, and their conservative support of disastrous political policy like cutting taxes on the rich.

These people are easily manipulated by fear and hyperbole to support agendas destructive to their own, and everybody else's lives. Sorry, folks... I am a deeply spiritual person... but religion, in the modern world, is a force for repression, ignorance, and authoritarianism. It is pst time to abandon magical thinking and faith in the imaginary. Critical thinking is what we need. Its what will save us.

I do not think that “religious mindset is the enemy of rational thinking.” I have met excellent scientists who also believed in God. You are right that evidence is needed in all areas of investigation, and that educating people in that way is desirable. But kinds of evidence in two worlds (material and spiritual) are different. The concept --the “invisible hand of the market”--was introduced by Adam Smith. My understanding is that this model of reality was very useful to economists.

Thank you for reminding us about the political dimension of our material world, Religious commitments have often been used by politicians. This is an important topic to consider, in the context of peaceful coexistence of science and faith. Religion is not only Theism; it is also a social structure, except in some cases. My intent is to focus on an idealized world without political and economic problems. This is already challenging enough. Once we agree that theologists and scientists can coexist peacefully, then we can start addressing other aspects of the world in which we live. I know my limitations.

Comment 26

If the Bible is wrong, how did the writer of Genesis know that the plants came before the Sun was placed in the sky.
Comment 27

Why should religion and science be competitive to each others? Each are matter of different field. Do religion limit science?

Comment 28

You wrote: “ ... As John Stuart Mill summarized, ‘No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion.’ ... Consider the following statement: “There are many swans in my area. I saw about one thousand of them; not a single one was black. I conclude that the probability of seeing a black swan in my area is very very small." Is this an acceptable conclusion?

Comment 29

Plenty of evidence exists in NDE accounts to establish that a consciousness can exist outside of a body. A phenomenon experienced by many extreme skiers is to float out of the body and watch yourself skiing. I've experienced it dozens of times, almost always on the most extreme slopes. I literally watch myself from above the slope. It's a very cool experience. The relaxation felt is complete.

Logical minds will look to discredit or explain away both of the above. And, they will convince themselves that they are right. But, logical minds sometimes worship logic itself, demanding all of human experience to bow down to logic. As such, sometimes logical minds embrace and proselytize the religion of logic, a verifiable religion as some of their tenets are taken on faith alone. Such as, no one has direct knowledge of God. Or, no evidence exists to suggest a consciousness can exist outside of a body.

Comment 30

Person2 wrote: Holy books do not define God in terms of material attributes. The best a scientist can do is to confirm that God is not a material object. But that would not be a surprise to sophisticated theologians; they have already accepted this--God is a spiritual entity.” But what does it mean to say something is a "spiritual entity?" The stuff of thought? An idea?

I wish I knew how to answer. Ask a theologian. They spend years debating various aspects of the spiritual world. But do not expect them to describe God in terms of physical attributes, such as mass, height, shape, color, etc. Spirituality is God, and everything associated with God. My basic assumption is that scientific attitude toward our material world, and belief in God, can coexist peacefully. Neither believers nor nonbelievers should be ridiculed. That should be a spiritual commandment.

Comment 31

You asked about "spiritual entity." What is it? In the context of this thread, it means “metaphysical,” as Aristotle would say. What is a better label for concepts which are outside of our understanding? Neither scientists nor theologists say that they know and understand everything.

Both scientists and theologians must accept the idea that their methods of validations are not acceptable outside their own worlds. Is this too much to ask in order to create peaceful coexistence? I do not think so. The number of topics to study, in each world, as you say, is practically endless.

Comment 32

... Science has been taught as "facts" rather than models that we use to explain physical observations.  This is the same way that religion is taught.  Once we disconnect science from being just facts, the problem of conflicts between religion and science goes away.  Religion is revealed, while science is constructed by us as a rational explanation. ...  I saw both sides of the coin in my brother.  He flipped from a liberal atheist to a conservative Fundamentalist.  His previous way of thinking was open to various ideas, and he would discuss things.  Now he tells you that the schools must teach the "truth".  Of course he means his truth. ...

Comment 33

You wrote: “... I think it is more interesting that atheists spend so much time trying to apply scientific standards, often erroneously, to debunk rather than confirm or deny. ... Science is all about objectivity. It doesn't care whether there is a God or not, or whether God or something else caused something. ...”

Most physicists would say that theories are models of objective reality. Reality is infinitely complex and mathematical models are only useful approximations. Here is a simple illustration. What is light? According to Newton, light consists of tiny particles. This model was consistent with what he knew about light (it's propagation). But it was not consistent with what became known in the 19th century. A new model was develop--light was said to be mechanical waves in ether. This model was consistent not only with what was known to Newton but also with diffraction, discovered much later by Young. The second model was subsequently replaced by the third one, after the electromagnetic nature of light was recognized. Models of reality are not arbitrary; in order to be useful, a model must be based of experimental facts known to scientists.

Comment 34

Referring to science and religion, Stephen Jay Gould wrote: "The methods of one are inappropriate for the studies of the another's problems."

Comment 35

X wrote: “. . . You don't have to abandon Christ while leaving the church. As the old saying goes, ‘don't throw the baby out with the bath water’. Just my opinion.” That is a wise observation; it applies to all kinds believes. But how to decide what to keep and what to abandon? That is not simple. Abandoning the whole thing is much easier.

Comment 36

Science and religion are often considered to be on different planes. One represents reality and the other represents fantasy. There is no way to combine logic and superstition. It's like comparing apples and oranges.

Comment 37

I think a definition of "religion" would be helpful. How about, an working definition of what things are, and why they are?

As such, one need not believe in anything supernatural to have a religion. Some scientists treat science as a "religion." Atheists are the biggest pretenders of all, for they accept, on faith, that God doesn't exist. Atheism is a religion.

Some religious people don't get along with scientists. Some scientists don't get along with some religious people (using standard definitions here, waiting tables). Some draw inspiration from both religion and science. Some see religion and science, in their purest form, as a quest for truth. True science and religion are not mutually contradictory, imo.

Comment 38

Religion and science are innately incompatible:

Science begins with evidence and works towards a conclusion. Religion begins with a conclusion (such as the existence of God) then looks for evidence to support the presupposition.

Religion is based on dogma. Science does not make absolute claims. (although,being human,some scientists might)

Religion and science are compatible if and only if there is no conflict with dogma. When that occurs,religion always chooses dogma , and can be rabidly anti-science.

Some examples; Galileo, Giordano Bruno, stem cell research, even the use of condoms to help prevent AIDS.

How can these two methodologies be compatible, or not compatible, when we accept that each is valid in its own world only? Each side gives away something and peaceful coexistence becomes possible. What do they give away? An arrogant claim--”my methodology has no limits of validity.”?

Comment 39

I agree that mixing science and religion are not useful. They operate with fundamentally different methodologies that are completely incompatible.

Religion never will be able to live up to the strict standards that comprise the scientific method, so scientists will never take religious claims seriously, as they pertain to reality.

When scientists first started making assertions regarding reality, theologians were furious, as they believed that the nature of reality was their domain. This conflict started a war over who had authority about describing the nature of reality. Science won, centuries ago. Religion has been retreating ever since. The masses still have not grasped the implications. Science continues to advance, religion continues to retreat. No amount of fuzzy logic, poor comprehension, or circular justifications will ever change this.

This retreat (of theologians from the world of science) is as desirable as the retreat of scientists from the spiritual world of theologians (trying to either validate or refute the existence of God).

Comment 40

Define religious habits and especially ways of knowing, compare w/ scientific habits and ways of knowing and you'll find they are incompatible.

They are neither compatible nor not compatible--see my remark below Comment 38.

Comment 41
Like John, I believe we do a grave disservice to science by saying transparently ridiculous things like "there is no evidence for Intelligent Design."  Those who subscribe to ID see virtually nothing BUT evidence for their beliefs.  The only relevant point is that ID is manifestly NOT science because it is inconceivable that anyone would ever find evidence AGAINST it.

Comment 42
I agree that religious methodologies are not appropriate for science. However, I am getting a little annoyed with some people on this thread painting all people with participate in religion as somehow anti-science. As I have posted before, thinking about the existence of deities plays little part in my life. I do work at a Catholic college. The Catholic church, for the most part, is highly supportive of science. At the upper levels, the Vatican Observatory has been a constant contributor to serious astronomy. Down in the trenches, the church supports the teaching of evolution and never gets involved when our biology instructors discuss human reproduction and the growth of the human fetus. Their feeling is that one can only have an honest Faith if you are educated to all the alternatives. I am amazed how some on this list who profess to be so liberal (in the classic sense) and free thinking can come out with this knee-jerk bigotry regarding religion.

Comment 43
Yes, many religions accept that science has added to human knowledge and have adapted to findings.  In my classes as I talk to students about science and religion I say that each has its role.  Religion serves many functions that science doesn't address.  Really, they are two different human endeavors.  Religious people should not be attacked out of hand for being religious.  You can be a scientist and accept the findings of science and still belong to the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. faiths. Others should not be so quick to judge.

Comment 44
.... I would suggest separating RELIGION and THEOLOGY.  The former tends to be the dogmatic, ritualistic endeavors many of us might characterize as 'superstitious nonsense' while the latter is the much more intellectual approach to the topic of theism.   It is strong belief in RELIGION that many here (if I interpret correctly) would question in as far as being able to separate such belief from one's scientific activities.

Comment 45
I think that I have carefully pointed out that there certainly are differences in religious attitudes toward science.  But at present the anti-science religious groups have a disproportionate influence.  If it weren't for the Supreme Court, probably about 1/3 of the states would ban teaching of evolution, or at very least make ID or Creationism a mandated alternative.  TX would be in the forefront there, and they have inordinate influence on textbooks. ....

Yes, the political dimension should eventually be addressed. But see my remark below the Comment 25.

