The unlikely war between religion and science

19 09 2009

Did it ever seem weird to you that religion and science are at odds with each other?  I mean, surely, if God created the Universe And Everything In It, the best way to reverence God would be to study physics, right?  The best way to find God’s Univeral Truth would be to study things which are demonstrably True and Universal: mathematics and science.  And yet, there has been an almost constant war between the two dating back thousands of years, sometimes it’s a hot war and sometimes it’s a cold war; but religion always seems to win.  Why is that?

While the essence of God, and the question of whether God creates Man in His own image, or the other way around, is a large and complex question, the issue of religion, and whether it is man-made is certainly not.  Religion is a man-made device dating back to the dawn of time, but it is inarguably man-made.

When our ancestors first gained consciousness, it is not difficult to imagine that it did not take long for them to look up and see the vastness of the stars overhead, or look down and see the smallest of insects.  Surely, there was a vast universe, and their place in it was unknown, yet oddly well-defined: they could not fly, like the birds, nor could they dive too deep into the water.  They were bigger than some things and smaller than others, but could be killed by things as small and gentle as monarch butterflies or any of a huge number of very tasty-looking plants.  Humans were fragile, often cold, and always hungry, and the combination was deadly.

They created religion, back then, as a way to explain their natural surroundings.  Some god, or legion of gods, created the whole of the Universe and certain Univeral laws.  For example, if you jumped up in the air, you would come back down again.  They also discovered that it was useful to pray when they were hungry or cold or lonely or afraid.  We do not know whether the prayers actually worked, because, theoretically speaking, those who prayed and lived through a long, cold winter, had their stories told more often than those who prayed and died in those long, cold winters.  Again, it is not difficult to imagine that those who most wanted survival were most ardent in their prayers, showing their devotion in ways that included miscellaneous sacrifices, which will become the topic of future discussions.

Overall, religion became a practice of the Study of God.  If Joe sacrifices a goat and Tom sacrifices an eel, and Joe prospers and Tom falls off a cliff, well, the goat must be better than the eel.  And the proof of which god was the best god was a study of which groups of people prospered most and which perished.  This, of course, was best demonstrated in acts of war where the people of one god, or legion of gods, found themselves in mortal combat of those of another god, or legion of gods.  The winners’ god(s) were surely stronger, more fiercesome, more protective, and just plain *better* than the losers’.  And, you know, fair enough.

But, the overriding, overarching purpose of religion, back then, was two-fold: to explain the Universe, Man’s part in it, and a blatant attempt to curry favor with the Master(s) of the Universe.  And here begins the schism between religion and science.  Science wanted to understand the Universe and optimize Man’s place in it.  Religion sought to understand the Gods and how to maximize the favors that could be won from them.

The area that it is easiest to show the schism is in the study of the stars, for both the Scientists and the Priests spent a long time tracking the movements of the planets against the backdrop of the fixed stars.  Scientists used the study of stars to learn the art of Navigation.  The Priests used the study of the stars to learn the art of Astrology.

The evolution of religion and the rise of the Priest Class, which will be explored at a later date,  gave the Priests far more power and wealth than the Scientists, and, in time, the Priests came to see the Scientists as a great threat, because while the Priests represented the Supernatural, the Scientists were studying the Natural and finding it to be more and more remarkable.  Eventually, as the Study of the Natural began to encroach upon the domain of the Supernatural, the Scientists had to be dealt with.  And dealt with, they were, leading to the Dark Ages, commonly referenced to be between 500 and 1500 A.D., and many many people of learning were killed in very nasty ways.

But, just because people of learning aren’t being killed in very nasty ways in our nice modern civil society, don’t think for a moment that the war between religion and science is over.  It is being fought every day, and is the basis of many of the disputes we are seeing in the political arena today.  The war between Science and Religion will continue until they can find a way peacefully co-exist or one destroys the other.

And this will surely find it roots in this nice New Age of ours.




2 responses

19 09 2009

What about love? Is love man made? And what about knowledge? Is all knowledge experiential?

20 09 2009

My thinking is that the universe is wide and deep, and our window into it is small, and often occluded. Our experiences, and those of our fellow beings, give us glimpses of what might be out there. But, intellectual curiousity and spirited discourse sure do help increase our knowledge.

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