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Are Religion and Science One?
Is it possible that in our search for some basic reality, we humans may discover that although religion and science have always seemed to be in different places, the conclusion they will ultimately reach will be the same thing? What is God? Energy, Spirit, Universal Consciousness, Singular, Unilateral?
According to David Hume, God is not different from the order that exists in the universe1. Training our thoughts along this line, one might doubt the commonly held view that Science and Religion are entirely different and exist at the opposite ends of a spectrum.
Science is based on observation. Religion on the other hand makes arguments analytical in nature (like the Ontological Argument by Anslem) and requires some unquestioned faith. In spite of leading us through somewhat different paths, both try to find the basic stuff2. The goal thus in both cases is to determine the constituents of what form the reality. The routes though may not seem similar.
In the essay, The Dynamic Universe, Fritjop Capra explores the philosophies on which various eastern religions like Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism are based upon. He is of the view that the world is conceived in terms of movement, flow and change2. He then cites the examples of sub-atomic physics and the field of galaxies and heavenly bodies. Science studies them as units, which are in a state of constant motion. By doing this, he tries to class Science as well as Religion under the same heading, which is concerned with finding the basic reality.
The next question that comes to the forefront then is what is the thing that we are after? What constitutes this reality that we all are in pursuit of? A scientist might call this as the order in the universe or the Energy, which is diffused in the world we live in. Religions like to call this ultimate reality as God. The order that the scientists describe implies a mind working behind it. This entity capable of setting an order in the universe is nothing but what religion defines as God. Science and Religion then appear to be tied up like two versions of the same notion. God, I feel, is the ultimate quest for which both these allegedly opposite views are after.
His physical form is not visible to us. But his existence could be argued using aposteriori arguments based on the observation of what is around us. For instance when we throw coins on a table, this coins apparently stop and arrange themselves on the table. What made the coins to arrange? Maybe it was by the virtue of Newton’s Laws. But then again this order as proposed by Science implies an order setter. Another example is found in the Nature and its mechanisms. This machine which we call Nature, implies an operator.
Is this God we talk of, an anthropomorphic being? Are his features well defined? How do we describe the qualities of such a being? If He is perfect, his attributes bearing the highest level of virtue, then in short He and His working are beyond our understanding. We might label his qualities with terms like wisdom, knowledge, mercy and power. But these terms just suggest our limitations in expressing things not described by our language. It is possible we might not have experienced those unknown qualities He possesses and thus have no knowledge about them. Not only this, we do not have the faintest idea of His physical presence or form. We humans then are in no situation to understand this all-powerful entity who is full of mystery. In such a situation, we have no other choice but to accept this incomplete meaning of God and have faith in his ways.
One may conclude that our search for some basic reality, we might find that religion and science have a common ground and are not as far apart as they are commonly believed to be.
1). David Hume : Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
2). Fritjop Capra: The Dynamic Universe