Science And Religion And The
Love-Hate Relationship


Throughout time, science and religion have maintained a very unique relationship, which at times, has found the two severely at odds with each other, and at other times, inclusive and desirous of discovering common ground upon which they could build co-existence. It is clear that both have legions of faithful followers and, unlike earlier periods in history where science and religion constantly battled, neither is in a position where it can be dominated by the ignorance's or zeal of the other. Science and religion are in a competition with each other for what is perceived as the truth by both sides, and that does cause friction but can also lead to collaboration. Science, by its very nature, cannot acknowledge as fact, events or things that exist on a realm that is outside of the physical and beyond the realm of the provable by means of hard evidence. Science must base its beliefs and its foundations on solid evidence or from theories extrapolated from what is known. Religion, on the other hand, does not burden itself with the demands of physical evidence to pre-suppose that its beliefs are fact. What religion does require is absolute faith rather than evidence, and belief in something that cannot be physically proven can sometimes be more difficult than compiling evidence to prove that existence. In short, science requires the evidence to support the belief where religion requires the belief act as the evidence.

There are areas where the gap between science and religion is narrowing. There are scientific discoveries that have been made that tend to suggest that science, in pursuing new theories and discoveries, is uncovering evidence that could support some of the beliefs of the religious realm. New insights into the way we understand Black Holes, Parallel Universes, the Big Bang theory and other Science Mysteries are starting to shed light upon the mystical areas that were once the sole domain of religious faith, and the implications of these discoveries are that answers to some age old questions about the meaning of life and the existence of God might be found. The further along that science progresses in its search for meaning and truth, the closer it seems to get to the intangible mysteries behind ancient religious beliefs.

There have been many incidents in history where science and religion have found themselves intertwined in conflict or affirmation, but there have been three incidents that have helped to shape the relationship more than any other time in history. Science and religion have always had a love-hate type of relationship and each has used the bias of the other against one another. This sentiment proved itself out with the arrival of Copernicus and the mapping of the solar system.

It was always thought by religion that the earth was the center of the universe and that all planets and stars revolved around it. In the early 1500's, Nicholas Copernicus began to map the motions of the planets and the stars in the solar system. What he discovered was that the Earth was not the center of the solar system, but was a planet that moved around the sun.This, of course, differed dramatically from the Church's view that the Earth was the center of everything and the heavens evolved around it. It created a difficult situation for Copernicus because he knew he was right, but to go against the Church at that time was to put oneself in direct harm's way. So, despite the pressure of colleague's, Copernicus did not publish his findings until near his death when The Revolution of Celestial Spheres detailed his life's work. This, of course, created a very difficult situation for the Church because it was one of the first times that direct evidence was presented that opposed the fundamental beliefs of the Church. In response to Copernicus' ideas and evidence, the Church labeled him a heretic posthumously. Nearly a century later, Galileo came along and proved the main aspects of Copernicus' theories and this led to a future revolution in Astronomy in Europe. Of course, Galileo was placed under house arrest in 1633 for heresy because he would not recant his findings that proved out Copernicus' theories. Copernicus' book was banned by the Church in 1650. It wasn't until the beginning of the 18th century that the Church realized that it could no longer suppress these ideas and the evidence that supported them. However, it was not until 1822 that the Church released the ban on Copernicus' book.

Another interesting event between science and religion occurred not as a conflict between science and religion, but as a personal conflict with the religious convictions of Albert Einstein and a new discovery of Quantum Mechanics. Newtonian physics dictated that particle positions and time could simultaneously be known, and once you knew the particles acceleration, you could then determine its path for all time in the future. This was known as pre-determinism, and it was the scientific principle that helped to formulate Einstein's belief system in God. The birth on Quantum Mechanics changed things for Einstein. There were two experiments in particular that helped to create this doubt; the photoelectric effect and the ultraviolet catastrophe, and these led to the observation that nature behaved in ways that were contradictory to the old views of Classical Physics in that now there was uncertainty. The particle position and the time it was at that position were uncertain by a new constant of nature called Plank's Constant. According to Planck, you could only know a particles energy and the time that it had that energy, and that knowledge happened to be in a window of uncertainty. The particle was in its own microcosm of its microscopic realm, called the quantum realm, and it was popping around in what is called zero point motion, and in a random way. This meant that we could only know the probability of where a particle was or where it might be in the future but within a window of uncertainty. This was very difficult for a Classical Physicist like Albert Einstein to grasp, even though the experiments and the data made the truth behind it inescapable. This completely challenged Einstein's own religious beliefs because it meant that pre-determinism was inaccurate and God was basically rolling the dice on the sub-atomic level and this could only mean that there was uncertainty in the universe rather than complete ordered structure. This meant that God did not know everything with exact precision, or He at least allowed for the presence of uncertainty and this was contrary to what Einstein believed that He did. It meant, to Einstein, that things were not completely pre-determined as was once thought. It is not public knowledge, but it is believed that this knowledge deeply troubled Einstein and his own psycho-religious structure was shaken by this evidence of science. It was this discomfort that led Einstein to pursue his work in the Theory of Relativity, where things were more exact and this idea of a quivering, uncertain quantum realm was absent. It was in General Relativity that Einstein developed the theories which explain the curvature of space and the motion of the planets and that the mass responds to the curvature of the space. These principles are much more exact classical theories that do not incorporate Quantum Mechanics. Einstein never returned to that field of study and he never abandoned Classical Theory in his later years of isolated research into Unified Field Theory.

The next key incident between science and religion is when the theory of the Big Bang was formulated. It had been believed for some time that the universe was expanding and the belief was that the universe began from a single point with a Big Bang. It was thought that if there was a Big Bang there had to be some sort of afterglow from it and this could be detected. In 1963, Robert Wilson with Bell Labs was listening with a large microwave antenna when he found a signal that shouldn't have been there. The signal he found was 22 centimeter radiation that was everywhere in space and it was this radiation that was the afterglow and footprint of the Big Bang. This Big Bang theory contained parts of Einsteins theories that the universe was expanding, and if it was expanding, at some point it was less expansive, so you follow that back to where it all emanated from a single point, and if there were a single point and it blew outward, all of the light emitted would still maintain an afterglow even after billions of years, and this was the radiation that Wilson found. This leads to the concept that the universe began from a single point and this, of course, resonates with the opening lines of the Bible - 'and then there was light'. This created a situation where the Vatican began funding scientific study groups and conferences in order to assist in the promotion of the idea of the Big Bang. So the irony of Einstein's life is that he ran to the study of General Relativity to escape the uncertainty of Quantum Mechanics because it shed doubt on his beliefs in God, and in doing so, he set the stage for proving the very existence of God by his work that led to the theory of the Big Bang and its acceptance by the Church.

Although science and religion have often been at odds with each other, history is full of incidents where the two have assisted and complemented each other. It is possible to see a future where the strict guidelines of science help uncover evidence that ultimately will prove true the mysteries that can only be fully known by religious belief. And when that happens, the gap between science and religion will begin to shrink.

Science of Spirituality



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