Other Question #43

Mary E. Tucher, a female from the Internet asks on August 8, 1999,

Science and religion are two different ways of explaining how we exist. How can scientists have religious beliefs? Or how can religious people believe in science?

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on August 8, 1999

The fundamental difference between science and religion is that science teaches us how and why things work. It tells us about the physical world around us, but it tells us nothing about how to behave, how to believe, or how to feel. This is where religion comes in. Religion gives us a framework for behaviour, feelings, ethics, morals, etc. Science can do none of this--or at best it does it poorly.

I am trained as a scientist and also have a religious background. I use the scientific method to understand something like electricity, but I turn to religion when I need to understand how to forgive a friend for a slight. I do not believe that people should mix science and religion. Science cannot be used to "prove" any sort of religious belief, nor can religion be used to prove any sort of scientific principle. Science helps us understand the natural world around us but tells us nothing about what to do with that understanding. Religion helps us know how to behave with each other and the natural world around us. An example is this: with science you can create a nuclear bomb, but science cannot tell you what to do with it. Science can lead us to discover how to genetically modify plants and animals, but we need to use our religious beliefs to help us decide what to do with this knowledge. Some scientists can have strong religious beliefs, and these beliefs could influence their choices when it comes to decisions about which experiments they conduct. For instance, Buddhist scientists might choose not to conduct experiments requiring the sacrifice of living creatures. However, scientific experiments must adhere to the rules of the scientific method or the results will not be accepted by the scientific community. Results could not be explained with biblical scripture, for instance.

Many scientists have strong religious beliefs, but as good scientists they are able to keep their scientific work separate from their religious lives.

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