Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Religion and science: philosophical incompatibility?

To investigate my first query a little further, can a religion's sacred beliefs (e.g., salamanders cause earthquakes) philosophically accept the mundane findings of the scientific (there is no correlation between earthquakes and the movement of salamenders)? If you can find a way to do so without all the historic contortions that, say, the Church used to justify the movements of planets under the Church-stated "Truth" of geocentrism leading up to the trials of Galileo, then I commend you. However, I would say that you cannot do so without either denying to some significant part the mundane scientific evidence (i.e., by saying that only certain motions of salamanders cause earthquakes, and that the scientific observations did not take this variable into account) or possibly severely modifying sacred religious doctrine(i.e., by saying that while salamanders have caused earthquakes in the past, maybe they are incapable of doing so anymore).

I think that the way science informs us of the world is philosophically incompatible with the way through which religion informs us of the world. Scientific explanations and religious explanations are as different as two lines skewed from each other. They will not intersect. They are not parallel. However, they are both lines, with a set of coordinates that tell the "truth" of each line's condition. (To all you mathematicians out there, this is an analogy, and is not - by any means - perfect.) You cannot use (imho) scientific explanations to justify religious understandings. Similarly, you cannot use religious understandings to make scientific explanations. Using the previous example, the physical movement of any one salamander can be accurately described by science, however science cannot describe why salamanders choose to cause earthquakes. Similarly, having the religious understanding that salamanders cause earthquakes does not mean that you have any idea or ability to accurately describe any one salamander's physical movements.

Of course, you (the individual) can choose to believe whatever you want. You can even choose to fervently hold a religious belief in the face of scientific evidence running contrary to that belief. You might even be a person who believes what your religion tells you is "true" and also accept what scientific observation tell you is "true" without having a philosophical conundrum. This does not negate my stated position in the previous paragraphs. My statements above are that science (as a philosophy; a way of thinking/viewing the world) is fundamentally different than religion (as a philosophy). However, you can choose to believe two different things are "true", but each based on different philosophies of "truth."

No comments: