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Can science and religion be reconciled?

I would like to propose a three-pronged approach:

(A-) From the historical point of view, the answer is Yes.
Thomas Dixon, in his very good and concise introduction "Science and Religion", writes: "Although the idea of warfare between science and religion remains widespread and popular, recent academic writing on the subject has been devoted primarily to undermining the notion of inevitable conflict. [...] there are good historical reasons for rejecting simple conflict stories." - - -
The same conclusion can be found in Peter Harrison's detailed historical analysis "The territories of Science and Religion" : "...the idea of a perennial conflict between science and religion must be false (...)".- - - -
And John Hedley Brooke in "Science and Religion" :
"The popular antithesis between science, conceived as a body of unassailable facts, and religion, conceived as a set of unverifiable beliefs, is assuredly simplistic." - - - "... an image of perennial conflict between science and religion is inappropriate as a guiding principle.".

(B. The personal point of view. - Again the answer is Yes.
There are real scientists who believe in a personal triune God, and in Jesus as their savior, and in the Bible as the word of god... and all the rest of Christian creed and dogma. These scientists assure us that they do not have 'split personalities' and I have no reason to doubt their testimony. They believe that God created the universe and life, and they see it as their job to analyse and describe and understand His creation. How they manage to do this without mentioning the Holy Spirit or the Divine Logos in their papers is up to them. Obviously they are able do this and they are respected by their peers.

(C.) The methodological point of view. - Here the answer is No!
Christian scientists may not have 'split personalities', but they have to practice what I would call a methodological atheism at work. As they enter the lab, they have to keep God out of their mind, or to encapsulate their belief. There is simply no possibility whatsoever to mix their work and their faith. Science as a method and religion as a faith can never form an alloy. Christian scientists may be motivated by their faith to work as scientists, to better understand His creation, but this motivation is confined to the personal level (B.)
The contents of their faith must never contaminate the method they have to apply so that the results of their work count as "science". The career of an evolutionary biologist would be over the very moment s/he opines publicly something like "The known mechanisms of evolution can only account for micro-evolution, but in order to explain macro-evolution we need a transcendent and divine force."

By Matias
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There is nothing to reconcile. Science and religion are in different categories. It’s like asking if art can be reconciled with mathematics.

Science deals in objective reality. It makes observations of nature and discovers mathematical equations that model those observations. Science is good at describing what is, but does not deal in the WHY. It would be futile to ask a physicist why space is granular, why time does not exist, or why matter pops in and out of existence. It just does.

Religion, metaphysics and philosophy are free to deal in the subjective reality. Religion in no way presents a credible body of logical, testable assertions. That’s not what it’s about. Religion is about awe, enlightenment, self-realization, awareness, appreciation and gratitude. It is true that some religious organizations promote a God concept, but that concept merely represents a metaphorical symbol for the overwhelming reality beyond the space/time/matter model of our senses.

It does not surprise me at all that half of all US scientists today say they believe in God, and I am not surprised that nearly all the founders of modern physics expressed deep religious sentiments.

Here’s Niels Bohr:

  • I feel very much like Dirac: the idea of a personal God is foreign to me. But we ought to remember that religion uses language in quite a different way from science. The language of religion is more closely related to the language of poetry than to the language of science. True, we are inclined to think that science deals with information about objective facts, and poetry with subjective feelings. Hence we conclude that if religion does indeed deal with objective truths, it ought to adopt the same criteria of truth as science. But I myself find the division of the world into an objective and a subjective side much too arbitrary. The fact that religions through the ages have spoken in images, parables, and paradoxes means simply that there are no other ways of grasping the reality to which they refer. But that does not mean that it is not a genuine reality. And splitting this reality into an objective and a subjective side won't get us very far.

Edwin Schrodinger:

Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.

WilliamFleming Level 7 Sep 8, 2018


This book is an interesting read. You seem to grasp larger concepts. I'd be interested in your opinion.

"It’s like asking if art can be reconciled with mathematics" - The two can be reconciled. Just think of proportions in architecture or sculpture, or harmonies in music. There was school in ancient Greece called the Pythagoreans who considered the whole world to be based on mathematics, and art was only of the "places" where the mathematical harmony of the Universe could be experienced.

@Fibonacci1618 Thanks, I’ll check it out.

@Matias Good point. If we seem science and religion as contradicting each other, we can reconcile them in our minds through analysis.

Gould's Non Overlapping Magesteria is the best form of reconciliation possible, IMO.

@TheMiddleWay Thanks, I’ll check into that.

@Fibonacci1618 I’ve briefly looked at the book, and I’m sort of floored. I’m not a psychic kind of person—not at this time. I am open to psychic ideas from a philosophical perspective. Maybe our entire conscious experience is one big psychic phenomenon.

I’ll keep the book on my iPhone and try to work my way through it—try to understand and relate. Do you have some of those psychic experiences yourself?

@WilliamFleming whether it's called psychic or simulation theory it's still an interesting phenomenon. To asnwer your question, yes. Whether you call it déjà vu or something more elaborate is argumentively semantical variations I think. But the scientific theories and associations in the book are quite interesting. The fusing of frequencies and wave theory especially. Thanks for the update on the reference.

@Fibonacci1618 I just read about simulation theory on Wikipedia. It reminds me of Donald Hoffman and his theory of Conscious Realism. That is something that seems to resonate.

@WilliamFleming we use symbolism to communicate. Whether it's English or French Numbers or words, it's our ability to translate it into knowledge that counts. Hence my interest in all avenues of it. Glad to know that you learned something new about simulation theory sir.


