Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Science and Religion

The debate between science and religion has been raging for centuries now. I have always been fascinated by this debate. Having been an extremely religious guy for a long time, I was always intrigued by arguments from both camps and have endlessly debated this in my own mind without ever having reached a conclusion.

Religion is this constant theory, unchanging with times, based on dogma, based on one or more religious texts. Science is open to change. Scientific theories are discarded all the time based on new evidence or in favour of theories that can explain known phenomena better. Both the approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.

Science is completely free of dogma. If you are able to prove a new theory sufficiently well, it is accepted and the old theory is discarded. Religion refutes all new theories and claims that science will eventually come around and accept that religion holds the key to understanding the world. 

Science is the easy pick among the two for many. You believe what you see. You believe what is proved by reasonably accurate experiments that can be replicated in different circumstances. For example, it is a well-established fact that the species Homo sapiens originated somewhere in Africa and then moved to the rest of the world. This is based on a number of excavations that have proved a number of traits like the size of the species, the tools they used, the food they ate etc. The trouble is let’s say you believe that and refute religion’s claim about the origin of man (based on which religion you believe, this could again be very different). After a decade, some archeologists excavate some site in Australia and find relics of ancient man that pre-date the African relics. Suddenly all hell would break loose. Science would have no hesitation in accepting that the old notion of the African origin of man was flawed and that the species actually existed before this in Australia.

This is true for every aspect of science. Medicine keeps changing every day. What was supposed to be good for the heart one day is found to be not good the next day. The anemia target range for those on dialysis keeps changing faster than a dialysis patient’s dry weight!

Where then does that leave someone who discards religion in favour of science? 

On the other hand, religion does not care about evidence. It claims to be the ultimate truth. It does not need evidence. This is a difficult pick but if you have deep faith in a particular religion, you don’t need to worry about the changing evidence. You rest in the belief that what your religion says is all true.

What about some incontrovertible evidence then about things that are firmly established in science? For example, most religions say that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around the earth? This is clearly not true. The US would not have day when India had night if this was true. This is something that can never be proved wrong. Where does that leave religion?

So, this debate will continue to rage forever. While religion relies on faith, science, on evidence. Take your pick but be ready to challenge yourself whenever a troubling question arises.

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