Comment 46
Actually Newton was quit religious and quite successful.  He did however give up on certain problems and say that God arranges them properly.  Later others "did not require that hypothesis". Physics does have beliefs that we don't have proof of.  We do assume that experiments are in principle always repeatable.  We assume that the laws we find on Earth are obeyed in the entire universe...

Comment 47
As to science, there are beliefs, convictions, or paradigms which scientists use.  Indeed there there are no absolute proofs of many of these things.  So this is certainly in some ways similar to religion.  I already named that we have faith that experiments are in principle repeatable, and that the laws we create are applicable to other places in the universe under the same conditions.  Einstein had faith that a beautiful theory had to be correct.

The problem is when one tries to explicitly use religious beliefs to generate the laws and models of science, or when you use science to prove or disprove religion.  The conflicts occur when the religion claims that specific writings are absolute descriptions of physical reality.  This sort of conflict happened with Galileo and Copernicus, and some groups have not learned the lesson that came out of that situation.

So both religion and science have moved on. But some churches have retained an absolutist Fundamentalist view of their writings.  This comes up against the scientific views and conflict ensues.  To a certain extent this can be defused by teaching students that science creates models of the physical world not "truth".

Comment 48

Of course they can, not all religion is fundamentalist bullshit...

Comment 49

They can coexist, but I don't think religion will let science reach it's full potential.
To coexist peacefully means “not to fight with each other.” It does not mean that every scientist must be a theist (believer in God) and every theist must be a scientist.

Comment 50

Religion and science are beliefs and, like all beliefs, they don't mean shit unless they're yours. The line is crossed when people start forcing beliefs onto each other.
In other words, theologians should not validate/refute scientific claims and scientists should not validate/refute spiritual claims. Debates among scientists, and debates among theologians are most often very useful. Civilized debates usually lead to progress, in each area.

Comment 51:

I don't see why "scientific" people and "religious" people think their "truths" conflict so much (or why these types of discussions are over-generalized so much). Science and religion are two sides of the same coin in regards to truth; science is attempting to answer "how" and religion is attempting to answer "why". Neither has, nor will probably ever, have a complete answer. The value of both is that they can provide great clarity and insight to those who seek it, while the danger of both is that they can cloud the waters and isolate people for those who seek to do so. ...

Yes, “two sides of the same coin.” Science and faith complement each other. That is a very important point. And yes, science and faith can be used for wrong purposes. But please note that scientists and theologians share the same language. Reserving the “why” word for one group of investigators and the “how” word to another, makes no sense to me. Both words are intimately linked with the ideas of truth and causality. A scientist may ask “why does the speed of a falling stone increase”? And a theologian might ask “how do we justify prayers”? What is is wrong with this? But that is a side issue, in our context.

Comment 52:

I know both 'how' and 'why' of solar eclipses, if I stand in front of you, you will not be able to see what's behind me. The 'how' and 'why' contain no science nor religion, they're just bloody obvious. As for how do we cure Malaria. That is not necessarily but most likely a scientific question, why we do it is a philosophical question, encompassing meta-ethics, politics and ideology. Religion doesn't enter into it.

Comment 53:

... Putting the answer to the final "why" in "the province of religion" is debatable. It certainly isn't the province of science, but religion has little to contribute here either, other than more or less ancient man-made myths. Since those answers are speculation of the most idle kind, I would not give religion the comfort of thinking that they have found an answer to a question that science cannot. To assume that religion rules here is, just as accepting a "god of the gaps" argument, a dead end. Historically, science has repeatedly moved the limit of the final question down the road, each time pushing the "province of religion" before it. It seems clear to me that religion has nothing of value to offer as an answer the final "why" question, any more than science does--less, in fact, since we can assume that the efforts of science will in fact move the final "why" further along with time.

Comment 54:
AFAIK, either Science or most (if not all) religions do try to answer both the hows & the whys without any help of each other. Modern scientists regularly consider that the scientific research will never end; on the other hand, several religious groups ostensibly consider that they (i.e. each one of them) already have the whole truth. That said, as a rule of thumb, Religion and Science should never ever be mixed.

Comment 55:

Someone wrote: “I am an atheist and I don't believe in God or religion. That being said, I would like to have a debate about God existing and whether or not religion is correct. My point is there is NO proof of God. All religions are based on faith, which is belief that's not based on proof. I am sure somebody is going to bring up "Well the bible said [blank] is true..." This would be an example of circular reasoning, you cannot prove something by what you are trying to prove.“

The word proof belongs to mathematics (logic). To prove a statements means to show that it is consistent with already accepted statements. But mathematics, which plays a very important role, is not science, in my opinion. The ultimate validation of a scientific claim is in the results of experiments and observations. Logic alone is not sufficient. God is not a material entity. What kind of proof are you asking for? Every theologian, even every atheist, would probably agree with you that religions are based on faith. That is a starting point, like an axiom in mathematics.

To accept is not the same thing as to tolerate. Mutual tolerance is sufficient for peaceful coexistence of science and faith. Some people are comfortable with believing in God; other people are comfortable with rejecting God. That is OK with me. Why should we criticize each other? Some people are comfortable with being scientists; other people are comfortable with rejecting science. That is also OK with me. Why should we criticize each other? What is gained by trying to look down on others? As I wrote earlier, many atheists (those who want "to convert" others) are neither scientists nor theists; the same applies to many proselytizers.

Comment 56

IMHO, religion and science are 2 sides not of the truth, but of the human needs. Religion gives answers that work on psychological level, providing security and satisfaction to the worried human soul. Science gives answers to the curiosity of the human mind. Different people have different ratios of needs - some need security more than curiosity and vice versa. So they choose which way to turn, and from which river to drink, so to speak. All is fine, I think, as long as one knows himself/herself enough to search for what they need in the place they can find it. A breach in the human psyche occurs not when 1 person follows the way that responds to their needs, but some other way - for example, a person who needs science to feed his/her needs is for whatever reason choosing to have religious affiliations /it may be from social pressure, or the personal unwillingness to pay for his choice/, and he/she has to go to church, keep appearances and so on...then such a person may develop a serious psychological duality that may come to the surface like anger against the religion that the said person feels as an obstacle to their freedom, happiness, etc...this is only a personal reaction to the psychological uncomfortableness that such a dual life can produce.

So, in my opinion, one has to get to know himself, I mean really to know, by being honest with himself/herself, and then choose one of the roads to satisfying whatever need they have, and pay the price for it.
About the "language police" - do you mean like "political correctness"? After all, it's all in our heads, all based on our needs that we accept one or another method of looking at the world /science or religion/ as true.

Comment 57

A very good post. As Shakespeare said: "Above all to thine own self be true." This whole debate between religion and science (for those who are conflicted about it) will never be settled. For sure it won't be won rationally because rationality has no place in it. Science gives you a comfortable life, religion gives you peace of mind, an anchor so to speak. (Religion also does a lot of other things but that's beside the point.)

Comment 58

I fully agree with you; that's why I generally don't get into debates like that, I only drop in now and then to say my two cents. This is one of those eternal debates that actually don't have an "absolute truth" side to them, just human.

Comment 59

Well, I'm curious about religions, all religions, and I'm fond of reading religious philosophy, history, even mystic writing...but I'm not religious by any means, practical or psychological; my interest in religion is scientific so to speak. I personally don't see certainty in science, it's science exactly because it doesn't give any promises, or consolations, and because if's constantly updated, refuted and argued about. This is why I accept it as a method of thinking and research (I don't believe in security, what's more, I fear it).

Comment 60

I hate the term "religious." It describes people who follow without asking questions. It includes ceremonies, repetition, outward appearances, hierarchy, and organization.

I much prefer the term spirituality. It describes people who follow their convictions, ask questions, look within themselves, see their own limitations and look somewhere else to make sense of it all. Spiritual people recognize that there is something more than what we can see, feel, and touch. It gives us a sense of awe about what it all means.

There is no conflict between science and spirituality. The historical church had no business making pronouncements that were later refuted by science. I believe that in every conflict between religion and science, science prevailed. What does that prove? It proves that religion is the product of dulled people who have lost the spiritual element.

Now, what does science do for us? It gives us tools. It solves problems. It gives us understanding about this physical world. But science is not all we need. Just because we CAN clone a human doesn't mean we SHOULD clone a human.

That part of ourselves that asks "should I..." What is that? It's something that recognizes that all the answers are not going to be found in calculations and equations.

Comment 61:

Suppose that a group of honest scientists and a group of honest theologians are selected to start planning for progressive evolution from the current deplorable situation--where the “we we are better than you” attitudes are common--to a situation of peaceful coexistence and mutual respect. What should be changed (and how should it be changed) in teaching science and in teaching theology? I thing that changes will be gradual and very slow. But some improvements will probably be noticeable, after about one hundred years (four generations).

Whose tasks will be harder, that of scientists or that of theologists? The answer is clear to me; theologist’s tasks will be much more difficult. One reason is that theology is at least ten times older than science. In fact, science emerged from theology, about 400 years ago. At that time it was called natural philosophy. Natural philosophers were well aware of differences between the material world of technologists the spiritual world of theists.

Comment 62:

Some scientist will tell you that the material evidence drives his work but he's forgotten the creative arts and the dreams that allowed him in the end to touch a material fact. A scientist not animated by spirit will discover nothing.

Comment 63:

But, how will we judge the spiritual characteristic of honesty from individual to individual. I despair of ever finding an honest man. (approximation) That question of relative honesty, wasn't science to provided that very gauge, and isn't that the fear of every honest theologian? What would total peaceful coexistence do to mankind? How would we differentiate between good and bad? Where would all the good experience of learning from bad experience go?

These are good questions. I will also be waiting for answers, probably from people much more knowledgeable than I am.

Comment 64

The origins of science are religious. For Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes, Pythagorus science was religion and they were very low key about what they practiced until Platonism slowly leaked out. They were al khemists, scientists and philosophers, astronomers, astrologers but they found spirituality in it.

