Ever since their births there have been two half-sisters who have been quibbling and bickering and quarrelling. Their names are Religion and Science.
Both half-sisters attempt to explain the true “nature of things”. But they do that in very different ways. Religion, the older of the two, relies on “faith” and Science relies on “fact”. Faith may be described as that which cannot be seen but can be believed and fact on that which is observable and provable.
Both half-sisters make some excellent points which favor their positions. Most people subscribe either to the philosophy espoused by one of the half-sisters and in so doing reject that offered by the other. But are what both have to offer, really so different?
Religion, on her side of the family was blessed with a plentitude of cousins. Her many family members include Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam to name a few. Science points to these various relatives as proving the case that if Religion truly had merit there would be only one way in which she expressed her world view.
Science too has many relatives on her side of the family; mathematics, medicine, astronomy, archaeology among others. While Religion tries to come to an understanding of everything, Science segments her analysis of life into different disciplines, each concerned with its own specialty and ignores and shows little interest in the others – unless they happen on a discovery which might impact her own studies.
Science points out correctly that, despite Religion’s underlying theme of love and compassion, she has been the responsible party for so many of the wars that have plagued the earth. But if Religion has the responsibility for starting these conflict, Science has elevated them to a destructive art form.
Mankind first fought these wars in the name of Religion with slingshot and spear and arrow. Science gave us gunpowder and machine guns and the missile which could bring destruction all around the globe.
“Now am I become death the destroyer of worlds” quoted J. Robert Oppenheimer from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita as the first A-bomb was set off at Los Alamos, NM. Here was an example of how both Religion and Science could co-exist. And it wasn’t a pretty picture.
It happened one day that I was at a conference which both Religion and Science attended. During a break I was enjoying an iced tea on the patio of the conference center. The two half-sisters sat down at a table near me and I overheard their discussion.
“You know, Religion you preach a message of love and understanding, compassion and forgiveness and yet as I am looking at today’s paper I see how that is actually carried out by your followers. They murder each other, rob and steal and break all the commandments which you have established based on your faith. How do you explain that? To me it is evident and observable proof that what you have to offer is false.”
“Well, Science you are correct that what I teach and how that is applied by my students do not always coincide. But how is that any different than one of your mathematics students who is given a simple problem, say what is the answer to the question how much is 3 x 5 who responds with 14? Does the fact that this student and perhaps many more answered this question incorrectly invalidate the truth which you have found in your system of mathematics? Or does it simply mean that they have not understood the principle correctly?”
“Well, Religion let’s look at another example. For many years your leaders believed that the earth was the center of the universe; that the sun revolved around our little planet and then Galileo proved that was not true and that the earth revolved around the sun. Those leaders forced him to recant his position and shut him away in his house until he died. How do you explain that?”
“Science, they were wrong. But I would remind you that at the same time this was all happening those who were followers of your discipline believed that there were six planets in our solar system. Then later our knowledge grew and suddenly there were seven, then eight then nine. But then they reconsidered and decided that the last of these wasn’t really a planet and so now we’re back to eight. If facts are just that, facts – how can they change over time?”
“Let me give you another example. As you know, barbers were the first surgeons in your discipline that we know as medicine. It was customary for them to apply leeches to an invalid patient to draw out the “bad blood”. They were confident that this would help the patient heal. Yet today if you were to go to any modern hospital I think you would be hard pressed to find even one which has a supply of leeches to treat any of the maladies of those who come there for help.”
“You see, Science we are not all that different. I would assert that both you and I have a system that is based on faith. What we believe today is what we think is true. But as both of us have evolved over time our understanding has grown and our outlooks have changed to accommodate our greater knowledge. And if you don’t mind, I would like to quote one of my followers, a man named Paul who summed this up rather nicely.”
“For now we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”
At that point I finished my beverage and left to re-take my seat at the conference. The two half-sisters were still debating with each other.
I suspect that conversation will continue for a long time.