No need! Science is hogwash and the bible is all the truth we need! Oh and the earth is a few hundred years old, flat and the center of the universe, and i didn't read everything you wrote because i have the bible to back me up smile002.gif. Muahahaha!!!

Tutankhamun Level 6 Sep 8, 2018

I think you are a Christian apologist. I see this common theme in your posts and I think that you are trying to introduce and insert an entering wedge using cherry-picked sources to support this. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Neil deGrasse Tyson all have written excellent books regarding this subject from the perspectives of their expertise in evolutionary biology, neuroscience and astrophysics. They believe basically that religion and science cannot be reconciled.

Also, we know that by history, religion has controlled inquiry and discovery so that religion cannot be assailed. This is why the Renaissance was encouraged by the Reformation.

In your argument, Point B for the most part can nullify Point C. A Christian scientist may be able to compartmentalize their belief so that the scientific method can be pursued, but the confirmation bias is always present. Rather than say "here is the evidence, find the conclusion", they are likely to say "here is the conclusion, find the evidence".

The brilliant Francis Collins may very well best represent this dichotomy. As the father of the Human Genome Project, I cannot help but think that he set about to confirm that evolution was set in place by God. He espouses this view. However, by so doing he invalidates much of the Bible account of Creation, thus bringing theological doubt to the very writings of his faith. By so doing he also invalidates science by asserting that evolution was kicked off by God, for which there is no known evidence that God exists. Thus, Francis Collins, the brilliant scientist, uses his faith and assertions to justify the origins of his scientific discoveries, and keeps humanity in chains to religion by sophisticating it and bolstering it with DNA science.

I would like people to consider the Bill Moyers interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson regarding this subject.

CoastRiderBill Level 7 Sep 8, 2018

Agreed. I think Matias is a Trojan horse. And not a well disguised one. Perhaps... a badger?

So I am a Christian apologist just because I refuse to condemn religion using broad-brush statements? That is ridiculous.
My post is very nuanced and detailed, avoiding any sweeping claims, and in Point C I make it clear that on the most important level - the methodology - there can be NO reconciliation whatsoever. To me as an atheist it is difficult to imagine how religious scientists manage to reconcile these two sides in their mind - as I describe under Point B.
So please tell me WHERE am I being an apologist?


@Matias Thank you for your reply. Even though I disagree with you, I always like to see what you have to say.

It is your assumption that I would regard that one is a Christian apologist merely because they refuse to condemn religion. Not so. I think you are a Christian apologist because you support and promote Christianity, thus religion, as an acceptable component of human society. I think you are a Christian apologist because you promote that religion can be reconciled with science, and thus evolutionary thought. You have shown this in your historical argument Point A above. However, as time goes on, science disproves religion more and more. One does not need to make sweeping claims of any kind to promote or criticize anything. All that is needed are subtle suggestions which cause the mind to question.

I make a distinction here between defending the rights of others to exercise freedom of conscience of belief or non-belief. This is why the freedom of individuals in Point B should be inviolate.

You are correct in Point C, that any confirmation bias on the part of any researcher or scientist must be put away for the true scientific method to happen.

However, as long as Point A is considered acceptable or even a goal, humanity will not progress as it should. Religion will always serve as a subjective moral filter that chokes scientific inquiry. History has proven that. Because I was a Christian for 30 years, I got the newsletters and articles from Christian organizations and thought leaders that encouraged and directed their readers and followers to vote anti-science when they believed it violated the Bible, even in principle if not literally.

If you are indeed an atheist rather than a Christian apologist, then you are unwittingly defending Christianity, thus religion, with your view in Point A.

@CoastRiderBill You write: "You are a Christian apologist because you promote that religion can be reconciled with science, and thus evolutionary thought. You have shown this in your historical argument Point A above."
That does not make any sense whatsoever.
That science and religion are not contradictory on the historical level simply is FACT. I cited three renowned scholars who have published books on that subject. It is a FACT that giants of early modern science like Kepler, Boyle or Newton were motivated by their religious faith to study God's creation.
It was a widely shared notion at that time that God created two books: the book called Bible, and the "book of nature" - and people like Kepler were busy studying this second book; they even conceived their studies as a kind of "divine service" equivalent to the study of the Holy Scriptures.

Therefore it is justified to conclude that up until the middle of the 19th century, there simply was no contradiction between science and religion (actually, people like Kepler or Newton did not call themselves "scientists" but "natural philosophers" ).

Here is a little challenge for you: Give me one quote from a (contemporary!) scholar who has studied the history of science and who claims that both sides have been in conflict right from the beginning in the early modern period.
As long as you are not able to to this, you have no right to call my arguments under Point A to be invalid, or to accuse me of pursuing a religious agenda, which is preposterous


LOL I get this a lot to. As an agnostic, I too get constantly accused of being an apologist simply because I find atheism AND theism to be equally unsupported.

It's bascially "if you aren't with us, you're against us mentality" which is amusing coming form atheists who then denounce that same mentality in the theists. smile002.gif smile002.gif: D

@TheMiddleWay On that point I would give you your right of thought. However, this is a consistent theme in his posts, trying to make Christianity palatable and acceptable, while claiming to be an atheist, This is in part why I challenge him thusly, in addition to the points he made.

I see no evidence that he is trying to make Christianity palatable or acceptable as a religion.
I only see evidence that he is trying to frame Christianity as a culturally important part of history and in the lives of individuals (a and b) while at the same time being clear that it is an unimportant part of science (c ).

