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Cosmology: Science vs Religion
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Christian belief encountered significant opposition. Until then, most of the world shared the belief of the “Medieval world view” that not only was the earth positioned at the center of the universe, but that God was all knowing, all powerful and all good. God was thought to have created and sustained the wondrous workings of the universe. This belief told the people all they needed to know about the meaning and purpose of life. Then, scientific discovery and methods began to undermine religious beliefs. Scientists began to reveal that natural laws and natural forces governed the world. Opposing beliefs, e.g. the Marxism belief, criticized Christian views. People like, Bacon, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton all played significant roles in challenging the recognized views at that time.
In contrast to the “medieval world view”, the “scientific universe” is impersonal, governed by natural laws and understandable in physical and mathematical terms. Many people trust the information science offers rather than religion because science seems to be more reliable. Science has replaced religion as the dominant intellectual authority because science offers the chance to understand the universe, whereas religion just assumes things. Many believe, as was said by Richard Dawkins, “the truth means scientific truth”. Along with the logical Positivists, they claimed the only meaningful statements were scientific. It is unfortunate that such a view is seen by so many as it takes more than one view to understand the universe fully. Non-religious philosopher, Bertrand Russell, once quoted another example of the narrow-minded view non-Christians seem to share, he once said, “What science cannot discover, mankind cannot know”. Although science explains much about life and the universe, some people choose to believe religion.
One major reason for the contrast in views is the difference of interpretations of the Bible. Extreme Christians take the story of Genesis purely literally and believe God created the world in six days, leaving no room for the arguments of science. Others still believe in the story of Genesis but that instead of six days, six periods of time. Others, however, completely reject Christianity.
Despite claims that scientific discovery and methods have never really ‘challenged’ Christian belief, I personally feel that Christians have responded well to any attacks.
Some Christians firmly believe that the universe has arisen completely through a miraculous act of God and completely reject scientific theories. This is called ‘creationism’. Another attack on scientific arguments is the ‘First Cause’ theory introduced by Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas once quoted that “the universe couldn’t have simply sprung from nothing”; therefore, one is forced to reach the conclusion that it is caused to exist by something. The ‘big bang’ is not accepted, as this is not answering what caused this to happen. After a series of questioning, most reach the conclusion of God.
The Anthropic Principle is a prime example of pointing out that there is some evidence for God in nature. If the world had, as scientists claim, been the result of a combination of chemicals and gases, there is a major chance that had the universe exploded with a little less or a little more energy, life on earth would not have existed. In some ways, this Anthropic Principle can be seen as defending the old design argument for the existence of God.
By stating, “the facts of the world are not the end of the matter”, Ludwig Wittgenstein was trying to explain that although science states many facts about the world and how it works, there is still a lot to account for, that can sometimes be better explained by religion. In addition, as was quoted by Albert Einstein, “science without religion is blind, religion without science is deaf”. This shows that both science and religion have parts to play in the world but they need to work together, otherwise neither explanation is of any use.
In conclusion, I feel the main cause for so much conflict over who has the correct answer stems from the point that there is not one single idea that has been proven beyond doubt. Until that day, there will always be constant struggling to find the right answer with the best proof. However strong and almost perfect the view of science is in today's society, it cannot cover the entire range of human experiences. Nor does it explain any religious events of the earth.
Both science and religion have parts to play in the creation of the universe but they just express themselves in different forms. Neither science nor religion is an infallible method to approach the nature of reality but when working together they can provide both a question and an answer, just in different ways. Combining the two is a possibility. Science says how creation happened and religion says why. Furthermore, with these two beliefs working together, the universe could be regarded as completely understandable by the human mind.