Science and religion have butted heads on a vast range of topics over the years. In the 17th century, Galileo clashed with established church doctrine on whether the sun or the earth was at the center of the solar system. In the 1920s, the famous Scopes Monkey Trial debated whether or not evolution should be taught in schools. Today, science and religion take, among other topics, homosexuality as their battleground. Scientists argue that homosexuality is entirely natural and a genetic predisposition. The religious fire back the bible very explicitly condemns homosexuality, and thus god would never create anyone who is by nature homosexual. Even in the face of overwhelming proof that homosexuality is natural and genetic, established religious doctrine still holds that homosexuality is unnatural and thus sinful. But why? Why is it so hard for scientists to convince the religious that the world works a certain way when they have all the facts?
The answer is not because scientists are boring or because the religious are ignorant. On the contrary, there are a great many entertaining, convincing scientists and plenty of brilliant, well-read people of faith. No, the answer as to why scientists can’t convince the religious that the world works the way it does has to do with the very nature of science and religion themselves.
Let's examine these differences. On one hand, we have science: a belief system dominated by the principles of experimentation and verification. Science makes sense of the universe by testing hypotheses to prove their validity, and then making these results public so that the community can verify them. On the other hand, the premise of religion is faith. There is no way to know whether or not God exists either rationally or empirically. You simply have to feel, deep inside of you, that it’s true. When considering these differences, it’s easy to see why scientific evidence doesn’t effect religious doctrine: the underlying assumptions of these two belief systems are vastly different. Religion is about believing in the things most difficult to believe in, and thus empirical scientific evidence is largely irrelevant in the religious sphere. The very systems themselves are founded on two very different systems of ways of understanding the world.
This is not in any way a demeaning of faith in and of itself. After all, sometimes the things it requires faith to believe, like that other people are worth caring about or that we can actually change the world for the better, are the things we most need to believe. Faith is a powerful and worthwhile part of life, whether religious or otherwise. However, the thing about faith is that it’s intensely personal, and this is where we run into the problem of religious doctrine. There is nothing wrong with choosing to believe in the word of god when it opposes scientific evidence. But when people use religious doctrine to condemn others such as homosexuals or women who get abortions, they are attempting to generalize their personal beliefs to the rest of the world and using these beliefs to judge others, which is inexcusable. It’s understandable that people’s religiously-influenced beliefs don’t change in the face of scientific evidence, but if that is the case then those people need to remember that those beliefs are strictly their own, and should stay that way.
With excitement and optimism,