(Online Course) Essay Writing Skills Improvement Programme: Essays on Science – Science & Religion

Part D – Essays on Science – Tech, Environmental &
Ecological issues

Science & Religion

Answer: Science deals with the world that we know the
material world that is comprehended by the senses: religion is concerned with a
supra-mundane world – a world that we cannot be said to know. Science believes
in things that can be proved: religion is preoccupied with ideas that have to be
accepted without proof. Science depends on reasons: religion on intuition. l’ he
scientist works in the laboratory of the material world: the religious teacher
works within the recesses of his personal experiences. Religion begins where
science ends. Science says that tile First Cause is unknowable. Religion says
that it can be known through the discipline of religion, for it is God who is
not only self-existent but self revealed. Hence, there is bound to be hostility
between the man of science and the man of religion. Science ends when matter
ends. But religion opposes to this finite world of matter, the God who is
endless.

According to common perception, a huge gulf exists between
science and religion. Apparently, no doubt, science deals with things concrete,
whereas religion is based upon abstract ideals. Science implies fact, religion
involves faith. Religion is basically a matter of instinct and science that of
reason. But these are the broad characteristics of science and religion which
have meeting places also-and the first meeting place is in the human mind and
nature themselves. It is the human mind which proves facts and starts believing
in them and it is the mind alone which nurtures faith and reverence and believes
in some higher entity. When one talks about two apparently divergent things like
science and religion or other seemingly opposite things. one has to keep in mind
the complexity of human nature. Its very complexity demands influences from
antithetical ideas and makes their co-existence nec­essary as well as feasible.

Science relies on experiment, whereas religion on experience.
Any religious experience, be that of Christ or Ramakrishna, is personal and
subjective and it cannot he tested by any experiment. One has to believe in it.
On the other hand, the experiment of science is an impersonal venture. Also,
objectivity as a temperament of the mind is needed in this pursuit. So
rationality is one of the tools that science employs. Proof is provided in the
form of tangible results which can he perceived with the eye and at times can be
sensed.

Religion is subjective as religious enlightenment has to be
felt by one’s own experience. Unless and until religious experience is felt by
an individual himself, he cannot reap any pleasure out of it. The moral and
religious rules are allied and have to be followed by individuals in appropriate
ethical situations. Science, on the other hand, deals with the objective side of
life. Scientific discoveries are common property. They are experience felt by
all and sundry. They are open to common men and not shrouded in mystery or
haziness. They are truths, universally true and subject to scientific
calculations. A systematic scholarship and concentration is needed to get at
scientific truths which are subsequently tested and approved by hypotheses and
experiment.

But so long as scientific knowledge is imperfect, the place
of religion and God will continue to be highly relevant. So long as scientific
theories do not reach perfection, humans have to fall back upon their own
reasoning and secondary -‘powers of their own soul and spirit. In this sense,
science and religion actually converge. Both scientists and saints have to
undertake solitary travels Into the regions unknown and to depend on themselves
only and nobody else. But once a line is drawn between them, their ways
bifurcate and take separate routes. Religious truths remain essentialty the
property of the individuals who experience and realise them through their own
inward soul and mind and not through the external manifestation of things which
have a physical behaviour. Scientific truths, on the other hand, become the
property of the whole world and go to inflate the store-house of human
knowledge.

To use a term from the world of music one can say that in the
initial stages of human civilisation human knowledge was of the “mono” type,
i.e., undifferentiated. The sort of complexity which has crept into the human
world in modern times was lacking. Religion had scientific connotations also.
During the Rigvedic period the worship­ping of gods and goddesses and the
subsequent beginning of many religious customs and practices were inextricably
woven with scientific purposes. For example, the common practice of offering jai
(water) to the sun-god during sunrise. It is a fact that the first rays of the
sun are beneficial to the eyes. The practice of fasting prescribed by religion
as a mark of abstinence was also derived from the fact that it cultivates
patience and will-power (besides being good for physical well-being). Similarly
the custom of hawan during a puja or a Vagya had its origins in the fact that it
purifies the atmosphere. But gradually during the later Vedic period with the
increased influence of the priests and their tendency to misuse religion for
their own mercenary considerations the scientific part of these practices got
suppressed by superstitions and nameless fears.


