Conflict Between Religious Scholars And Scientists — Why Is It So?

Contributed by Wardah Noor

Disclaimer: The Eqbal Ahmad Centre for Public Education (EACPE) encourages critical and independent thinking and believes in a free expression of one’s opinion. However, the views expressed in contributed articles are solely those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the EACPE.

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(Author’s Note: This write-up is the product of my observation. The examples given below are requested to be taken as an attempt to explore the real cause of conflict between those standing for science and that of religion. This article doesn’t aim to attack or offend any particular idea or personality, neither religious nor scientific. This is how I believe things must proceed in academic discussions.)

The relationship of science and religion has been a subject of study since centuries. It is generally considered that the history of this relationship is featured by conflicts. Some consider it a battle between religion and science, and some take it as a battle between religious scholars and scientists.

Many religious scholars, if not all, seem to dismiss the idea of unity of science and religion. They claim the superiority of religion and consider science as its subordinate. On the other hand, scientists happen to disregard them. Science is based on skepticism, instead of believing things without questioning and asking for evidence. And hence, it shouldn’t surprise if science doesn’t talk about the physical existence of any Supreme Being or shows no interest in miracles.

Let me try to clear these two things to all of you which probably you know far better than me, but have not yet related. Science and religion have different foundations. Science stands on reasoning and evidence, and religion acknowledges revelation and faith. Science questions everything, whereas faith mainly goes unquestioned. Science deals in matter and energy, principle of causality, and lays its foundation on a well defined procedure, known as Scientific Method, which relies on observation, hypothesis and experimentation. On the other hand, religion or faith considers revelation and interpretation of divine books as final authority. Both scientific method and revelation explain their respective ideas within their separate domains. It is not possible to explain Newton laws using divine books. Also, it is not possible to “see” God using any scientific instrument.

Both the science and religion have their own ways to explain what they claim. As one cannot use a bicycle to travel at speed of aeroplane, similarly one cannot use religion and science to explain each others.

Religion is comprised of tenets that have to be accepted as it is, whereas science keeps evolving gradually with set of new observations and evidences.

I always fret when religious scholars claim to know more science than a scientist or a scientist tries to prove that there is no existence of God. If you feel happy when aeroplane makers criticize bicycle makers for making such a slow thing or bicycle makers laugh at the huge size of aeroplane, then I fear you might not understand my point.

Let me quote a few examples here:

Although all religious people talk about evolution but my favorite one, whom I respect the most, is Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. I almost agree with him on every religious talk but I respectfully disagree where he talks about the evolution. For instance, in one of his talks, he reflected that Darwinism, a theory of organic evolution, is completely wrong.

I fear this opinion of him had emerged from unawareness regarding how science works.  Majority of scientists agree with theory of evolution, although there are some who disagree as well and give their counter arguments too. Hence, approving or disapproving any theory or scientific idea is a normal thing in the world of knowledge, but for any religious scholar to outrightly reject something about science doesn’t make sense unless it is done after following a proper scientific method.

Religion is comprised of tenets that have to be accepted as it is, whereas science keeps evolving gradually with set of new observations and evidences. The point where science stands today is the product of centuries of questioning, observing and seeking evidences before it claims something as true. For instance: It is now an established fact that rotation of Earth is the reason for the day and night cycle, and hence, no one claims anymore that the earth is a stationary object.

In my humble opinion, while it’s unpleasant to find some of religious scholars denying the established facts of science, it is also displeasing to find some of scientists denying the existence of God in absolute terms. There are many books explaining the existence of God, but all have purely religious and philosophical basis. Though some also relate science with it, but the best are those which are in purely philosophical phraseology. It’s clear that the concept of a Supreme Being is not a topic or theory of science.

Science doesn’t claim to be based on any divine revelation, and hence, let it work the way humans deal in accordingly scientific method.

Could anyone provide evidence about the physical existence of love and hate? Such feelings do exist, and everyone does experience them as well, even though there’s no physical existence of them. Insisting on having a physical evidence to acknowledge their presence would make no sense.

Renowned American astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, once said: “Eyewitness testimony is the lowest form of evidence in science, which is sad because it is the highest form of evidence in the court of law.”

I laughed a lot after reading it. What if people need to carry microscopes or such instruments with them, like DNA base sequence finding machines, so that when they find someone committing a crime, they may ask the killer to let them test base sequence of his DNA in order to show it in the court. Of course, it is not the way how court decides who is murderer. And yes, if there is a doubt, then court could use any advanced technology to know who the real murderer is. In such tricky situations to find truth, the credit certainly goes to scientists for their inventions, but if you will have to test my DNA sequence even after seeing that I had killed your friend, then you are wasting your time.

All above discussion is just to request all of you to please keep a gap between two disciplines: science and religion. Science doesn’t claim to be based on any divine revelation, and hence, let it work the way humans deal in accordingly scientific method. This is what religious people need to regard about science. On the other hand, scientists need to realize that the path toward progress includes being sensitive to how others believe. When people from both the sides confront each other with lack of compassion, it’s unfortunate. I feel that fighting over if God exists or not, or that if Darwinism is true or false, while following two completely different schools of thought, is not right.

Keep dismissing each other where it’s needed, but please don’t fight. Instead, practice kindness and love everyone: maintain peace and prove that we all can co-exist even with our major differences. After all, humanity is far more important than this fight. Isn’t it?

Contributed by Wardah Noor

The writer is doing F.Sc (Pre-Medical). She is a bright student, who seeks to get doctorate degree first and then to become prime minister of Pakistan and serve the country.


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