Comment 65

Or course two mutually loathing paradigms as science and religion can exist peacefully by virtue of ignoring each other. Though this seems highly unlikely as one is selling while the other isn't buying. Peaceful cooperation on the other hand is impossible as religion at some point forces the issue of taking one's word on the subject while science is exactly not that. Demonstrate or remain nothing more than a belief.

Most people on the planet are neither scientists nor theologists. They are "buyers of ideas." And who are sellers? Scientists and theologists. They all say that their goal is to serve people as well as possible.

The third aspect and probably the least interesting is the difference between scientist and theologians. I would say it is dependent on the person though the properties of each vocation shouldn't stand in the way of the two getting along in finding common ground. But only if they can at some point agree to disagree and carry on with the rest of it.

Comment 66

Oh yeah the OP, peaceful co existence with pricks and liars. How that work? I know it says to love thine enemy but pricks ain't going to reciprocate so the idea sounds like it may have been spawned by pricks in the first place.

Comment 67

Religion is just dated nonsense. It doesn't do a thing to make the world a better place. It is parasitic to pay for big buildings that are very pricey to heat.

Comment 68

Some can't differentiate between spiritual and religious, two very different mind sets. Spirituality can easily coexist with science. It is the dogma of religion that is too rigid to accept that truth can coexist. That is not to say, of course, that some religious people are more flexible than others.

Comment 69

I see it as peaceful, desirable, and it seems to me to be happening more and more. I think at one point they were perceived as negating each other but I don't think that's necessarily the case. One can believe in God, an act of faith, but simultaneously also believe in the scientific method.

Comment 70

The borders are definitely breaking down and this change is coming from both sides. I read a physics book recently in which the authors argued that only with the help of spirituality can we bring the interpretation of our physical laws to a new level. . . .

Comment 71

The problem is that the "study of our spiritual world" is a nonsense endeavor. There is no apparent "spiritual world" so any study of it is a fool's endeavor. "Theology" is also a nonsense term, no more legitimate than "fairyology" or "gnomology' and even "ufology." Though I would concede that the latter has more possibility of being legitimate, in theory, than either of the former three.

But science and religion could very easily coexist. So long as religion agrees to concede it's attempts to interfere with science education and awareness by introducing nonsense claims like creation or attempting to over-talk science in matters like stem cell research, sexuality, and biological ethics.

Comment 72

The church and its scripture is basically immutable, still according to the myths of old; that is, the idea of Jehovah told wiped out the numerous Gods of old and became the new—the one and only, too. Religion may not be burning scientists at the stake anymore, but if one thinks they’ve released their reign over science, one must ask why half the schools in the U.S. are not allowed to teach evolution, why the U.S. Christian coalition is the most influential lobby against scientific progress in the world…

As for the illuminati of old, the obliteration of Catholicism was their central covenant. The brotherhood held that the superstitious dogma spewed forth by the church was mankind’s greatest enemy. They feared that if religion continued to promote pious myth as absolute fact, scientific progress would halt, and mankind would be doomed to an ignorant future of senseless holy wars. And, I might add to the above, much like we see today.

So, Bush killed stem cell research and went to war against Iraq after consulting with a ‘Higher Father’; holy wars now being everywhere, since how could the other religions be so wrong! Those trying to hold a monopoly on truth cannot help but to label the contrary as evil, and, thus, act accordingly. So, we do have to worry, still, when the church wants to be the sole interpreter of the ‘truth’. Flawed and arbitrary concepts of good and truth only cause the contrary to be labeled as evil.

Comments 71 and 72 show how complex the situation is, how many issues are linked together. It is impossible to address them at the same time. We we should begin by focusing on the issue of peaceful coexistence in the idealized world, that is in the world without aggressive politicians.

Comment 73

X wrote: "... All the prayers in the world didn't cure polio, but science did."

That is undeniable. Diseases belong to our physical world. But believe in God helps many sick people cope with diseases.

Comment 74

You said that beliefs are good because they help people cope. I compared your professed coping mechanism with another coping mechanism. If you have other reasons for saying that belief is good then please, bring them up. As I see it, there is no benefit for accepting something as true without evidence. Accepting reality for what is known about reality will result in being able to handle reality as it is. Putting a veil of faith in front of reality only serves to distort reality. How is coping with fiction better than coping with reality?

I'll give an extreme example that demonstrates the difference between religious beliefs and science: several kids of JW families have died simply because their parents believed that a simple life saving blood transfusion was evil and that praying would cure their children if it was gods will. In this case, facts trump belief. Should we not criticize these people for their beliefs when making an example of their poor reasoning could possibly bring other people to denounce this dangerous belief and save other people from the same fate?

Refusing blood transfusion was totally unjustified. But this illustration begs for a difficult question--what to do when conclusions based on two methods of validation (scientific and theistic) are in conflict? My tentative answer is to rely on science in the material world and on God in the spiritual world.

Comment 75

Ludwik, this is a raving atheists forum. If you are offended by verbal attacks on and challenges to your religious beliefs, then this is not the forum for you. There are many Christian forums on the Internet, not to mention a plethora of brick and mortar churches, where the Christian faithful are dedicated to exhalting themselves while simultaneously denigrating those who don't share their beliefs. Why aren't you pestering them with your message? They are far more numerous and noisy than we are.

If we shut up, there is no guarantee that they will. In fact, it's a sure thing they won't. However, if they were to shut up and stop sharing their hostile message with those who don't care to be captive to it, then we, in turn, would have nothing to talk about on that front.

What are other fronts? Is it a matter of being aggressive for the aggression sake? Yes, going from present confrontations to peace and mutual respect will not be easy. I am not addressing the issue of “how to accomplish this.” But one thing is clear; people on both sides of the conflict must be willing to try.

Comment 76

It's a bit like saying that oil and water should just get along and accept each other. I would have no problem if someone thinks that pissing sitting down brings him good luck. It is when they expect me to do the same, or view me as some kind of outcast for liking to piss standing up.

Comment 77
Our spiritual world" can be studied only by psychologists...and psychiatrists

Psychologist and and psychiatrist are preoccupied with thinking and emotions. This belongs to material world, by my definition. The term "spiritual world," in my context, and in the contexts of other people, stands for the world of God. Aristotle used the term metaphysics. Yes, I could have said "we live in two worlds, physical and metaphysical." Would this be better?

Comment 78

I cannot accept one of the central tenants of many religions: That of faith. I cannot accept that I am to be instructed on all matters of the world by a book, and that I should have complete faith in it, and that my ethics or morals should derive from things (souls, the afterlife, God, hell) I cannot observe or be sure of. I do not however, have a problem accepting and at least considering religious parables.

Comment 79

I think that if it were possible for the two to coexist peacefully that the collective human mind, in general, would be more content on the whole. Whether or not this is realistically possible is another matter, I suppose.

Comment 80

I am opposed to peaceful coexistence. One does not halt a boxing match for fear of a winner.

Comment 81

I think peaceful coexistence is possible between true science and true spirituality. When I say true, I mean simply true, as there are many false ideas in the scientific category as well as the spiritual. I think a peaceful coexistence should be pursued with truth always as the objective. But I don’t think atheistic scientists would be willing to start at the place where I think one must start and that is with an acknowledgment of a Creator of the universe, as many of the scientists of the past did.

Without this acknowledgment of God, our Creator, whose image I believe we were made in then I don’t think we can fully understand who we are or accurately understand the world and universe around us. It is easy for humans to make-up false ideas about God or create a myriad of false god ideas if we have no desire to know the truth and reject the information the Creator has given to us. There really should be no conflict between scientific study of the world and universe and the study of the One who made it all.

Comment 82

I don't believe God can be proved nor disproved, it is all a matter of belief. I am only a Junior Engineering student, so my knowledge of science is somewhat limited, however I have not seen anything that I believe can prove nor disprove the existence of God. Like you said: “God is not a material entity, to be studied by methodology of those who study our material world.”

Scientists cannot 'study' God. You cannot prove God exists or doesn't, and so I believe it is entirely possible to study science and be religious. In my opinion the belief in God comes down to the person, who has their own reasons for belief or non-belief based off of life experiences and the intangible 'soul' of the person.

Is it possible for the religious and atheists to coexist? That is a more difficult topic, as it seems it would be based on a case-to-case basis. For example; I am religious, I have friends who are not. We simply choose to respect each other's view points, leading to peaceful coexistence. However, I have also met those on extreme sides of the spectrum who seem to lack the ability to keep an open mind, and immediately become offended at the other person's opinion.

Comment 83

... It seems that you are cherry-picking scriptures and adding your own private interpretation to those scriptures so as to make those scripture fit your personal and private agenda... in this case,,, putting God in a box... it won't work... and that box you are attempting to use is 'logic'... God is not bound by your 'logic'. Try as you may, try as you might,,, but God will not be caught by you tonight or any other night.

This observation is profound; logic and mathematics were developed to deal with problems in our physical world. Is logic part of our spiritual world? I am familiar with the so-called “scientific method” of validation. But my familiarity with the theological method of “acceptance or rejection of claims” is very limited.

Comment 84

You ask, “What do you think about peaceful coexistence between those who study our material world (scientists) and those who study our spiritual world (theologians)?”

The answer is that one lot (the scientists) are studying something. The other lot are not studying anything. They are doing theology which, as Dawkins says, is not really a subject at all. It’s the weaving of stories around other stories humanity has told itself over the millenia in the face of its ignorance. It really has no objectively true subject matter at all. Science can tell us something about theology but theology can have nothing meaningful to say on scientific questions. All of the important questions facing us are in principle susceptible to the scientific method. Theology has no such method and is completely useless in terms of telling us how we should live because such questions can only be answered by reference to consequences and they can only be predicted using logic and the methods of science. Ancient texts are useless.