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Religion is perhaps as old as mankind. Even in the earliest
times man had some idea of the higher power, a superior unknowable force
pervading and controlling the universe. The earliest forms of man’s worship of
serpents, science and statues is clear proof of his belief in an All-powerful
Creator. Science is of more recent growth. The earliest phases of science may
not be more than four or five thousand years old, while modern science began
only in the 15th century. But Religion is very much older and before science
made its appearance the former was the chief force guiding and governing human
thoughts and conduct. The supremacy of religion, however, gave rise to many
evils. Religion encouraged superstition and other evil practices. The heads of
various religions assumed almost the powers of a dictator over their followers.
The Roman Catholic Church in Europe, the Brahmin priests in India and others
behaved as despots and tyrants. The true spirit of religion was ignored on
account of these developments. But with the beginning of science, many of these
evil growths were badly shaken. The conflict between science and religion was
for some time very bitter.

The conflict between science and religion shows how truth has
to suffer in order to establish its claims. Pioneers of science had to face
numerous difficulties. Galileo, for instance, was thrown into prison for his new
theories about heavenly bodies. No better was the fate of Copernicus who pointed
out that it is the earth which moves round the sun. In the 19th century also
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution gave rise to angry opposition from the Christian
Church, since his theory cut across the Biblical version of the creation of
mankind from Adam and Eve. The Churchmen raised the cry “Religion in Danger” and
pressed for the persecution of such scientist. In recent times, the German
scientist Robert Mayor was shut up in a lunatic asylum for discovering his
theory of the Conservation of Energy. Thus all those who departed from the
accepted Biblical theories about God, and universe were regarded as the enemies
of mankind and religion. Numerous attempts were made to suppress the voice of
reason and truth. But Truth eventually prevailed and science field its ground.
Many who had come forward to laugh at science became its chanipions and
followers. Before the 19th century had run its course, the triumph of science
was complete.

The rapid progress of science changed the face of the world
beyond recognition. It conferred unheard of comforts and conveniences on
mankind. The wonders of science bewildered man and he began to enjoy numerous
blessings in life. Time and distance, disease and pain were rapidly conquered
and man seemed to be the master of Iris surroundings. These developments gave
rise in some circles to the belief that man is all-powerful and God a superfious
being. People lost faith in Heaven or Hell, God or the Supreme Power. Religion
seemed to be unnecessary and the Church began to lose the respect and power it
had once enjoyed Religion seemed to be dethroned from the hearts of man and
science reigned in its place.

But the path of science did not ultimately prove as smooth as
its worshippers had thought it to be. It turned out to be a mixed blessing. It
did provide bodily comforts, but at the cost of man’s moral and spiritual
development. It ruined man into a sceptic, a creature without any faith and
lofty ideals to inspire and guide him. The loss of such faith brought the baser
side of his nature into free play. Man became dishonest, selfish and proud. It
destroyed man’s simple faith, fellow feeling, affection and kindness. Besides,
the blessings of science gave rise to new social problems. The gulf between the
rich and the poor became wide than ever before. The widespread use of machinery
subjected millions of human beings to the evils of economic exploitation,
unemploynient, crowded, congested cities and the growth of slums. The average
worker lost his independence and happiness and was reduced to the position of a
mere clog in the vast organisation of modern industry. Above all, the use of
science in the manufacture of weapons made war increasingly horrible and
destructive, and it appeared that the very existence of humanity and
civilization was at stake. Consequently the enthusiasm of the supporters of
science began to cool down. Also science is not able to answer the fundamental
questions of the mystery of life and death and the incalculability of events.
The scientist can say that the universe developed from a primeval atom but what
made them coagulate into the universe we know. Science fails to answer the
question of the `First Cause’. It is here that man and even a scientist has to
fall back upon the idea of God and religion.

In fact, science alone cannot give peace and happiness to
mankind. Science must be allied to religion. Science makes man materialistic,
but religion upholds his faith in God, in the higher and spiritual values of
life. It must be admitted that there are more things in Heaven and on Earth than
our science can dream of. “file beauty and mystery of human life, its spiritual
and moral values are lost if men are guided entirely by science. And without
moral and spiritual values mans life is not better than the life of a beast. It
is on account of this neglect of the normal and spiritual aspect of life that
science has been applied for destructive and immoral purposes during the last
century. If this state of affairs continues science will bring about the
complete ruin of mankind and civilization.