I just don't see how that frames him as an Apologetic.
I rather see that as an atheist who is interested in religion the same way an anthropologist is interested in the rites and rituals of primitive cultures.


@TheMiddleWay Bravo! I could not have expressed it better. I consider myself to be a hobby anthropologist/psychologist/sociologist - and "religion" is just one of my pet topics.
You simply cannot understand Homo sapiens if you do not understand religion. I treat religion as an linguist treats languages; I never considered myself to be part of a movement to fight against religion. To people like @CoastRiderBill who see this world as a battlefield of Good against Evil, this scientific attitude is tantamount to treason.


Them: Science should be used to address everything!
Us: We want to be scientific about religion.
Them: TRAITORS!!!!!
smile002.gif smile002.gif smile002.gif smile002.gif

@Matias, @TheMiddleWay No, thanks. I refuse to be drawn into a wearisome contention over this subject with either of you. I am not required nor obligated to enter into debate or give you any more explanation than what is in my reply above, and I think I am in pretty damn good company to posit that view.

Just a reminder, I was a Christian and Bible teacher for 30 years with a minor in psychology. Don't you think I have read Frances Collins interviews for years and his attempts to reconcile evolution and God? Don't you think I have read books similar in scope and message to Real Scientists, Real Faith which uphold the Christian worldview? I lived it and I taught it for decades. These books are basically Christian 'witnessing', which is a testimonial and form of proselytizing. How I used to love these scientists who, after doing their research, broke down their compartment walls and declared that they could prove God. Been there, done that, read that, taught that. I have no need or desire to waste my time going back and reading what I already know, especially that which I now as an atheist consider nonsense for your satisfaction.

Being 'scientific' about religion? I agree when you want to understand the anthropological, sociological and psychological background in our evolution for that. That is a valid and worthwhile pursuit. We should study that so we can help humanity to shed its need of religion. However, studying this without considering and assenting to the harm that religion has done historically to hold science and humanity back is incongruent to atheistic thought. For an agnostic, I can see that. I get that. I was an agnostic for 4 years before I became an atheist.

For me, to see an atheist consider that historically religion and science can be reconciled, is quite flawed. It is just as incongruent as a Christian who believes evolution. For a Christian to do that, they would have to believe that much of the Bible is symbolic rather than literal, and many Christian scholars and theologians in varying denominations have tried to interpret what the creation week means. In so doing, the believer has at best a conundrum and at worst a crisis when deciding what is actually to be considered 'God's word' and what is not. It calls into very question for the believer the reliability of their religious writings. Going back to Collins as an example, and others with similar thought, they are neither a 'true' Christian or a 'true' evolutionist. They sit on a fence thinking they are a bridge, but actually lose credibility with many on both sides. Every year that goes by, every decade we learn more and more about our evolution which puts science at odds with the Bible, thus furthering the chasm between religion and science being reconciled.

Thank you, I am finished here. smile001.gif


@Matias I think you are confusing early scientists who were inspired by their belief in God to investigate and discover with historical reconciliation with religion. Much of what they discovered actually contradicted the Bible and Church teaching. I think you are blurring this with Point B. Historical proof that these discoveries were incompatible and irreconcilable with religion is that the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages considered these discoveries as heretical, and sought to imprison and kill these pioneers.

How I used to love these scientists who, after doing their research, broke down their compartment walls and declared that they could prove God.
And AFAIK, alll of them have failed so far. But then again, science isn't afraid to fail nor are scientists immune from having blind faith in their theories.

I agree when you want to understand the anthropological, sociological and psychological background in our evolution for that. That is a valid and worthwhile pursuit. We should study that so we can help humanity to shed its need of religion.
So when an anthropologist studes an ancient culture, it isn't to understand it and put it in perspective with modern culture or even adopt the good aspects of that culture... it's to find ways to PURGE said aspects of the ancient culture? Not likely.

However, studying this without considering and assenting to the harm that religion has done historically to hold science and humanity back is incongruent to atheistic thought
It's also incongruent to historical thought given that religion has actually been more instrumental in advancing math, science, and astronomy rather than holding it back: for every Galileo there is an al-Khwarizmi... for every Ken Hamm there is a Francis Collins. This "religion vs. science" narrative is a myth promoted by both the believers and non-believers to make the other side into the enemy while the majority of people don't see or abide or play into that conflict and, like the aforementioned Francis Collins, merrily go on making great science contributions while holding onto their faith.

Going back to Collins as an example, and others with similar thought, they are neither a 'true' Christian or a 'true' evolutionist.
This is a perfect example of the "no true scotsman" logical fallacy: because they don't fit your narrow mold of what a christian should be, they can't be a "true" christian. Face it, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Bill, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." and there are more ways for a christian to be true to their faith than simply the stereotypes you propose. After all, Collin's doesn't need to be "true" to your description of him for his advances in genetics, his contributions to the human genome project, or his leadership of the NIH to be invalidated.

Thank you, I am finished here.
In my experience, when a person says "I'm done here"... they rarely are. smile009.gif



Martie1965 Level 6 Sep 9, 2018

that which does not exist cannot be reconciled with science.

Switchcraft Level 6 Sep 9, 2018

That's a circular viewpoint if you consider that that which exists is that which science proves.

Like the neutron or electron prior to the 20th century. You would be well within your rights to claim they don't exist (as many physicists did)... yet they undeniably due based on science.

Likewise, god(s) cannot be said to exist or not exist simply because science hasn't proven them... they are, at worst, like the neutron or electron... just waiting for the right experiment to prove them... or, at best, like the aether or caloric... just waiting for the right experiment to disprove them! smile002.gif

@TheMiddleWay Even if God exists, it must be a very disgusting, deplorable being! Fuck God!