You then ask, “Is peaceful coexistence possible? Is it desirable? What should we do to promote it?” The answer to the first of these is No. Those who want religion to rule don’t want the rest of us to be able to live without their dangerous nonsense. It is an endless source of trouble. In Hitchins’ memorable words: “The taming and domestication of religious faith is one of the unceasing chores of civilization.” It is a scourge the world needs to have had done with long ago. Since coexistence is not possible desiring it is futile. As is promoting it.

Comment 85

The trouble is someone who thinks critically and is of a skeptical nature needs more to go on than other peoples wishes, and vagueness. Till answers on what "roughly" God is, where he resides, why he has ignored us for thousands of years, etc etc , there will always be strong feeling from each party against each other. One side frustrated at a lack of any kind of evidence or fact based assertions, the other hurt at their belief not being immediately and unequivocally accepted by those around them. Also you get the tribal thing too, we are Gods children, you are not etc etc as you would get with football team association in fact.

Comment 86

Yes, people are different; there is nothing wrong with this. Some can be Theists, others can be scientists. Some can be both while others can be neither. That does not mean that aggressive attitude toward each other is useful.

Comment 87

Responding to 86 one person wrote: “Tell that one to the 2.000 year's worth of victims of xianity - they keep their fucking religion out of my life, politics, laws and everything else and I'll keep away from their religion.

Comment 88

I should come back to this.

Comment 90
There is a distinction between those who want religion to rule and those who are interested in spiritual/theological/religious inquiry or experience. It is the latter that I understood the OP [original post?] to be considering. Given the fact that there will always be a substantial number of people in the world for whom spiritual/religious matters are important, coexistence between them and science is not only desirable, it is imperative.

Atheists are probably underrepresented in the population at large, and will increase their market share as time goes on. But I seriously doubt that the spiritually inclined are going to cease. Forms of religion may change, but it’s here to stay. So, I see no need for an eternal conflict between those who see a spiritual side of life and those who don’t. Even within individuals, there is no essential reason why a person cannot have scientific interests and pursuits, and at the same time have spiritual quests and experiences. We have them today. If those two aspects of one person can coexist in the same body, there is no reason why distinct individuals of differing bents cannot similarly coexist. Eventually, it will be no more remarkable than a society in which cotton farmers and jazz musicians can live side by side. Viva la difference!

Political use of religion does complicate the issue. But it must be addressed, and opposed, by purely theistic theologians. Aggressive atheism, likewise, must be addressed, and opposed, by real scientists. The path toward peaceful coexistence will not be easy. And it will be long. Mutual recognizing two separate worlds, physical and metaphysical, would be only the first essential step. Nothing can be done as long as the “we are better than you” attitudes prevail, on both sides of the barricade.

Most educated people are well aware that science owes a lot to theology. In fact, theoretical science, such as Newtonian physics, probably emerged from theology. Likewise, the idea of causality was most probably developed by early theists. And what about the term “laws of nature”? One can argue that this term originally corresponded to God, the ruler of the universe. Another area to consider is mathematics, the basic tool of theoretical physicists. Mathematics emerged from logic. Its most basic concept is that of an axiom--“self-evident” truth. Axiomatic logic--accepting certain things on faith--was nearly certainly developed by theists. I am not a historian but I know that theology is much older than her sister science.

Comment 91
Kowalski wrote: “Scientists should recognize that metaphysical world exists and that claims in that world should not be validated/refuted by using scientific methodology. That should be left to professional theologists.

Desist, on the other hand, should recognize that claims about things in physical world should be left to professional scientists. Naturally, the progress in that direction will be slow and not easy.

By the way, the subdivision of the world into two domains, physical and metaphysical, was introduced by Aristotle.”

1) The problem with that is that in order for scientists to recognize that a metaphysical world exists, there must be empirical evidence that such a world exists, and (by definition) there is none.

2) Also, the use of the word "metaphysics" by Aristotle is completely different from what you are using it for. The way he used it, metaphysics is the rules that govern existence and the world, not as a separate nonphysical world.

3) To answer your original question though, yes I believe that atheists and theists can peacefully coexist. As an atheist myself I am peaceful with all people, theists and atheists alike. I enjoy listening to and learning from theists with varying ideas.

1) On the other hand, one can say that a request for "empirical evidence" is not necessary, "by definition."

2) You are probably right about how the word was initially used by Aristotle. My recollection is that Metaphysics was the name of his last book; all other books were about the physical world.

3) I hope you represent majority of atheists; some of them are arrogantly aggressive toward theists.

Comment 92
The problem with that is that in order for scientists to recognize that a metaphysical world exists, there must be empirical evidence that such a world exists, and (by definition) there is none.

Comment 93
On the other hand, one can say that a request for "empirical evidence" is not necessary, "by definition."

Comment 94

Professional theologians maintain that aspects of the metaphysical realm overlap with the physical realm (morality, for example), and likewise scientists have attempted to render human life virtually meaningless due to biological "discoveries." As long as this overlap appears, we should strive to seek the truth, even if that means theology and science must come head to head. That being said, I truly believe that if science and theology really stuck to their own fields, we wouldn't have this disagreement. As long as scientists use their findings to make judgments on life, morals, etc., however, the problem will persist. The fact is though, the metaphysical realm necessarily affects the physical realm.

The influence of theism on our physical realm is worth addressing, after peaceful coexistence is established.

Comment 95

There obviously is not peaceful coexistence between all scientists and all theologians. A more interesting question is: why is there conflict? The sins of the scientists, according to theologists, are obvious. Scientists insist on finding explanations for things, and then insist on teaching new generations these explanations. When these explanations counter religious claims, it makes some religious people very testy. The earth is ~4.5 billion years old. The earth circles the sun. Evolution.

What is harder for some rationalists/nonbelievers like us to understand is why it makes the religious so testy. It took a long time for this to sink in for me…but there are people out there who really, truly, actually… dare I say “religiously”... believe this religion crap. There are people who want to outlaw/punish homosexuality, prostitution, adultery, alcohol/drugs not because they want to control the people around them, but because they believe that there is a constant coordinated assault on their children by the Devil…and he’s after their souls. And the best way to protect their children is to raise them in a “godly” society. The best way to protect them is to eliminate as much temptation as possible, and teach them while they’re young to live a godly life.

It’s completely natural for all sane people to want to protect their children from physical harm. But now we’re talking about protecting something even more important, their immortal souls from eternal damnation. Pause a moment, and think about that. This is an alien thought for most of the people who read this, but it’s an important one. If you believed in an immortal soul with the possibility of eternal torture, and if you believed that you had to protect your children from the temptations of sin…to what lengths would you go to protect your children from that fate?

I don’t share those beliefs, but if I did…I’d go pretty damned far. And I wouldn’t be shy about combating those who put my children at risk for eternal torture. From that perspective, if I converted to serious evangelical Christianity or devout Islam…I’d be just the type of person that scares the secular humanist that I currently am. I’d be doing everything I could to uphold Christian traditions and law in America. Or I’d be doing everything I could to impose Sharia, if Muslim. That’s why religious faith is so scary. Religions are like any other idea/meme/fad, they need built-in mechanisms to ensure their continued existence. One of the most powerful defensive techniques that religious ideas have evolved is “faith”.

Comment 96

You wrote: “I think peaceful coexistence is possible between true science and true spirituality. When I say true, I mean simply true, as there are many false ideas in the scientific category as well as the spiritual. I think a peaceful coexistence should be pursued with truth always as the objective. But I don’t think atheistic scientists would be willing to start at the place where I think one must start and that is with an acknowledgment of a Creator of the universe, as many of the scientists of the past did.

Without this acknowledgment of God, our Creator, whose image I believe we were made in then I don’t think we can fully understand who we are or accurately understand the world and universe around us. It is easy for humans to make-up false ideas about God or create a myriad of false god ideas if we have no desire to know the truth and reject the information the Creator has given to us. There really should be no conflict between scientific study of the world and universe and the study of the One who made it all.”

Respect is the key according to you, yet your first response here was that to coexist peacefully atheists need to acknowledge the truth of your god. Where is your respect for their beliefs in that idea?

Yes, “there are many false ideas in the scientific category as well as the spiritual.” These ideas are worth discussing, after peaceful coexistence is established. The first step is to agree that we live in two worlds, material and spiritual, and that the method of validation of claims in one word should not be used in another.

Comment 97

Whether or not I am in disagreement with an atheist or anyone, for that matter, on subjects such as God, politics, or whatever I can still listen, show consideration, kindness, and respect. I don’t need an atheist to agree with me before I can show them respect. There are atheists that I respect and care very much about. Discussing things, having differences of opinion and even arguing is not necessarily a lack of respect.

Comment 98

It probably does not matter whether one believes in a real God, or whether one believes that gods and God are manmade concepts. What matters for peaceful coexistence is that the ethics and morals of the believers and the unbelievers are the same ethics and morals. Christianity does not have to be all about what people believe or don't believe. What matters is what people do. This also applies to Islam and Judaism, although Islam and Judaism are more practical than Christianity and their devotees don't go on and on about what people believe or don't believe, but are more interested in what people do.

Comment 99

Given that scientists do so much for humanity while theologians do absolutely fuck all, the former ARE better than the latter, who should therefore fuck off.

This person probably knows very little about science, or about theology.

Comment 100
I agree that there are certain subjects more appropriate to scientific investigation than theological investigation, and vice versa. But I think a complete separation of the two is going too far. "Miracles" for example, should be scrupulously tested by scientists before people jump to the conclusion that a particular event had supernatural causes. Similarly, a lot of important scientific research was motivated by theological beliefs, such as the work of Isaac Newton.

Newton was indeed a religious man. But he did not try to validate discoveries theologically, as far as I know. Motivation, as far as claims in our physical world are concerned, does not count as much as results from reproducible experiments and observations.

Theologists must decide how to deal with situations when their traditional claims conflict with scientific findings. Yes, miracles, age of the planet, etc. must be addressed, sooner or later. But first theists and scientists should agree not to use methodologies of scientific validation in spiritual world, and methodology of theistic validation in physical world. Other topics must wait. Attacking all topics at once is not likely to be productive. That is what I think.

