Science and Religion Don’t Have to be Rivals

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Whether we’re even conscious of it, we need and desire a means of discernment.  We seek a measuring stick with which to compare our own individual perspectives with something close to objectivity.  We desire something firm and deeply grounded when the world around us is always changing.  Increasingly, Americans view science as the final and ultimate say.  To qualify my remarks, I don’t caustically dismiss scientific progress out of hand in favor of religious belief.  I do know that science is never static, and that it is a field which is constantly evolving as surely as are all living beings.  To place complete, unwavering faith in science is to overlook the continual process of human discovery.

To illustrate what it is I mean one needs only contemplate medical warnings against moderate drinking.  Certain studies believe we ought not to drink at all.  Others encourage a couple glasses of red wine a day.  Competing points of view appear to negate every conclusion which has been previously drawn.  Our exasperation at these mixed messages and inexact results leads to a very understandable sense of consternation.  We would not feel so betrayed if we did not place full trust in the latest miraculous advance in modern medicine.  We crave surety, and surety so rarely arrives.

I have written quite a bit about living with bipolar disorder.  No one knows better than those  who struggle with this chronic illness that psychiatry is often primitive, imprecise, and extremely limited regarding holistic understanding.  Treatment resembles alchemy at times.  Proportions and combinations are its stock in trade.  I recently talked with a dermatologist on this same subject, and she noted that in many ways her profession is just as beholden to the unknown.  Nothing sends us, children of the Enlightenment, into a panic faster than mystery.  We have a compulsion to understand, to discover, and then to create.  It is for this reason that people will even destroy their health seeking ways to preserve it in others.

The question comes down to that of faith, depending on how one defines it for oneself.  Faith to me is, as I have alluded to, mysterious, and it is in those terms which I view God.  I’m always skeptical of any denomination, sect, or group which claims intimate, irrefutable knowledge of the Divine.  Reducing God to suit human whims is a kind of Idolatry of the highest form and one adopted only for selfish, manipulative purposes.  I was reminded of this when I read the recent Vanity Fair exposé regarding Sarah Palin.  Oh, if I had a dollar for every self-styled Christian whose Higher Power always agreed with them in every imaginable circumstance.  The God I know provides constant guidance, but he is not above calling me out in a spirit of love when I need it.  The Enabler God is a golden calf.

I think we might consider directing our frustration towards different avenues.  We are all religious people, placing our hopes and wishes on the shoulders of concepts and theories we are barely capable of understanding ourselves.  The complexities of the human body, the material world, nature, and the role of God in our daily lives remain unresolved and confusing.  One cannot easily make money off of the unknowable, and that’s where I think the problem begins.  Nothing sells like a miracle.  Nothing rakes in the big bucks like the quick fix and the easy sell.  That requires no sacrifice, no tussle with adversity that produces gains upon which no one can ever put a price.

It is written in Proverbs,

Evil people get rich for the moment, but the reward of the godly will last.


  1. Well, science has become the modern religion hasn’t it? Place your faith in science which is nothing but the extrapolation of observation of the five senses, which register only a fraction of what is there. Our senses are necessarily limited to what is necessary for our survival because if we actually perceived all of the stimuli/energy in our environment, we’d all be in perpetual nervous breakdown mode. Most of science is theory which is where it should be. Science has thought it was the bees knees for centuries now and what we know now is the science of the last few centuries, compared to the theories being tested today, was nothing more than witch doctors with test tubes. X-rays to test for cancer, causes cancer eg.

    As for religion, while I don’t believe Life is an accident, that’s about as far as I am willing to go in extrapolating what is the Cause for the obvious Effect. As soon as one begins to attribute values to “God”, let alone give It a Name (even the name God), one begins the short journey to superstitious mumbo jumbo. Yet the FACT of “god” is easy enough to test in a scientific way.

    For instance, if I believe my own thoughts create my reality, then it is easy to test which thoughts create which reality. The Power of Positive Thinking and The Law of Attraction have been turned into circus barker snake oil because folks believe in the quick fix of get rich quick. But if one really studies these things over time one can perceive the relation between what one thinks and what one experiences. Now this cause and effect is not a proof of God, but it is certainly not proof of coincidence.

    If one doesn’t belief in eternity, then one is placing one’s belief over proof. No one knows the truth of Life. Big Bang is a theory. There are other scientific theories which postulate an ebb and flow of the universe without a beginning or end.

    Faith, to me, is as indispensable as the knowledge of bacteria. The Golden Rule is as important as antibiotics. They both work.


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