A Brave New World: Why Science Cannot Replace Religion
by Lenny Esposito
Many times in popular articles commentators will state that old religious dogmas are being replaced by the new knowledge that comes from scientific discoveries. In fact, many people believe that science and religion cannot coexist – that fact and faith are contrary ways of understanding the world. Usually when this argument is asserted, it is to bolster the view that science is a better and truer way of seeing things; that humanity is in the process of abandoning its myths in order to come into a new enlightenment.
Unfortunately, those who advance such notions don’t realize that they’ve made a fatal flaw in their thinking. They’ve not abandoned religion; they’ve simply substituted one belief system over another. What’s more, to substitute science for religion is a proposition destined to fail. Let’s look at the roles of both and see why.
The Role of Religion In The Life of Man
Throughout history, humanity has sought the highest meaning of life through religion. Christian scholars set out to try and understand the ultimate reality of our existence and to establish a cohesive worldview. People would turn to the cleric as a trusted source of knowledge in their search for the truth.
Christianity specifically has always held the view that the world can be knowable. The Christian worldview teaches that God created the material universe. Since the universe is designed by a rational being, it should behave in a predictable way. In other words, the world as we know it should act in accordance with certain observable physical laws and that would allow us to predict how objects will react in specific circumstances. This is the origin of modern science.1
Today, however, the understanding of religion has changed. Come up to a person today and say you want to talk about religion and you’ll usually get an interesting reaction. Many people get uncomfortable discussing religious topics; they feel that religion is a personal matter and that spiritual matters should be a private affair.
The New Role of Science
Science, on the other hand, is treated much differently. New scientific breakthroughs are trumpeted in newspapers and discussed at the water coolers the next morning. Scientists are now looked upon as the ultimate arbitrator of truth. If science says something is true, it receives widespread public acceptance. Even corporate America has discovered that the credibility of a product will rise dramatically when a man in a white coat advertises its benefits.
It is because of the amazing achievements we’ve seen through science that many people have jumped to the conclusion that science is capable of explaining everything. However, science by itself is useless. It cannot answer the most important questions of morality and ethical actions. Science is primarily a way of understanding the material world. Science can tell us what is the case, but it cannot tell us what should be the case or what we ought to do about it…
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