Comment 101(by Eric Oldenburg, <> evangelical christian on 162)

Is it possible for scientists and theologians to peacefully coexist? Of course. There are plenty of scientists who are theists and who combine their theology with their science in ways that produce stimulating theology and top-notch science. There are even a number of sceintist-theologians (geniuses who hold degrees in both theology/Biblical studies/religion and science) who contribute greatly to the integration of science and theology. I will mention 3 books that are excellent examples of how science and theology can be combined (whether or not you consider the efforts of the authors successful is a personal evaluation).

John C. Polkinghorne, Science & Theology: An Introduction (Minneapolis MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1998).

Polkinghorne is a master at showing how scientific discoveries can be viewed from a theistic perspective. He is very evenhanded, even while stating the internal limits of science and how it cannot explain everything.

C. John Collins, Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003).

This book is written for the non-specialist while, at the same time, going deep into man of the issues that someone trying to integrate science and theology must face. A very solid piece of Evangelical writing on the topic.

Richard Carlson, ed., Science & Christianity: Four Views (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2000).

This book shows the diversity of opinion on this topic within Christianity. There is simply not one proposed Christian method of integration and this book reveals that reality. This is a very lively discussion that the non-theist will likely enjoy since it involves theists arguing with each other instead of with them.

My own method of dealing with the integration of science and theology is a bit unique, as far as I can tell. I teach in an Evangelical setting where the members of my audience have usually been taught that there is only one way to properly understand the science and theology question. The options are: young earth creationism, old earth creationism, intelligent design theory and theistic evolution. Rarely is anyone ever taught that all four of these possible views have one thing in common — they are all theistic and thus have a common sparring partner in naturalism. Usually Evangelicals spend their time fighting each other about which creation view is true instead of seeing each others as allies in the philosophical conflict with naturalism. I try to present all four views as options for the theist and provide a model for evaluating each view, while simultaneously emphasizing that all theists should focus together on the debate with naturalism. Most of my students reject my methods.

Comment 102 ( 118) [also 1/28/2011]

In 1998 I wrote an essay titled "Spirituality and Science"

I don't have access to it at this moment, but within hours I will be able to post it.

It begins with something to the effect of, "I have no trouble believing that the story about Archimedes running naked in the street shouting 'Eureka!' is true..."

For me, there is no contradiction or incompatibility. The moments when I have made scientific discoveries have been profoundly spiritual. The universe WANTS us to know her secrets.

Two of my discoveries were ultimately published in the journal NATURE, so that gives me sort of a "reality check" for the associated spiritual experiences.

I look forward to viewing your webpage, and maybe you will get a chance to review my essay.

I hope that this isn't the only time we will ever hear from you!!
Robert R. Northup, Ph.D.

Comment 103

I failed to include "tolerance", which is the most important condition for peaceful coexistence IMHO. Without it, you are correct that conflict will be inevitable. Conflict however is not necessarily a bad thing as long as we maintain respect for each others opinions and beliefs as being exactly that.

I find that people who are less then secure in their beliefs feel threatened by opposing ideas presented in a authoritarian manor. We each like to think we are the ones with the "right ideas". Those who are secure in their beliefs cannot be threatened, and are therefore able to listen to and evaluate opposing views objectively, and without an emotional "need" to be defensive.

Comment 104

Hello Professor Kowalski, I read through your forum posts and responses from the link you provided. I was surprised by the majority opinion that Science and Religion should be separated. I am assuming the majority of these posters were students and peers.

While it is not difficult to understand why folks of a science core belief system would reject Religion, it certainly is short sighted for people of a Religious core belief system to reject science. It is after all one of God's creations from the theist perspective and therefore worthy of exploration. As you mentioned, the Vatican fully embraces Scientific knowledge. Why some would find such integration an obstacle to peaceful coexistence is however illogical IMHO. I suspect it has to do with that "need" to be right" I referred to in my post to Eric.

I also agree that more can be learned from an integration of the two then not. As you repeatedly pointed out, the spiritual world is as valid as the material one, and with the discoveries of the Quantum Reality, perhaps more so.

With your background in Nuclear Physics, I was hoping you would be willing to comment on some scripture I find most prophetic regarding Quantum Reality. So far it seems my views on this makes me a minority of one!

Some is OT, and most NT. If you are not comfortable commenting on NT scriptures, I understand. Perhaps if Eric or Father Dave is reading this, they might be willing to offer their opinions.

From the OT, of course all of Genesis1, but also Deuteronomy 29:29, Psalms 90:1-4, and Isaiah 40:28.

From the NT Hebrews 11:1-3, Colossians 1:17, Acts 8:39 and 17:24-28, John 6:21, Romans 1:20 and 4:17, 2Peter 3:8, and 2 Corinthians 4:18.

I'm sure there are more scriptures as relevant as these but I've yet to find them.

I hope this finds you well.

Comment 105
Dear George,

1) Your observation about the "need to be right," is interesting and worth keeping in mind.

2) We are dealing with a very complex issue. Where to begin to lead toward peace and mutual respect? My suggestion is to accept that theism and science are separate fields--their methods of validation of claims are different.

3) Theologians and scientists are also human beings. Like all people, they live in two worlds, physical and spiritual. That is why your idea of "integration rather than separation" makes sense. That would naturally be the next, or one after the next, step.

4) At this preliminary stage one needs a sequence of idealized models of future reality. Each model should be a little more realistic than the one before it. What is wrong with model #1--two separate fields, in the universe without politicians? It would allow us to focus on purely scientific, and purely theological topics.

5) I have no plans; I am improvising as I am trying to reply to your message. Fortunately, I have time; fortunately I am inspired to speculate about the universe without the "we are better than you" attitudes. In that universe they are replaced by the "we all want the same thing" attitudes.

Good night,


Comment 106

George Dokoupil
Full Access

Subject: RE: Science and faith
General posted by Reology101 on Saturday, January 29th 2011 @ 9:51 AM

Good Morning Professor Kowalski,

2) I agree that at the present time their means for validation is separate, but I also believe a time is coming where the validation for science will be through theism, specifically Biblical theism. This is your "next" or "one after the next" step.

4) This is an intriguing idea, but how to separate the "politicians from it? Historically, there has never been a time or culture where politics was not at least as dominate as any other belief system. We would have to be able to consciously deny ourselves the need to be in control of things and events and abdicate that "addiction" to a Higher Source. This is of course the model advocated by the Spiritual belief systems, none of which man is willing to completely embrace. Our need to control supersedes our need for truth, peace, mutual respect and tolerance.

My model does not include politicians. Models allow us to address each issue separately. They are instruments for thinking.

5) Your world view is a result of your experience. I'm guessing the things you've seen and endured along with "time" have given you the ability to become more objective then you once might have been, resulting in the wisdom of how conflict is totally unproductive and wasteful and diminishes the quality of life for all.

This brings us back to that Spiritual Model as being the most beneficial path. Unfortunately it takes a lifetime to realize this, based on the trial and error of just living as we each think best. Some never realize it.

I already wrote what I think about the “we are better than them” attitudes.

How do you convince others that there is only one way for ultimate fulfillment, when that way entails many aspects deemed illogical because it requires us to abandon our greed for material satisfaction and power, despite such "sacrifices" actually culminating in our best interests? It takes monumental effort for us to admit we are wrong. When we can give up self centeredness for collective centeredness based on a consistent moral standard such as God's Law we can create those next step models IMHO. At least there is always hope!

My reply to the above
Your message made me think think about close cooperation between scientists and mathematicians. The two disciplines are very different, in terms of methods of validation, but there is no conflicts. In fact, mathematics is like theology; it starts with axioms (self-evident truths in particular contexts) and uses logical derivation to justify claims. Science is different; here claims are justified by reproducible experimental observations, not by pure logic.

Comment 107 (another website)

The Bible says Atheists will go to Heaven. If you believe that the Christian Bible is perfect and inspired by God, then you should also believe that atheists and other non-Christians go to heaven. This has a strong scriptural basis, all one has to do is look at the correct verses!

First let's start with a verse that states the essence of God, 1 John 4:8,
Originally Posted by NIV 2010
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
With this as a start, we must then turn to Paul's definition of what love is,

Originally Posted by NIV 2010
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

If God is love (1 John 4:[8]) and love keeps no records of wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5), then, logically, God keeps no record of wrongs (i.e. sins). Thus atheists such as myself will, if the Bible is correct, be taken into heaven along with believers.

I can already hear the objections from the believers of Christianity, though, accusing me of minimizing faith in their religion. But why should they be so concerned with faith when,

Originally Posted by NIV 2010
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:13)

Love is greater than faith and thus supersedes the doctrine of salvation through faith.

So, by the definition of love stated by Paul, God keeps no record of wrongs and, for those who say one needs faith to have salvation, this is refuted by Paul himself when he states that love is superior to faith. Checkmate!

Comment 108

No Checkmate for sure. First of all, a lot of Atheists will object to the use of the Bible as a credible reference... so playing devils advocate in your charade... let me say this... Paul was one of those folks that never met Jesus in the flesh... So Paul may have been mistaken in his analysis of what John said... Also, what Paul said was not a direct quotation of what John said... so now... who was the more accurate in defining what 'Love' is and subsequently what one of the attributes of God is. John was reported as also being the author of the Book of Revelation. In that book, John has clearly made reference to the Book of Life (a record)

As for Atheists and other nonbelievers going to Heaven... that final determination is not ours to reckon... but I would believe that before a nonbeliever or an Atheist is allowed to be in Heaven, they must also make that confession of FAITH along with that 'asking for forgiveness'. God does keep a record.

Comment 109

But in order to prove I am wrong, you have to say that either one of the passages I am quoting is false. If both "God is love" and "love keeps no record of wrongs" are true than logically God keeps no record of wrongs. I posted this to make a point: that inerrancy doesn't work and results in numerous contradictions that the original authors never intended. Certainly, neither author meant for their text to be interpreted this way; but can you really refute what I am saying if all I am doing is logically putting together two verses and you believe the Bible is inerrant?

