Religion And Science, Can They Be A Happy Couple? –Henry Bassey

By Ikenga Chronicles October 9, 2016

On October 1, 1632, the Head of the Inquisition, a council of 10 cardinals of the Roman catholic church constituted to try ”heretics” , showed up at Galileo’s house with  summons to present himself to the Holy Office in Rome within a month. This was the beginning of a long and gruesome trial of a renowned man of science, Galileo Galilei.

Galileo was tried by the inquisition, condemned as a heretic and sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life. What were Galileo’s crimes? Simply put, Galileo, a man of science, using scientific methods, put forward a theory that was in direct opposite to what the church taught. The Church interpreted the Bible as teaching that the Earth is at the center of the universe. The Sun, Moon, other planets and stars revolve around the Earth. But Galileo, using scientific means discovered and taught the opposite; the Sun as the center of the solar system, the Earth and other planets revolved around the Sun while the Moon revolved around the Earth. This created a great conflict, leading up to his arrest and trial.

In 1992, some 350 years after the death of Galileo, Pope John Paul II gave an address on behalf of the Catholic Church in which he admitted that errors had been made by the theological advisors in the case of Galileo. He declared the Galileo case closed, but he did not admit that the Church was wrong to convict Galileo on a charge of heresy.

The history of conflicts between religion and science has been well documented over the years. The conflicts have existed partly, due to wrong interpretation of the Bible by most religionists and their refusal to accept facts no matter how glaringly  clear they are. Facts are almost always in direct conflict with what they read in the Bible, or some other “Holy” Books.

Let’s look at the Biblical account of creation. Most people who study the first chapter of the Bible are so convinced that God created the Earth and Heaven, and everything therein in six days. A “day”, being a 24 hours’ time period. This just doesn’t add up. Following Biblical chronology, the earth is just about 6,000 old. This is in sharp contrast to the discoveries of modern science. Using a number of techniques, which include radiocarbon dating and radioactivity, the earth, has been found to be approximately 4.2 billion years old.  Like many other events in the bible, the creation story has been misinterpreted and misrepresented.

The Genesis account wasn’t written to show the “how” of creation. Rather, it covers major events in a progressive way, describing what things were formed, and the order in which they were formed. Also the time interval described in Genesis shouldn’t be taken literally. The Hebrew word translated “day” (yohm), can mean different lengths of time. Finally, we must realize that the genesis account approaches matters from the standpoint of people on earth. So it describes events as they would have been seen by human observers had they been present on creation day.

The opinion that science and religion are antagonists is very widespread today. There are some concerns science has about religion and vice versa that would make a connection between religion and science difficult because these concerns affect how the rationalities of religion and science are viewed. But if these concerns are appeased then connection between religion and science is actually strengthened. One of such concerns is religious fanaticism.

Religious fanaticism is corrosive to science. It teaches people to be satisfied with trivial, supernatural inexplicable notions and blinds them to the wonderful real explanations that we have within our grasp. It teaches them to accept authority, revelation and faith instead of always insisting on evidence.

On its part, science also needs to stop claiming monopoly of knowledge. The idea that science is the only form of knowledge is highly erroneous and further deepens the conflict between religion and science

Science and religion represent distinct ways of approaching experience and these differences are sources of debate.  Science is descriptive while religion is prescriptive. Science and religion provide many opportunities to look for and find God in nature and to reflect on a person’s beliefs. Science requires moral commitments similar to those found in religion especially in fields like stem cells research, reproductive health and nuclear physics.

In my opinion, religion and science both want to explain how the world works. This means that they have similar purposes, which would mean that there could be a way for religion and science to be connected

Religion dictates our moral outlook, while science simply explains the world around us. Religion and science are completely different aspects of understanding, but they sure can be compatible and can complement each other. As Albert Einstein once said “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”


  • Henry Bassey is on Twitter as @henrydennis25
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