If god exists, then us judging it's actions would be like a child judging the actions of a parent: the child may also hold the parent in contempt for their actions by not understanding the bigger picture and issues that a parent must deal with

Or viewed another way, if we do not accept the theists claim that "god is good" as a valid argument for it's existence, then neither can we accept the atheist claim that "god is bad" as a valid argument for it's non-existence.


No. Next question

minhmeister Level 8 Sep 9, 2018

I'm going to go with NO.

Science admits when it's wrong about something, and offers new evidence to
prove or disprove any scientific assertion. It is constantly questioning, researching, experimenting, and working toward answers.

Religion asserts that gods exist, and insists on it's adherents to have "faith", and
not to question it's teachings, or it's hierarchy. It's gods are infallible and unknowable.

It's "holy" books are complete fiction, and have cannibalized and plagiarized every ancient text that came before them.

It consistently fails to produce one scintilla of credible, verifiable evidence to prove it's assertion ANY gods have ever existed, at any time, anywhere.

KKGator Level 9 Sep 8, 2018

I'm going to go with a big agree on your NO.

Careful with that one metric though: Catholicism, as an example of a religion, has on various occasions admitted it was wrong in the field of science, the eventual acceptance of and apology to Galileo being a prime example. Yes, it works on a much slower time frame than religion but that make sense given that their ideology has been around for a lot longer than science's claims.

@TheMiddleWay Face it, no one believes anything the catholics have to say about anything anymore. Any time they may have admitted to not having gotten it right, means nothing now compared to the level of corruption and cover-up surrounding all their pedophile priests.


No. Science & religion can not work together. Too many things science proves with religion to be wrong. (at least so far in modern times)

Separation of church & state. Separation from religion & science. Separation from faith & fact.

WeaZ Level 7 Sep 8, 2018

Oh horsefeathers!
Religion....a magical construct to explain unknown phenomena, and comfort the fearful.
Science. theories proved by observation, measurable results, replication, and Peer review, with applications in the real world.
You may Wish they could be reconciled...........

AnneWimsey Level 8 Sep 10, 2018

I think you (and quite a few others) have misunderstood what was actually a pretty nuanced post... I get no sense that the OP wants them to be reconciled as such - but is pointing out that otherwise intelligent people don't explode somehow, as they hold the two in their heads. Makes no sense to me - but it's a statement of fact that such people manage just fine.


I've said it before, and I will say it again (and someone said it before me)

If civilisation ended tomorrow, and we had to start over, eventually, all of our scientific knowledge would be re-created, and would be exactly the same as it is today (well, the stuff we have right)

Religion would never be re-created exactly the same.

Ozman Level 7 Sep 9, 2018

If you went back, say, 50,000 years and you re-run the tape of human evolution, you would get the same result: Religious beliefs in every culture, but science only in a very few cultures. Why? Cognitive psychologist Robert N. McCauley gave the answer in his book "Why Religion is Natural and Science Is Not"

@Matias but would the religions evolve (yep, used that word on purpose smile009.gif ) the exact same way? There's no doubt there would be religions, but the odds of them being the same are (again, wait for it) astronomical. Yet, E=MC^2 will always be E=MC^2

@Ozman The same could be said about languages. Re-run the tape of human evolution and what is the probabllity that the English language will be the same as today? Or will there be an English language in the first place?

Your whole argument is based on the common misconception that religions are nothing but sets of (failed) statements about the world. As any religious person will be eager to let you know: that is not the case. Religion is a way to live and a way of life, and life is much more than collecting sets of facts like e=mc^2. Science is nothing but a huge collection of such factual statements, but religious belief adds another dimension to this set (I am not religious myself, so I have to rely on what believers tell me), and science is just helpless to make any claim or argument - even in the negative - about this "additional dimension".

"If civilisation ended tomorrow, and we had to start over, eventually, all of our scientific knowledge would be re-created, and would be exactly the same as it is today (well, the stuff we have right)"
We have no way of knowing that.

For example, category theory could come before set theory and that would drastically modify the way we view the world and do science.

Or we could live in a world with purely measured quantities and none of the derived ones we use today. For example, would the acceleration (acceleration is a derived not measured quantity) due to gravity still be 9.8 m/s/s? Well, kinda... it might not have the same numbers or units but it would still "be there". But what position acceleration has in this new imagined scheme may not be as part of the kinematic equations nor maybe even exist... society could function quite adequately with a radically different set of equations... a radically different science. So i'm not entirely convinced this is true anymore than Christianity or Islam would also come back the same as they are today.

@TheMiddleWay Really, you live in a country that still clings to feet and pounds and degrees Fahrenheit and you're suggesting that we might have different units of measure, and not having ms^2 is going to invalidate all scientific theory? The thing is, the law is the law, and nothing will change that. Not order of discover, not order of operations, not standards of measurements. C is C, no matter what,

Which law is law? Newtonian physics or Einsteinan physics?
Which law is law? Hamiltonian formulation or Langrangian formulation?

Yes, at the end of the day they must all make the consistent predictions but how those predictions are made, the SCIENCE behind those predictions, those can be radically different... the way that the science behind pounds and kilogram is different.

But there is no discernible difference between pounds and kg (well, absent one being a measure of weight, the other being a measure of mass, so on earth's surface), just the numbers are different. And despite the efforts of religion and the anti-science administration, 2+2 STILL =4


I think the question is less "can they be reconciled" and more "SHOULD they be reconciled?" Is there really any benefit to giving religion the appearance of legitimacy by trying to reconcile it with actual science?

wjwolfe Level 5 Sep 8, 2018

I go one step further.. I believe that anyone professing a believe in the supernatural, , can never reconcile with science.. So (call me narrow minded if you must) but all religious people are either, ignorant fools, or the worst kind of deceivers and liers controlling an agenda for their own benefits.

Eldovis Level 7 Sep 8, 2018

As AronRa put it, there are two types of religious people: the deceivers and the deceived.


I am a (retired) scientist, and I have known a number of good scientists who were religious. But I have never understood how this can be.

Coffeo Level 7 Sep 8, 2018

It used to baffle me too, but with research and reflection I have come to recognise that highly intelligent people including scientists are using the emotional part of their brain, putting it simplistically, to believe in religion. If you push them I swear you can actually see cognitive dissonance on their faces. Studies in neuroscience deal with this too, though I'm not an authority, just general reading. I think I get what is going on about this these days more than I used to.

Perhaps they are agnostic in their minds

@Coffeo - If you'd like to know more, there is a book where they try to explain it: "Real Scientists Real Faith"


@Matias Thank you for the link. Actually, now that I'm not a working scientist myself, I guess I'm less puzzled by the phenomenon, since I don't encounter it daily. But I might take a look anyway.

@Matias Let's get real indeed. This has nothing to do with atheism and worldwide science which is based in evolutionary biology. You sir, are a Christian apologist, and you are promoting this book which celebrates Christian scientists, is edited by a Christian professor and published by Monarch Books, a subsidiary of Lion Hudson which has the mission statement of "Lion Hudson is committed to publishing quality literature, worldwide, which is true to the Christian faith. We publish books for adults and children under five different imprints. Lion Books, Lion Children’s Books, and Lion Fiction take accessible books that reflect a Christian worldview to a general audience while Candle Books and Monarch Books support Christian families, individuals and communities in their devotional and spiritual lives."

@CoastRiderBill I did not promote this book, I mentioned it. If you want to know what religious scientist think, you have either to talk to them (I do not know any) or you have to read books in which they try to explain their stance.
Question: If a scholar of politics wants to know how Neonazis "think" he has to read their publications. Does that make this scholar a Neo-Nazi himself? Does it make him an apologist of the "Identitarian movement" if he tells another scholar: "You should read this book XY in which members of the "Identitarian Movement" describe their worldview"? -
According to your flawed "logic", Sir, that would be the case. All scholars studying right-wing extremists are themselves right-wing extremists. So be it...


Think of it this way: there are a good number of religious auto mechanics and doctors. How can this be? How can a person fix a car or cure a patient if their are religious. As I see it, they simply don't apply their religion to cars or human bodies!

I think there is this misguided notion that to be religious means that it must affect (infect?) the totality of your life. It's a notion that paints every religious person like a die hard fan who can't shut up about their beliefs... or that thinks that their belief is a magic bullet to be applied to every situation and solves every problem. The reality is religious is A belief that most people have, not THE ONLY belief. And thus a religious person can fix a car, cure a patient, or study the universe without relying on or giving up on their religious beliefs.

@TheMiddleWay Clearly, you are correct. I just don't see how they do it.


My first thought is why would you want to?

kiramea Level 7 Sep 8, 2018

Who said that I am trying to reconcile the two? I posed the question and then I tried to parse it in three paragraphs A, B and C.
I am neither a scientist nor a religious person, but I am fascinated by religious scientists because at first sight this seems to be a contradiction in itself.


@Matias You asked a question. I was merely answering it.

My father was a Chemist and a Catholic. He integrated religion into science just fine.


Good points all, but I think your concept of “Christian”, while probably fitting the majority, does not include possibly the “best” Christians, who by literalist standards are probably atheists. Famous, distinguished Christians like Bart Ehrman, Karen Armstrong, Chris Hedges, Elaine Pagels, etc. who most likely don’t believe in a literal sky daddy, but are passionate supporters of the metaphorical truths contained in those traditions.
All one has to do to dissolve 100% of the perceived conflict between science and religion is to come to understand that the ancient stories were allegories about human psychology, whether their writers could grasp that fact (they couldn’t) at the time or not.
The silliness of the science/religion “debate” is like vociferously declaring Picasso an incompetent because “women don’t really have both eyes on the same side of their face!”

skado Level 8 Sep 8, 2018

Sorry, but "B" of the 3 pronged approach (personal point of view) is invalid. If some scientists say they "believe" in the triune god, they are speaking of their RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. They are not speaking as scientists. Unless they (or anyone else) can inform me of a single speck of evidence of god (much less a triune god !!!!), then this "reconciliation" is only between 2 groups of people....religious people who also do scientific work....and religious people who do not. The actual field of science is not represented here.

balance_point Level 5 Sep 9, 2018


@balance_point - - Sorry, but Point B is of course valid, as any religious scientist will tell you. I know very well that religious scientists are a minority today, but they exist, and there are books like "Real Scientists Real Faith" where they describe their PERSONAL reconciliation of science and religion.
Or would you say that these men and women are all suffering from a 'split brain' and do not known what is going on in their mind?


@Matias I think our difference of opinion is largely semantics. I do not dispute your assertion that some scientists "believe"...and that some of them even take the bible seriously. In my response, I was referring to the heading of your post, in which you posed a question about science and religion. You may disagree, but I see the word science as referring to the disciplined procedures and rational thought that brings us to accepted "scientific knowledge". If you choose to include the personal musings of some people in the science community to be within the definition of science, I can not say that you are necessarily wrong. It just does not fit my own parameters of the word "science".

@Matias Let's get real indeed. This has nothing to do with atheism and worldwide science which is based in evolutionary biology. You sir, are a Christian apologist, and you are promoting this book which celebrates Christian scientists, is edited by a Christian professor and published by Monarch Books, a subsidiary of Lion Hudson which has the mission statement of "Lion Hudson is committed to publishing quality literature, worldwide, which is true to the Christian faith. We publish books for adults and children under five different imprints. Lion Books, Lion Children’s Books, and Lion Fiction take accessible books that reflect a Christian worldview to a general audience while Candle Books and Monarch Books support Christian families, individuals and communities in their devotional and spiritual lives."

@balance_point I see your point, but I think that nobody "owns" science and therefore nobody can force his definition on everybody else in the scientific community. One of the advantages of the historical approach (which I prefer) is to see that the "territories of science and religion" (the title of a very good book about the the history of these two concepts) are not eternally fixed.
If some real scientists who are held in high esteem by their peers are at the same time religious believers, and if they tell us that and how they can reconcile their science and their faith, we are not entitled NOT to take them seriously, as if we owned the one and only true definition of science. Therefore it is a no-brainer to conclude: Yes, on the personal level, science and religion obviously can be reconciled

@CoastRiderBill Is this all the evidence you can find? That I mention a book where religious scientists tell us about their way to reconcile faith and science? I did not even recommend this book. I just mention it because my worldview is not as simplistic as yours, where only black and white exist, and if Matias is not one of white camp, he has be an evil guy from the black camp. So he must be either a troll or a Christian apologist. What kind of flawed faculty of judgment one has to have in order to find this sort of conclusion convincing...?

@Matias Just as 'nobody owns science' so too shoud be the mantra 'nobody owns religion.' After all, religion belongs to the people, not to any so-called authority or made-up deity! We determine our own religion, right? Religion is not set in concrete ... or is it?

Within most, if not all, organized faith communities, we can find outliers. Non-doctrinal, non-heirarchical, non-judgemental groups. And here we may even stumble upon the concept of 'universal priesthood' or the 'priesthood of all believers.' But these ideas are far from mainstream. Religion is slow to yield to any apparent progress. However, if religion is to have any long-term significance, it cannot be authoritative, punitive or unalterable. Religion with either evolve, or die.


The entire question is fallacious. '"The known mechanisms of evolution can only account for micro-evolution, but in order to explain macro-evolution we need a transcendent and divine force..."' This is ridiculous. In what sense does evolution on any level need to be "explained" by a divine force, unless one is assuming that evolution has an ultimate goal? Evolution explains itself. Natural selection over generations results in complex forms of life arising from simple forms of life. There's no need for a further explanation, unless one starts with the a priori assumption that human life was the goal to begin with. It wasn't. But for an accident of history, we could have been miniraptors debating why hairless mammals never got farther along.

Paul4747 Level 7 Sep 8, 2018

It is useful to read carefully before you reply.
I wrote: "The career of an evolutionary biologist would be over the very moment s/he opines publicly something like 'The known mechanisms of evolution can only account for micro-evolution, but in order to explain macro-evolution we need a transcendent and divine force'."
I think it should be obvious that I do NOT subscribe to this sentence. I used this sentence as an example of what a scientist must never say or even think.


@Matias It's not obvious, given the rest of your post. Furthermore, I doubt whether any evolutionary biologist would have such a thought to begin with.
The vast majority of scientists view "God", if they think of one at all, in the sense that Einstein did- the physical laws of the universe, the beauty of all things, the forces that act unseen on us all. Not a personal god, but the cosmos itself. There are very very few serious scientists (outside the "Intelligent Design" movement) who believe in a personal god in the sense of the Bible.


No. Science relies on the scientific method: that truth requires demonstrable, repeatable results. Religion requires the suspension of the scientific method.

Hellas Level 6 Sep 8, 2018

I guess you only read the heading.
That is exactly what I said in paragraph (C.).


I'm sure if someone spent enough time you could construct a narrative to reconcile the two. But it would just be ridiculous fan fiction supporting an unenlightened viewpoint. Besides wasting time, why would you want to water down science with dogma?

JazznBlues Level 7 Sep 8, 2018

“Science as a method and religion as a faith can never form an alloy.”

I would have to take issue with this. It depends on how you envision “religion” and “faith”. There is no universally accepted definition of these terms. To my thinking authentic faith is not about believing unsubstantiated notions about the material world, but rather about believing that enduring peace of mind can be had in a chaotic and contentious world. Religion at its core, I believe history will bear out, is the practice that brings us closer to this peace. No unscientific assumptions are required. In fact, I will argue, the closer to science you stick, the sooner you will get there. An alloy of science and religion is not only possible, but the optimum path to peace. Warring factions do not contribute to peace.

skado Level 8 Sep 8, 2018

Religion has been shown to result in a tribalistic approach to life. It even affects Christians who merely identify as Christian and doing my go to church:

The data doesn’t really support that science and religion are the optimal way to peace if you agree that a tribalistic perspective is an obstacle to peace.
In fact I think the above study shows that non-religious people are the least tribalistic being both more open to immigrants and ironically more open to different religions.

I don't see where this particular collection of data even attempts to address causation. Looks to me like a pretty straightforward statement of correlation only. If there are other studies that claim to show causation I'd like to look at them. My guess is that it was the people's innate tribal instincts that attracted them to religious participation, not the other way around.

I hold the view that... the way the great majority of participants practice religion today is deeply obsolete, to the point of being largely counterproductive, but I see intellectual laziness and cultural drift as the main culprits, not anything necessarily inherent to the (already somewhat vague) concept we refer to as "religion". In my opinion the baby in that bathwater probably always has been, and most likely should continue to be, training in how to balance our higher values against our animal instincts. "Science" isn't in the business of conducting such training of the common citizenry, every week, in all local communities. "Religion" is.

What that suggests to me is that reform is what is called for, rather than abandonment, of religion. And what better reform could come to that institution than a heartfelt embrace of reason, the lack of which, after all, is what has precipitated the current exodus from the church.

I would argue that it is precisely our innate propensity for tribalism that is in need of weekly balancing by lessons on faith, hope, charity, love, forgiveness, and truth. Why wouldn't science inform those lessons better than superstition?


Once science starts looking for/ at the nonphysical then yes.
Until then they are polar opposites; the study of the physical world (science) Vs the study of the nonphysical world (theists).
Bring the nonphysical into science and science will discredit religion quickly

powder Level 7 Sep 8, 2018

Could you say that math is a better way than religion to study the non-physical world?

Not all math was developed to model the physical world.

@Myah I count human creativity as nonphysical as we can't measure, predict, define or replicate it. We don't know the where, why or how of it.
To me, math measures our physical world and won't help in detecting the nonphysical. Need to be outside the box on this one, which is why we haven't done it yet. I think quantum physics is heading in the right direction though.


Quantum physics is science of the physical world. It can be used to predict physical phenomena just on a more detailed stage than Newtonian physics

@Myah Agree but quantum physics was developed by some thinking outside the box. Need more of it, opposite thinking. Take imagination (creativity).
Physical things can be defined, have rules and boundaries that can be applied.
Imagination (nonphysical) is infinite with no rules or boundaries that may be applied.
To define infinite is an oxymoron but to bring into science we need to define nonphysical things.
It's a dilemma. Maths may do it, but I don't see how. Any Einstein's out there?

@powder Quantum physics is not developed by someone thinking outside of the box as you say. It started with Plank and over a wide span of time, piece by piece many mathematical and physics mind came to conclusions that were proven. In fact, while it is really difficult to understand it is proven to a degree of certainty higher than any other theory. Predictions match experiment with incredible accuracy.

@CK-One Just to remind you: Max Planck was a devout Christian himself. He said: There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony.


This is probably getting near some of the core of the issue, but I think that there is important nuance that needs to be added in each case—nuance which is critical in understanding this fuzzy area of potential conflict.

A. Historical

Read Richard Carrier's The Scientist in the Early Roman Empire. Early Christian values (and New Testament ones) do—on history—clash with proto-scientific ones. The value hierarchy is distinct in ways that caused Christians to leave aside operational science.

Personally, I don't think your C entirely stays separate from A. The Christian "method" of knowing by revelation and the scientific method of empiricism are directly at odds; take the story of Doubting Thomas for example or Colossians 2:8.

B. Personal

Going back to your second point, I do think that, given the Bible is a big book and Christianity is a widely varying belief system, plenty of people in their connection with science and religion probably don't find any conflict between them in their daily lives.

This, however, wasn't the case for me. I threw a science book away once because I was worried at the time that my mind and connection to God would be corrupted by intellectualism. I'm not kidding! And that was heavily motivated by other antagonistic sayings by Paul (in addition to the brain-washings of Young-earthers). (As crazy as this all sounds in retrospect!)

While my own Christian experiences are not necessarily common, I highly doubt that such anti-intellectualism (including with science) is very unusual, particularly given the prevalence of Creationism, Supernaturalism, and other kinds of simplistic magical thinking in the Christian movements.

C. Methodological

Playing Jesus's advocate smile009.gif for a second... There are some Christians who use stray Bible verses (out of context, of course) to support their personal applications of good empiricism, rational consideration, with a sense of open curiosity into their engagement with science. So here they do manage to synthesize a valid scientific process out of beliefs (they think are supported) in the Bible. In those instances, they would not really agree that calling it "methodological atheism" is valid. (This is one reason why the term is "methological naturalism" which is more appropriate in reference to the scientific process.)


So, I think you are correct in the essence of things in positing A. being yes, B. being yes, C. being no, yet I do think that all three are what I would call "soft" yeses/noes in the sense that they are only partly true/false with substantial situational counter-examples to them as a rule.

It is important to keep these nuances in mind and on the table, or else the simplistic A & B you put forward will rightly not connect as being correct with other ex-Christians, and your simplistic C will get your remarks similar reactions from some honest and intelligent Christians.

But, I will say, it is annoying to hear people talk as if it is absolute noes on all three accounts, when that just isn't the case, or (somehow!) absolute yeses.

Rhetoric Level 7 Sep 8, 2018

Thank you for your insightful and interesting remarks. It is a shame that detailed and well-considered comments like yours get only three 'likes'

@Matias Haha! Nobody has time to read such long ones, though. smile009.gif


Absolutely. All it takes is education.

skado Level 8 Sep 8, 2018

No. To reconcile them is to deny truth. Compatibilism won't work. The conflicts are too frequent and severe.

eric788 Level 5 Sep 8, 2018

As you know me fairly well by now, Matias, you can expect that I might disagree. On the whole, I consider religion and science to be at odds with one another, if for no other reason than the means by which each arrives at factual claims about the universe. The epistemology of religion is fatally flawed.