Comment 110

No! I am not required to submit to the either-or condition you are trying to establish. You forget, God is God,, as such, God can do whatever He pleases. Also, you must remember that the Bible was set out for instructions to man... they are not instructions that require God to be or do anything other than what God desires or Wills to do. The Bible also says that God is a Jealous God, and a Vengeful God, and a God full of Wrath... but yet,,, God is a God of Love.

It seems that you are cherry-picking scriptures and adding your own private interpretation to those scriptures so as to make those scripture fit your personal and private agenda... in this case,,, putting God in a box... it won't work... and that box you are attempting to use is 'logic'... God is not bound by your 'logic'. Try as you may, try as you might,,, but God will not be caught by you tonight or any other night.

Comment 111

If history and science have taught us anything, it is that passion and desire are not the same as truth. The human mind evolved to believe in the gods. It did not evolve to believe in biology. Acceptance of the supernatural conveyed a great advantage throughout prehistory, when the brain was evolving. Thus it is in sharp contrast to biology, which was developed as a product of the modern age and is not underwritten by genetic algorithms. The uncomfortable truth is that the two beliefs are not factually compatible. As a result those who hunger for both intellectual and religious truth will never acquire both in full measure. [Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, (First edition, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), p. 262.]

Comment 112 (Eric from 101)

I'm in hearty agreement with your emphasis on tolerance! Tolerance is a key virtue that needs to be exemplified in the public square. I just want to make sure that we are all on the same page about what tolerance is and why it, by definition, includes the idea of conflict. Here's what I mean.

Tolerance implies that you accept/choose to live peacefully with someone who holds a view different than yours. This is not the popular understanding of tolerance but it is the technical definition. Unconditional acceptance that ignores the differences between views is pluralistic relativism. If we are trying to get at the real truth of the relationship between science and theology, which most are, then the pluralistic relativism definition doesn't work. Tolerance acknowledges that there is some kind of theoretical or ideological conflict about the nature of reality but that you will treat the person who holds a contrary view with personal respect and dignity while debating over the conflict. Tolerance does not imply that there is no real truth out there to be found.

So, yes, I think that we all should strive to be tolerant in this debate, albeit according to the technical understanding and acknowledging that we are all looking to find the truth of the matter. And the technical understanding implies ideological conflict, which is, as you say, "not necessarily a bad thing." It's not a bad thing because the worldviews of theism and naturalism are fundamentally opposed when it comes to this question. Conflict is not bad, it's inevitable. Whether we treat each other with tolerance, civility and mutual respect depends on each of us.

May we all contribute to this debate, and all of its inevitable conflict, as virtuously as possible. I'll respond to Bo's comments soon which, for me, means in the next few days.

Comment 113 (George Dokoupil responding to my reply in 106)

Interesting thought on the difference between science and mathematics, but both are interdependent. Science would be a shadow of itself if not for the math, and math wouldn't be anywhere as challenged if not for the science, yes? No?

If however scientists could be "tolerant" (see Eric's definition above) of religion the way they are the methods of mathematics, then we could achieve something greater. It would be a start at least! Achieve this, and then integrate it into society at large. Idealistic? Perhaps, but it is still worth trying.

I read your "biography". I see how Stalinism actually was closer to a religion then political system. The ideals of M & L merit praise, but the human element is always there to pollute the ideals, as Stalin did by "preaching" one thing yet doing another, totally contradictory thing. But is this not common in all societies and belief systems? This is the element that insures we do not progress ethically and morally. Even here in the US, where man has probably attained the highest degree of freedom, political and corporate benevolence, corruption remains too great an influencing factor. The same is true for every religion. Once we humans get some authority from our peers by whatever means, the interests of the few supersedes the interests of the many.

This only perpetually confirms God's Word about the nature of man and our inability to do what is right consistently. If in fact we are held accountable for our thoughts and deeds on a day of judgment, no one will be innocent of wrong doing. Just as human laws come with penalties, so does God's Laws. Christ then is our only real advocate for a non guilty verdict. This is why any chance for peaceful coexistence, whether in specific disciplines like science and religion, or on a global all inclusive scale must accept, be committed to, and abide by a uniform code of law, such as the Ten Commandments. OK, Nine Commandments, seeing the First Commandment will never be universally accepted, at least at present.

In order to implement this, just within the science and religious communities, would mean all those in positions of power who use that power for personal and political advantage, would have to give up the temptation for self advantage. You have seen first hand how unlikely that would be. Even if most were willing, there would always be those unwilling. Solve this dilemma and peaceful coexistence might have a chance?

I think the first step would be for those involved to establish a moral code of ethics and a means to enforce it that all can accept and be committed to. Those not willing simply remain as they are to pursue the interests and lifestyles they always have so that "life span" will purge them out eventually.

If nothing else, all this might make a good foundation for an interesting novel, and then a movie! Cheers Professor

Comment 114 (George Dokoupil responding to Erik Oldenburg):

Your definition is in line with mine. Tolerance is simply a mindset; and idea one commits to when exchanging thoughts with others of different beliefs. When debaters embrace this mindset, there is little to no chance for personal conflict beyond the substance of what they are debating. If I can determine you are convicted of your beliefs, while I am convicted in mine, then that is just the way it is.

A great example in this forum is Bo. He has an answer for everything you through at him about the validity of God. Sure, some of his answers do not seem relevant from the believers perspective, but that is just as true for him about our beliefs. Some of his answers are very logical in refuting God, and it is apparent how and why he believes as he does, to the point of having written a book about it. That is commitment IMHO.

You, or rather I have reached a point where there is no point in repeating one's self regarding any expectation of opening up that mind of his to God's Truth. He knows the scriptures and arguments. I think he has come to the same conclusion of trying to get me to think like him. Since some plant and some reap, I am very comfortable with where his and my debates have culminated. I'm not mentioning this to put any feathers in my cap or his, but as an example of the kind of tolerance we are discussing. Don't get me wrong, he and I still can have a "moment" or two, but for the most part we can honestly say we are friends as well, or at least I can:). This is beneficial in another way; I can say things to him, and him to me that might otherwise seem offensive, but are things we each understand we are being honest about from our own perspectives. This would not be possible with anyone not sharing tolerance, or some degree of it IMHO.

Anyway, if you stick around here, I think you will find there is more tolerance then not, which really makes this forum worthwhile.

Perhaps you should use your website link as your signature here so folks can find you? I don't think that's in conflict with this site's rules. Thanks for responding, Cheers!

Comment 115

... As another issue, some 'sciences', especially economics, are based on assumptions that are no less 'fantastic' than many religious constructs, and continue to be so even as they're desperately attempting to give them some pseudo-intellectual legitimacy by inventing mathematical jargons as an obfuscation, never mind they have yet to model reality in any way.

Many of the more abstract constructs of religion, particularly the more advanced intellectual constructs like Judaism and Christianity, have made very real improvements in human societies, easily measurable, despite their 'supernatural' inventions and inability to be explained by the logic' of 'science', i.e. circular reasoning.

Comment 116
by PoPpAScience (

I am one that has studied both as a scientist and a theologian for the last 35 years, so I have a lot to say on this subject. Now I am a true philosopher who studies without a preconceived Faith Based Belief system, I only state what I see as of this day.

I will make small posts here Ludwik because I am very busy these days.

To your question above: There was a war between atheist and religious a long time ago for the control of science, and the atheist won, and now control the Universities and Research. Today it is the Religious that support and sponsor scientific work through taxes and acceptance. In reading everyday news it seems that it is only atheist extremist that want to bring down religion, and not religious that want to bring down science. It is up to the atheist's to realize that the religious are no threat to their beliefs.

The real question is: Can people of free thinking meet and talk about the mechanic's of creation with out being attacked by "Preachers of Faith Based Ideologies of Science and Religion". It does not matter if one believes in a Deity or not, what matter's is that one is honest in the realization that all we have to work with is, the biological machine we inhibit, and the only thing we witness is the Action of Motion. All else is just subjective speculation.

Comment 117

Even if religion didn't exist, there would still be wars and conflicts in the world. The communists thought they could make the world a more peaceful place by killing off all religious and theistic people. Even a lot of today's wars and conflicts are based on politics and not religion. The Cold War is an example.

Comment 118

The thing is, the ideology of religion and the methodology of science both reach much too deep into the heart of an individuals beliefs whereby at such levels there are much too many emotions at play to ever allow total peace and acceptance between the two camps. Religion too often causes an individuals decisions to be based on the saving of their very soul and such, whereby ones most primitive of instincts ie self preservation kicks in which raises the stakes of the game. Then there are those that feel the need to save everyone else's soul. I fear not losing my eternal soul if my scientific beliefs are flawed, but rather only losing my sanity, which is a much less price to pay. My point being, different systems of belief insight passions from different aspects of our thinking, some being more tied to more primitive aspects of our evolution than others whereby establishing the degree to which one will go to defend those beliefs. Ultimately IMHO, our sanity or the lack thereof is established by the degree at which we can interact with nature whereby the only truths that we may ever have must come by way of observation, measure and experiment. If such should some day point to a deity, then must we consider such.

Comment 119

Muslims do hold that rationale and logic prove not only the existence of Allah (God) but the necessity of worshiping Him. Allah advises knowledge-seekers and guidance-seekers to try the Revelation for its veracity and try until they are certain the Revelation is from Allah and not the words of a human being. Islam is based on true and certain knowledge alongside faith, not based on speculation and conjectures. However, while sincere knowledge-seekers and guidance-seekers will find themselves on the Straight Path, the rest will be led astray for their lack of soundness of the heart and intellect when they hear its Message. Many reasons exist for this but the foremost is that the people must be able to hear on a spiritual level as well as the rest and the people who cannot are mostly those that are from the arrogant or virulent deniers of the Unseen or blind followers of the nafs/ego or strict unreasoning adherents to another religious ideology out of misguided loyalty to the religion of their forefathers, etc.

