Religion and or Science Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Religion or Science?

Since the Renaissance, there has been a vocal debate between religion and science. Galileo was imprisoned and sanctioned because of his views of the universe, the sun, and the way planets moved. As science progressed, this debate became even more heated. However, in the late 20th century, there has also been a mitigating discussion about the way that religion and science can actual coexist as explanations of the universe. In fact, as physicists look into the wondrous world of smaller and smaller particles, they find that the laws we through governed the universe do not really fit in with the abstract dimensions of time, space, quarks, and the study of the basic attributes of matter and the universe (Schroeder, 2010, p.xi ). On some level, the debate between science and religion is based on the notion of reason (the scientific method) versus faith. Reason implies what can be empirically proven, faith what we must take upon faith without proof. However, explaining the diversity of life, the complexity of something as simple as weather, or photosynthesis, or even the nature of matter, often boggles the mind and bodes for at the very least, a causality, a "blind watchmaker" of sorts, or even the idea of something greater than our understanding when we deal with issues of grand causality (Dawkins, 1996).

One of the seminal issues in the debate between evolution and creationism is the idea of evolution. As humans, we have a seminal interest in understanding the process of creation, as well as a specific organization of the universe -- not just as a theory, but also as a profession of life (Schroeder,, p. 91). Evolution, however, remains one of the basic templates to understand the biology of an organism or ecological unit. It is the change in inherited traits of a population through a process called natural selection in which only the strongest traits are appropriately adapted to the environment, thus those traits from parents who live longer and are healthier are passed down to future generations. Evolution is the product of two opposing forces: variation in traits and mutation (Futuyma, 2005). Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace almost concurrently developed this theory in the early to mid-19th century. Even though Darwin could not explain all the scientific details of the process, but to beat Wallace to publication released On the Origin of Species in 1858. This literally polarized the world within a few months after its release, many seeking to utilize the basic theory within a number of other academic disciplines.

The term "scientific creationism" or "intelligent design theory" is a relatively recent term for an old ideology. As soon as Darwin's Origin was published it became the focus of attacks from the religious right, who asserted the Bible was literal. The apex of this movement came in the early part of the 20th century where a number of states, mostly Southern "Bible Belt" states, passed laws making it illegal to teach evolution. After the infamous "Scopes" trial, most states left the laws on the books, but did not aggressively enforce them. However, after the 1959 Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, in which evolution was predominately featured, some conservatives began to liken the teaching of evolution with communism. One Tennessee legislator, in fact, commented, "Any persons or groups who assist in any way to undermine faith in the teachings of the Bible are working in harmony with communism (Dykeman, 1971).

At the very heart of the argument, though, is the idea of truth and the way humans perceive truth and science. One cannot simply apply the definition of truth just because an authority says it is truth -- since the Dawn of Man, truth has been ambiguous. The word "truth" differs greatly from a word like "apple" that has an immediate visual connotation, and is easily and unequivocally defined. "Truth," however, is an intangible and equivocal concept with inanimate and ineffable traits. So in order for one to define truth, one must first incontrovertibly accept that truth is not limited to one simple definition. Due to its ambiguity, truth has a versatility to it that can be applied in various scenarios rendering its meanings to be relative to context. Truth is a concept comprised of two fundamental facets; the universal truth, and the individual truth. Truth, then, is the only "current" possibility of view that is logically or empirically uncontested with absolute certainly -- something that, of course, does not exist since objectivity is an illusion in and of itself. The idea of the ambiguity of truth is quite relevant when analyzing the contemporary debate between scientific "truth" and religious "truth." Focusing on the statement, "Creation is not a one-off event. It is a process of continual divine activity, making and sustaining the world," one finds that the historical relationship between science and faith has been paradoxical at best since the time of Galileo, and even more contemptuous in the 20th century (Schroeder, pp. 171-83).

Of course, the very nature of the debate may seem philosophically oxymoronic -- how can one challenge faith based on empirical knowledge? However, viewing the debate in a more general sense, one can see the evolution of the controversy between scientific theory and religious philosophy. The view that the relationship between science and religion in continual conflict is quite common, however, recent scholarship suggests that debating Galileo and Darwin, for instance, is definitive proof of conflict (Russell 2002, p.3).

We find that there are four major points of contention between science and religion -- particularly focused on the idea of creation. First, we have a view of the universe from Copernicus and Galileo which, although radical for the time, was based on scientific observation -- that the earth was not the center of the solar system (universe) and therefore humans not necessarily the result of a special and central creation by God. This view evolved into a world picture vs. A worldview, the former being "mechanistic, tentative, and expendable, while the latter concerned values and principles that were" more enduring. In the 20th century, the idea of cosmology moves far beyond a view of centrist creation to an evidence of far older earth than was envisioned within Genesis or any Biblical source. This, of course, leads to the contemporary notion that the process of "creation" was metaphorical, not of a single causation, but of wide-ranging events and systems that have a more universal structure (Schroeder, pp. 33-45).

Second, the idea of objective methodology seems rather polarized in viewing science and based on "factual truth" and religion on "faith," a more naturalistic view. As the sciences became more sophisticated, the idea of finding a divine purpose in nature moved into more of an attempt to define and understand the micro universe. Thus, creation could be viewed as a series of natural causations guided by a divine being, a so-called "blind watchmaker" who creates the mechanism for a clock to be invented, but has no real interest in the minute-by-minute dealings of humans. The conflict, and yet ironically the similarity as well, comes in the form of what might be similar between the Big Bang Theory of creation and the notion that somehow certain elements had to exist, and certain physical events (weather, temperature, etc.) put into place to move from primordial soup to a living cell (Dawkins).

A third area of conflict revolves around the notion of ethics and morality within the creation paradigm. Humans in the 20th century have developed the capacity to create technologies that, for the first time in human history, have global and long-term consequences. For example, nuclear power and weaponry, genetic engineering, manipulation of plans (fertilizers and insecticides), and even medicine (inoculation, control of disease, using medicine to lengthen the lives of the population). The idea of a continuous creation for the human spirit implies a movement towards free will without the necessary wisdom to control individual creation (Schroeder, pp. 40-48)..

My reading of Schroeder shows that the polarization of views in the idea of social power -- created by God or Man, remains an important part of the science/religion debate. Traditional views hold that God created the universe in an ordered, hierarchical manner. Creatures had specific niches within the environment, all set up in a manner in which, unencumbered, and would result in harmony. However, the 20th century saw the rise of new philosophies of science and nature, the sacred and the secular, and even a forum for which view rules contemporary culture. On the surface, this conflict centers on the authority of the literal reading of the Scriptures vs. using them as parables for the instruction of moral standards. 20th century archaeology, for example, attempted a definitive answer to much of Genesis, finding that adequate evidence is still missing on the specifics of the Flood Story, of Abraham and Isaac, and even of the story of Adam and Eve (Schroder, pp. 52-62).

Thus, the argument, quite frankly, boils down to the notion of philosophical discourse --…

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