Yet there is another danger: science itself may take the
place of religion. If God will continue to be highly relevant. So long as
scientific theories do not reach perfection, humans have to tall back upon their
own reasoning and secondary ‘powers of their own soul and spirit. In this sense,
science and religion actually converge. Both scientists and saints have to
undertake solitary travels Into the regions unknown and to depend on themselves
only and nobody else. But once a line is drawn between them, their ways
bifurcate and take separate routes. Religious truths remain essentialty the
property of the individuals who experience and realise them through their own
inward soul and mind and not through the external manifestation of things which
have a physical behaviour. Scientific truths, on the other hand, become the
property of the whole world and go to inflate the store-house of human
knowledge.

Religion is perhaps as old as mankind. Even in the earliest
times man had some idea of the higher power, a superior unknowable force
pervading and controlling the universe. The earliest forms of man’s worship of
serpents, science and statues is clear proof of his belief in an All-powerful
Creator. Science is of more recent growth. The earliest phases of science may
not be more than four or five thousand years old, while modern science began
only in the 15th century. But Religion is very much older and before science
made its appearance the former was the chief force guiding and governing human
thoughts and conduct. The supremacy of religion, however, gave rise to many
evils. Religion encouraged superstition and other evil practices. The heads of
various religions assumed almost the powers of a dictator over their followers.
The Roman Catholic Church in Europe, the Brahmin priests in India and others
behaved as despots and tyrants. The true spirit of religion was ignored on
account of these developments. But with the beginning of science, many of these
evil growths were badly shaken. The conflict between science and religion was
for some time very bitter.

The conflict between science and religion shows how truth has
to suffer in order to establish its claims. Pioneers of science had to face
numerous difficulties. Galileo, for instance, was thrown into prison for his new
theories about heavenly bodies. No better was the fate of Copernicus who pointed
out that it is the earth which moves round the sun. In the 19th century also
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution gave rise to angry opposition from the Christian
Church, since his theory cut across the Biblical version of the creation of
mankind from Adam and Eve. The Churchmen raised the cry “Religion in Danger” and
pressed for the persecution of such scientist. In recent times, the German
scientist Robert Mayor was shut up in a lunatic asylum for discovering his
theory of the Conservation of Energy. Thus all those who departed front the
accepted Biblical theories about God, and universe were regarded as the enemies
of mankind and religion. Numerous attempts were made to suppress the voice of
reason and truth. But Truth eventually prevailed and science held its ground.
Many who had come forward to laugh at science became its champions and
followers. Before the 19th century had run its course, the triumph of science
was complete.

The rapid progress of science changed the face of the world
beyond recognition. It conferred unheard of comforts and conveniences on
mankind. The wonders of science bewildered man and he began to enjoy numerous
blessings in life. Time and distance, disease and pain were rapidly conquered
and man seemed to be the master of his surroundings. These developments gave
rise in some circles to the belief that man is all-powerful and God a supertious
being. People lost faith in Heaven or Hell, God or the Supreme Power. Religion
seemed to be unnecessary and the Church began to lose the respect and power it
had once enjoyed Religion seemed to be dethroned from the hearts of man and
science reigned in its place.

The general notion that since science and religion represent
two different worlds of materialism and spiritu­alism they remain in conflict
is, however, not wholly correct. Had science only to do with materialism and
religion with spiritualism the conflict would perhaps not have arisen. The
problem starts when both encroach upon each other’s field. But as the horizons
of human knowledge widen, the barriers to discussion start falling down. As
civilisations advanced. philosophers and scientists attempt­ed to explain the
moving heavens in rational terms. Perhaps the first major confrontation between
science and religion came into being with the publication of De Revolutionibus
Orbium Coelestium by Copernicus. Copernicus, against the general belief
advocated by Ptolemy that the sun moves round the earth, stated that it is the
earth which moves round the sun. This new theory upset the standard
philo­sophical and religious beliefs of the medieval era. It not only meant the
collapse of the concept of universe as described in The Bible, but also meant
that man no longer occupied a central place in the universe. Man had been
removed from his pedestal, and his home was reduced to one of many planets.
Goethe, the German philosopher, stated that the theory of Copernicus made “a
great demand’: upon mankind to accept the new facts. As he said:

Science has certainly influenced society by altering the
religious thinking and attitude of the people. But science has its own
limitations. It has broadened the human reach, it has made possible the things
undreamt of, but somewhere along the line it has created a psychological void.
Scientific inventions have created for every man a little world for himself. The
communication gap is the ‘in’ thing. Surround­ed by electronic gadgets, moving
in the throbbing car, man leads a prosaic life. And he feels the void. Can
ignorance be the only reason for the existence of many religious and spiritual
‘gurus’-fake or genuine? If that had been the case, one would not have found
rich and poor, educated, half­educated and uneducated alike making a beeline for
the ashrams, giving donations and alms, going for pilgrimages, etc. For many it
might be a matter of faith, for many a way of relinquishing their burden of sins
even though remaining steeped in them-and for many just a matter of ritual
because their fathers and grandfathers have been doing so for aeons. It reflects
a sorry state of affairs that religion has come to be generally identified with
only these manifesta­tions of one’s religiosity-and science has to share the
blame. It has to share the blame because though it has influenced human life
tremendously, it has also, what Wordsworth said about the Industrial Revolution,
“blunted the discriminating powers of the mind.” The discoveries of science and
their application have created an atmosphere in which the baser element of man’s
nature has come to the fore quite prominently. The growing materialism and
consumerism have created two distinct classes of haves and have-nots, fostering
social and class tensions.

In fact, science alone cannot give peace and happiness to
mankind. Science must be allied to religion. Science makes man materialistic,
but religion upholds his faith in God, in the higher and spiritual values of
life. It must be admitted that there are more things in Heaven and on Earth than
our science can dream of. The beauty and mystery of human life, its spiritual
and moral values are lost if men are guided entirely by science. And without
moral and spiritual values mans life is not better than the life of a beast. It
is on account of this neglect of the moral and spiritual aspect of life that
science has been applied for destructive and immoral purposes during the last
century. If this state of affairs continues science will bring about the
complete ruin of mankind and civilization.

As a matter of fact, today we know clearly that the animosity
between the two is not-very substantial. The pyramids of ancient Egypt evoke
both religious reverence and also the admiration of engineers. Roger Bacon, the
inventor of gunpowder, believed in alchemy. Copernicus dedicated his famous book
to the Pope. Mendel was a monk by profession. And Einstein remarked that a great
scientific discovery was a matter of religious insight.
Historically, in ancient times, there was no conflict between religion and
science because human knowledge was an undifferentiated whole. The imaginative
shaman or the magician played the role of both doctor and high-priest. The
Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors till today refers to a religious belief of the
Greeks-Hygeia, the goddess of health. Thus, we notice that there is no
antithesis worth speaking between the two all through the ages. Besides,
intuition plays a vital role in the apprehension of God or in any religious
belief. Similarly, a great scientist never plans what he is about to discover.
Before Newton millions of apples must have fallen to the ground but only the
supersensitive insight of Newton made him propound the famous law of
gravitation. The compatibility of science and religion is well expressed in the
couplet:

Nature and Nature’s law lay hid in the Night, God said, let
Newton be and all was Light.

Outwardly religion and science are the two opposite poles of
man’s consciousness. But the two do not necessarily repel each other. The
meeting point is in the mind of man. Religion without science degenerates into
superstition, while science without the help of religion gives rise to
materialism and lack of faith. Science, to speak the truth, has only purified
religion, whereas religion has given a touch of beauty and mystery to science.
The discoveries of science and its conquest of Nature only show the wonders of
the Supreme Being. Thus science strengthens the work of religion. A true
scientist is not an unbeliever or irreligious person, but a real admirer of God
and His wonderful creations. What the superstitious man worships blindly, the
scientists worships as the fruit of his knowledge. Hence modern scientists have
come to know not only the limitations of science but have given a better
understanding of miracles of Nature and the wonders of the Creator. The Religion
of Science, if one may use the tents, is a rational approach to the problems of
the universe in which the voice of conservatism and superstition has no place.
Science has thus ceased to be the enemy of religion: it has, on the other hand:
become its helper and champion.

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