Comment 120

As far as the average nonbeliever and organized religion? What can I say even I who have faith in God do not agree with organized religion. I think the problem is there exist a lump mentality between both sides.

Example; If you have faith in God you must be part of organized religion, which is often not the case. Example if you choose not to believe in God you must be one of those bad know it all atheist, which is often not the case. Bottom line both are human it is their choice to either respect another's belief or non belief or to criticize it.

Many times organized religion are guilty of trying to convert atheist and nonbelievers this is bad no respect. However many atheist so called intellectuals have tried to convert believers into not believing so are they any better? In a heated debate on creation between atheist and people who believe in God you must ask yourself a question. Which side has iron clad proof answer, neither.

Comment 121

If God is the Creator and science is the study of the created world and if theology is the study of the God Who is the Creator, it's hard to see how they could not peacefully coexist, at least for [me] the theist. ...

[What BB wrote] is contrary to the standards of theistic science. God created the world and the laws that govern it. And He made man to be the world's stewards/caretakers. It follows that, in order to do science theistically, the theist must pay close attention to all of God's laws. This includes both the natural laws and the moral laws, which mean that we ought to respect the "human-made laws" and "codes of conduct." And of course, in order to be appropriate stewards/caretakers, we regard human life to the utmost when practicing science (which is why the large majority of antiabortionists and opponents of euthanasia are theists).

Comment 122

Suppose I am asked to do suggest something that would help to reduce friction between theists and scientists. I would select a group of theologists familiar with the scientific methodology of validation of claims, and a group of scientists familiar with the theistic methodology of validation of claims. The first group would be asked to identify desirable changes in scientific methodology while the second group would be asked to identify desirable changes in theistic methodology. These changes would then be discussed, for example, at various workshops and conferences. This would be a preliminary step, lasting two or three years. Something worth implementing would probably come out. What to do next would depend on the outcome.

Comment 123

I don't mind coexistence with religion, but religious people seriously need to practice their religion in their bedroom and in their bedroom only. As soon as you theists cross over the line and try to interfere with my life through politics, law, and lifestyle, than you can go shove it up you know where and expect no mercy from me.

Comment 124

Religion, regardless of how one feels about it, offers people a sense of completeness that science cannot...that the senselessness of the World can be understood in that good will prevail, justice is inevitable...

And until science can answer those hard questions, religion isn't going anywhere, and will remain a force in society...because most people are not, nor will they ever be, content with ' shit happens '. Until science can address the injustices we see in the world as being something more than ' shit happens ' ...luck of the draw...there will always be more people seeking the services of religion than the services of science.

Comment 125

While I see no scientific reason to believe in the God of Christianity, Islam, or Judaism (and plenty of scientific reasons not to believe in these Gods), I have no problem with people merely believing in them. The problem arises when these people encourage others to actively deny reality. A peaceful coexistence between religion and science can never exist if religious leaders are teaching their people to distrust and hate science. And why do religious leaders teach their people to do this? Because religious beliefs many times do make claims that are part of physical reality, that can be tested physically, and these claims are very often false. When this happens, the religious person can either say "my religion is wrong" or "science is wrong." With dogmatic claims about reality being made by religion, there is no middle ground, no possible agreement or peace.

I don't believe in any spiritual realm. I have seen science to explain everything that needs to be explained, including spiritual phenomena, which are nothing more than a particular kind of activity in the brain. If psychology and neuroscience explain spiritual phenomena fully, why see them as having an "independent reality" in a so-called "spiritual realm?" We who have seen science know that this spiritual realm exists only in the minds of the masses, who (like even we who understand) are constantly bombarded by the ancient instincts of a less than human past.

Science could be friends with spirituality, perhaps, if spirituality (while maintaining its value and importance) would admit that it is nothing more than a psychological phenomena. But most religious people, and most spiritual people, do not admit this. Creationists will insist that the earth in actual, scientific fact was created in seven days by a magical being. Yet most of these people know very little of science, and even less of the very human origins of their religions. How then is there supposed to be peace?

When there is peace between science and religion, religion will cease to exist. Religion has only survived this long by violently fighting against the opposition - anyone who disagrees with them, scientific or religious alike. When religion ceases to fight, it will begin to lose authority and membership, and a new kind of spirituality will be born - the kind that does not need to lie to maintain its value and identity, the kind that can exist in parallel with a scientific knowledge of reality. This spirituality will peacefully coexist with science. But I do not think it will happen in our lifetimes, and I'm not sure if it will ever happen.

Comment 126

Anything is possible, but not everything is probable. ... Perhaps the question you should be asking is ' is it likely that scientists and theologians will find some peaceful coexistence, some middle ground? '...and if not ' what are the obstacles to that peaceful coexistence, and can they be overcome?

Comment 127

I highly doubt that the first religious experiences were reactions against secular worldviews. The best known advocate of the "religion will cease to exist" theory was our beloved Karl Marx, who held that religion was the "opium of the people", and that it would fade away as the misery caused by economic exploitation would come to an end after bitter class struggle. The difference here is that religion was thought to be a passive consequence of unrelated class struggle (bourgeoisie vs proletariat), while your view is that religion is one of the belligerent in the struggle between two world views (religion vs science).

The main flaw of dialectical materialism was that Marx thought that the intermediate classes (petite bourgeoisie, merchants) would eventually fall either into the proletariat or the bourgeoisie, thus creating an inevitable polarization of society and an equally inevitable revolution resulting in the disappearance of the bourgeoisie. Likewise, the problem with your theory is that the intermediate people between hardcore scientists and hardcore creationists are not bound to fall into one of those two struggling extremes, which is necessary for one of the two parties to have complete victory. This intermediate class of moderately religious people can become a belligerent party of its own, actively fighting both sides.

A concrete example is the case of many young educated muslims today, who are both increasingly religious and increasingly educated: I personally know a Ph.D. student who recently decided to start wearing the Hijab and to practice the ramadan. Her personal story perfectly pictures the first point I made in this post, namely that religion is more than a world view opposed to science. It is also a matter of identity and tradition.

Comment 128

Science is content to tolerate religion but the reverse is apparently impossible for a growing number of religious fundamentalists of all stripes. Now it's time for war between science and religion because religious certainty that one particular magic book or another is the true word of a god is beginning to tear our world apart. It's time to grow up as a species or die trying.

Comment 129

Certainly, when you're talking about very liberal theologians and theists, you rarely have an issue because these people already know that, to a large extend, the things they believe are indefensible and ridiculous. However, when it comes to fundamentalists, people who seriously believe in magical pixies in the sky, there's no possibility of cooperation because they cannot imagine the possibility that any of their cherished beliefs are even the slightest bit wrong. It does science no good to pat these delusional people on the head and pretend they've got anything useful to say.

Comment 130

When the Bible is viewed as a work of literature, not a holy book or a book of ancient superstitions, so much more is to be gained. We like Shakespeare, even though many of his plays are fictitious. Why shouldn't we like the literary aspects of religion? It goes without saying the literalist interpretations are to be rejected, but that's a dead horse.

Comment 131

You wrote “Science seeks to explain things as they really are. Religion starts with an unjustifiable explanation and then demands absolute adherence to their claims.”
That's fundamentalist religion, not religion in general. To view all religions on earth as being the same is to miss an extraordinary amount of detail and beauty in human culture.

Comment 132

Even scientists only claim to work within "empirical reality." There are plenty of other realities to deal with - philosophy itself, for one thing, and the artistic/spiritual realms of existence. Science may be able to measure and study music, or dimensions, but the most detailed models science can make still would not express the feeling behind a beautiful song or painting.

Comment 133

Even among Christianity, there are more than 30,000 distinct sects. How much truth can they come up with if even one single religion can't find common ground?

Comment 134

In all fairness to the regional post we should keep in mind that it asked if academics ("those who study our material world (scientists) and those who study our spiritual world (theologians)") could peacefully coexist, not the general population of believers and disbelievers. This debate is going well. Perhaps instead of abandoning it we could expand it to include opinions on academics.

Comment 135

What you believe or don't believe has no bearing on the reality of our world. The spiritual realm does not need your validation and God exists in spite of being unrecognized or not being acknowledged. Religion survives because God is REAL. Science does more than tolerate religion, it validates it. The WAR has been going on for ages. What's tearing our world apart is the lack of TRUE religion. As a species, it's time to reject all of the magic (like evolution) and start building upon the proper and correct foundation...the Creator God.

Comment 136

Magic is anything that we don't understand, either because we haven't gotten there yet or it doesn't make sense. Evolution makes perfect sense and we do understand it quite well. The believers can pretend otherwise all they want, but the fact is that Darwin's ideas didn't catch on because they made people happy. They caught on because they were simple and provable to everybody with a reasonable standard of proof.

Comment 137

So, to the question: ''Can science and religion coexist peacefully?'', I'd answer... yes! Religion adjusts itself to trends (often a bit late but they do). For reference, I suggest reading The Evolution of God by Robert Wright, or just go through the reforms (Google Consil of Trent or Vatican II reform for example). Religion as already evolved in a way that it is completely distorted from what is was or was meant to be. It just needs to go a couple of steps further to accept things like preservative (they're getting there), abortion and stem cell research. Do not forget the sad fate of copernicus just a couple of centuries ago. The church once completely prohibited to question God's way ... or nature in other words. Leonardo Da Vinci had to hide to make his anatomical observations, Darwin was publicly persecuted for his theory ... Once upon a time, the world was at the center of the universe, it was flat, Man was at the top of the creation and the mass had to be said exclusively in latin, back facing the crowd. Things have change... and I believe they still will...

Interestingly, I believe this is a very strong argument against believing in ''old'' religions like Judaism, Christianism and Islam. At least in the form that they have now evolved. If those religions are from God and that God is perfect, therefore how don't see why or how they should be changed. But they had to change it because it was ''made up'' by the people of an era, for those very people of that era.

