"Challenges Facing Science and Religion"

BTG Issue: 
March/April 2001 | Vol. 35 No 2
"While scientific discoveries test religious dogma, religious and paranormal experiences challenge scientific theories."

"In the Vaisnava tradition of India, God is defined as Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan: the unlimited light of pure being underlying nature, the Lord within the heart, and the supreme transcendental Person. In Christian tradition, a similar idea can be found in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In both traditions the emphasis is on God's personal nature. As a transcendental person, God controls nature on a grand scale, He acts within history, and He deals with people on an individual level. This concept of God has been central to the lives of large numbers of people over many centuries, but at present time it is not intellectually respectable.

"To be sure, it is often said that there is no conflict between science and religion. But this statement is true only if one makes a drastic redefinition of traditional concepts of God. ... The success of modern science depends on our ability to create mechanistic models of natural phenomena in which all natural causes are represented by formulas and numbers. Since God cannot be reduced to formulas, God has to be decoupled from nature. At most, God can be admitted as the ultimate cause of the laws used in scientific models. As physicist Steven Weinberg put it, 'The only way that any sort of science can proceed is to assume that there is no divine intervention and see how far one can get with this assumption.' ...

"On surveying the issues involving science and religion, my overwhelming impression is that there is much that we do not know. I therefore think that it is premature to try to draw a clear-cut line between science and religion. Rather, we should realize that there is a broad gray area in which much further exploration needs to be done. In theoretical domains claimed by science, many fundamental questions remain. In the empirical study of nature, and especially in the study of human life, much data begs for an explanation and has not been assimilated into the scientific world view. In the field of religion there is likewise many unanswered questions. ...

"Although traditions of personal theism are ruled out by the spirit of modern science, they are not refuted decisively by the still-evolving theories of physics. Indeed, even some of the extraordinary phenomena connected with theistic teachings may eventually find confirmation as physical and biological sciences come to grips with perplexing forms of human experience. ... At present, our ignorance is overwhelming, but this is a hopeful sigh, since the expansion of knowledge also expands the boundary between the known and the unknown. The main danger we should avoid is to block the advancement of knowledge by prematurely imposing final conclusions, either from the side of scientific rationalism or from the side of religious dogmatism."

Please click article images to the left to expand.