When considering a statement of fact made in the teachings, doctrines, revered books and dogmas of any religion, one simply needs to ask, does the statement or claim in any way impinge on science? I’m quite willing to consider a religion which is devoid of the following terms and, as such, doesn’t endorse or believe in them: sacred, worship, miracle, holy, pray, divine, faith, sanctify, sin, heaven, hell, prophecy, clergy, laity, deity, just to name a few. Find me a religion, Matias, that doesn’t have these negatives, and I might be interested. Until then, in the words of my avatar, ‘My own mind is my own church’ and ‘The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.’ In my religion of one, there is no need to reconcile with science!

p-nullifidian Level 7 Sep 10, 2018

Your first mistake: You treat religion as if it were basically a kind of failed proto- or pseudo-science - which is not the case. Religion -as all believers affirm - is a way to live, it is a way of Life, and life is more than cognition. And religion is more than a collection of factual statements which have been made obsolete by science.
If this was the case, religion - at least in the West - would have gone by now.

Second mistake: You make the tacit assumption: If science cannot tell us anything meaningful about X, therefore X does not exist and has no meaning. This is a fallacy.

Of course science cannot tell us anything about a "divine order". But it would be bad reasoning to conclude that this precludes the possibility of any "divine order" (I'm NOT arguing that such a divine order exists!).
All kinds of religions are based on the unprovable (!) belief that Reality is more than the four dimensions of our daily experience and the facts we can find within these four dimensions. And science can only make meaningful statements inside this reality with four dimensions. It by definition tells us nothing about other, transcendent dimensions. Science is completely helpless when it comes to any possible transcendence, but the conclusion "Therefore a transcendent order does not exist" is a non sequitur.


@Matias You arguments here seem to be supporting the idea that religion, like science, is worthy of consideration. , despite their opposing ways of finding truth. That could support a narrow meaning of reconciliation ( calling a truce ). But it does not begin to reconcile their differences. Also, I do not see where in pnfullifidian's above remarks he makes the assertion that you accuse him of in "Second mistake". The general fallacy you allude to is, however, a clean piece of logic. And it describes well why I am agnostic. Although the notion that the "unknown realities" would happen to align with the bible is the biggest stretch of all time.


@Matias Wow! Did I say all that? I’m looking at my remarks, and am unable to find all these points that you’re countering.

Please know that if religion—and in particular, the Abrahamic faiths—were more like the Eightfold Path than they were about the words I found objectionable, I might be persuaded of its utility. But ways of living or ritual by themselves don’t make a religion, unless you’re willing to include my rituals of drinking martinis on Friday evenings, hiking on Saturdays and mowing the lawn and watching football on Sundays as a 'way of life.' But that is not what we’re talking about, are we? The two (action and motivation) go hand in hand. As the Bible says:
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
James 2:17(NIV)

But then, the Bible also says:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Regarding my ‘second error,’ I didn't mean to imply that because science has little or nothing to say about a subject, it has ‘no meaning.’ Unicorns, Pokemon Go and the Marvel comics of Stan Lee have significant meaning to many people, topics on which science has little to say.

Finally, ‘transcendent dimensions’ sounds very much like something Deepak Chopra might say, or, as Michael Shermer calls it: "woo-woo."

@Matias "I'm NOT arguing that such a divine order exists!"

But if it did exist we might reasonably expect science to tell us all about it.

@Jimmyboy No. Science and its scope of explanation is limited by our reasoning capacities and by the instruments we use (from microscope to Large Hadron Collider). There is no reason that our reason + our senses + our instruments can reach and understand the totality of Reality. On the contrary: it is reasonable that there are lots of "unknown unknowns" beyond all of our horizons.

@Matias "Science and its scope of explanation is limited..."

Agreed. Science is limited by our ability to collect, analyze, recognize and characterize data. That being admitted, the fact that there remains a vast number of 'unknown unknowns' (i.e., questions we've yet to even consider) should never be in dispute. However, the limitations to which you refer are not fixed, and as we gain knowledge regarding the universe and the phenomena by which we are surrounded, the realm of science (including our ability to reason on the relevant subjects) continues to expand.


@p-nullifidian I disagree. As usually you are IMO too optimistic. What I mean by "unknown unknowns" is not a question of degree but of kind. Just imagine a chimp. You teach a chimp a basic sort of language, and maybe even teach him to count to 10 or 20. But a chimp will never resolve or even understand the Riemann hypothesis, because chimpanzees's brains are not made (by evolution) to understand these kind of questions, let alone answer them. Higher math (and many other domains) are principally beyond what an ape can understand.

In your worldwiew the human mind has an unlimited potential: we'll keep expanding our knowledge and then, some day, we will understand and know everything that can be understood and known. HOMO DEUS - an omniscient animal? No. I am sure that there are dimensions of Reality inaccessible to our faculties, just as there are realms of knowledge inaccessible to the cognition of all (!) other animals.

@Matias I just can't see any reason to think so. No one has ever found such a thing today: that's not to say we understand everything. But everything we can know of or can extrapolate today, has reasonable expectation of being understood in the future.

The proposition that there are things that the scientific method cannot explain smacks a little of desperation and conjecture.

So sure - there might be dimensions that the scientific method is not adequate too. But we have no sight of them yet. And Religion is a dreadful proxy for those as religion just makes it up. Manifestly so.


@Jimmyboy Exactly! If I understand @Matias correctly, not only are there things we do not know, but there are things we cannot possibly know in our present evolutionary chimp-brained state. And this is assumed to be true, based on what information? Absent evidence for these unknowable unknowns that may never be known, to believe in such is like believing in a deity.

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