Comment 138

I think that your claim that theologians should limit their claims to the spiritual world while scientists should limit their claims to the material world is very interesting. Aren't you interested in studies done on prayers vs patient recovery/healing. Or on the biochemical and neuronal machinery involved in belief? Isn't that science looking in the ''spiritual'' world (spiritual in hyphens because I'm talking about observable events).

Material aspects of effects of prayers should be studied by scientists while spiritual aspects should be studied by theists. This division of tasks should be possible, at least in principle, when there is no competition for the one-and-only-one, truth. Conclusions reached by Theists and conclusions reached by scientists would not be in conflict, BY DEFINITION. That is what I mean by mutual independence of two worlds--material and spiritual. I wish I knew what to do to establish mutual independence, probably not sooner than in the next century.

Reported today by The Economist:

INDONESIANS are reeling from one of their country’s most awful incidents of religious violence in years. It happened on February 6th, in a village in Banten, the western end of Java, not far from Jakarta, a district where strictly Islamist parties poll well. Out of keeping with the more usual pattern of Muslim-versus-Christian attacks, this was a mob attack by Muslims against men who claimed to be their own fellows: members of a Islamic sect called the Ahmadiyah.

Three Ahmadis were killed and five seriously injured in a frenzy of violence: footage of the assault was deemed too graphic to be shown on Indonesian TV news, which tends to have a fairly high tolerance for the stuff. Instead the footage is circulating on the internet, if you have the stomach. Indonesians are asking what could have motivated religious people to commit such a barbaric act (“sadistic” is a word being bandied around)—and why the police were so feeble in their attempts to stop it.

Nerves have been frayed further by another spate of religious violence, first reported this morning. Elsewhere in Java a Muslim mob burned down three Christian churches, all the while calling for the death penalty to be brought against a Christian man whom they accused of blaspheming against Islam. They were apparently unsatisfied by the judgment of a court, which had already given him the harshest sentence available (five years in jail) for distributing leaflets that insulted Islam. This sort of mob violence is not rare enough.

But Sunday’s lynching was something on a different scale entirely. These murders were aimed at the sect itself. Ahmadiyah was established in India in 1889; modern Ahmadis believe that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet and messiah. This, of course, contradicts orthodox strains of Islam, which all hold that Muhammad was the final prophet. ...

Comment 139

I am opposed to peaceful coexistence. One does not halt a boxing match for fear of a winner.

Comment 140

Theologians can and sometimes do acknowledge the value of the scientific method as a means to better comprehend God's creation, but they can never question his actual existence as a being or as a creator. And as far as I can see, that point is where the schism between theists and atheistic scientists becomes unbridgeable. Theists, even theists who find value in science, draw a line in the sand when it comes to God because they feel his existence is beyond question, and atheistic scientists are compelled to cross it because the scientific process demands that they be skeptical about any and all claims to fact, especially one that is as monolithically all encompassing as the Jewish, Islamic and Christian conception of an omnipotent God.

Comment 141

I'm a Christian who has no problem with science. That being said, I don't take the Bible so literally as to believe that the earth is only 6000 years old. Too many American theists are irrational and see science as the enemy, and as a result, scientists tend to look down on theists in general. It doesn't have to be that way.

Comment 142

For most scientists, there is absolutely no problem with religion or spirituality. It really is only when religion tries to extend its influence beyond the sphere of spirituality into science that things begin to get contentious. For example, when young earth creationists suggest that the earth is 6000 years old, or that noah really brought 2 of every species onto the ark (including dinosaurs), etc... that scientists begin to have a problem with religion.

Personal spirituality is really even something that most scientists think about. In fact, there are many leading scientists, mathematicians, etc... who have a very strong spiritual base but continue to do outstanding scientific work- without letting their religious doctrine influence the evidence. If you would like a good example of this... see Martin Gardner. Martin was really one of the fathers of the skeptical movement and kept very strong spiritual beliefs. His book, "Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science" is one of the best books on the topic of critical thinking. For Martin, his spiritual beliefs were something that he held very dear but separate and distinct from evidence based science. He realized that there were likely no rational scientific explanations for his beliefs... but that didn't matter, because they exist outside the realm of science.

Another example is the work that Eugenie Scott has done over the years bridging the gap between some christians and the scientific method. So, to get back to your original question - I think that peaceful coexistence is entirely possible and is probably the default condition for most scientists. It is only when religion tries to over extend its influence with pseudoscientific ideas like YEC or intelligent design that scientists feel the need to fire back and clarify the scientific position.

Comment 143

Scientists get along with theologians? Sorry, but that's like scientists getting along with astrologers or tea-leaf readers. Theology has yet to demonstrate that it is actually a study of anything.

I am a scientist and I have nothing against astrology. The only thing that puzzles me is that so many people take it seriously. But I do understand why so many people take spirituality seriously. The term "peaceful coexistence" was clearly defined in the opening message on this thread. It means mutual independence and mutual respect. It means that scientific methods of validation of claims should not be used in debates about spiritual claims. It also means that theistic methods of validation of claims should not be used in debates about scientific claims. Nothing more and nothing else. The "get along" term is not clear to me.

Comment 145

Bottom line Prof... there are today and have ever been many scientists that are believers, believers in various religions, there have been Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu Scientists....and their have been the same in your line of religion and science and education do not have any issues co mingling....they never have.

Some people have. Some people have blinders on that they use their science to prove atheism (or religion). Some people have such blinders on they can only accept science through their religious goggles.... But the fact is....scientists are not one body...they can't agree on many topics, especially the cutting edge ones... And religion is not one body, hence the numbers of them....So while what you wish has already occurred among will never occur amongst all.

Comment 146

The only safe haven of religion is the belief in God, which cannot be disproved nor proven.

I would say that God cannot be disproved or proved by methodology of scientific validation. And claims made by scientists cannot be disproved or proved by methodology of theistic validation. The task is to describe these methodologies clearly. By whom? By open minded scientific and theistic philosophers.

Comment 147

The main problem holding up the reintegration of religion and science, it seems to me, is twofold. Religion contains a lot of anthropomorphic and anachronistic garbage which it insists on bringing to the table along with it's valuable and prescient insights. And religion contains an integral political component which is largely at odds with the political motivations of science at the institutional level. Both are quite entrenched, largely insidious, and hard to cleanly segregate from the "pure" pursuit.

I would not say “the reintegration;” at this time. I would say “separation;” and changing attitude toward each other.

Comment 148

I think scientists and theologians can coexist peacefully in a nation with just laws, like every other citizen, and this - the peaceful coexistence - is already achieved in some countries also. This doesn't mean that they won't have endless argumentation and/or peaceful fight for the minds of the people. Argumentation and fight for the minds of people may end when both sides get to know the one truth. I believe that the one truth includes God, or at least one spiritual entity, and the one truth includes that the world religions of our age have errors, at least their present forms. That's why I'm a proponent of Natural Theology, which can be seen as part of science and it can be seen as part of theology, too. I suggest that you study Natural Theology if you are interested in the bridge between science and theology.

Comment 149

We must insure that our educational systems teach morality and strong religious principle. Without these two aspects, society cannot ever hope to truly succeed because without these immorality and chaos will prevail.

Comment 150

I believe in a creator God, Darwinian Evolution and the Big Bang. So do all the Christians I know. The Pope has stated officially that evolution is not just a theory. The bigger question for me is why do so many non-Christians presume most Christians think the world is 6000 years old and that they are biblical literalists?

Comment 151
I don't see how they can be independent from each other, or at least how anything independent from science can be taken as seriously. One is testable and measurable reality, one isn't. They say that spirituality asks the questions that science can't answer, but if science can't answer them that's because there aren't answers (yet), and spiritual answers are essentially made up.

I am thinking about a situation in which scientists would agree not to made claims about spiritual world and theist would agree not to make claims about the material world. This would make peaceful coexistence, and mutual respect, possible. Yes, that would be the first step only. Many other issues would have to be addressed later, on each side.

Comment 152
Before people engage in intellectual combat, they need to understand that they are, in some shape or form, being manipulated themselves by the ruling powers. The truth is as slippery as a wet eel. It always has been and always will be. Before I trust anyone in the religious or the scientific community, I want to know their motives--what makes them tick. Buyer beware!

Comment 153

If science and religion are so incompatible, perhaps someone should tell the Vatican Observatory, or the Pontifical Academy of Sciences which is by appointment and counts Nobel laureates, agnostics, and atheists on its membership.

The vast majority of working physicists and cosmologists today build their work around the 'Standard Model' of the Big Bang, a concept first proposed by a Belgian priest, Monsignor Georges Lemaitre. It is only when personal agendas are injected into the discussion that science and religion become incompatible. Both search for truth.

Comment 154

I don't believe in the Bible. But I do believe in God. I am a natural theist.

Comment 155

I think we are very important to him, but because he loved us enough to make us in his own image, he also made us independent like he is, and trusted us to seek out our own desires, hoping the desires would be in line with his own. It is that trust that has created havoc in the world. I think he knew that giving us an intelligent mind had it's risks. But as in everything, there is a downside.

Comment 156

It is not good to subdivide knowledge in two categories. Knowledge is interconnected, that is its nature. There is one truth, not two truths. In a perfect man, it's one not two. So we either believe in the Bible, and in the story of the literal Genesis (or in some other religion like Islam), or we believe that there is God but the Bible, Quran and others are not necessarily true (that is Natural Religion), or we believe that there is no God (atheist), or we express that we don't believe in any of these (agnostic).

What is a better way to end the unfortunate "we know it better than you" claims, on both sides?

It is time to stop showing typical messages. I have no conclusion. That is why I am not going to write the intended essay on “Science and Spirituality.” My knowledge of the spiritual world is not sufficient for this. But the attempt to compose such an essay, based on ideas expressed by others, was an engaging exercise. I learned a lot from numerous contributors, and I am thankful.

click to exit