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The Clash between Religion and Science
From ancient times to the present day, there has been a continuous conflict between religion and science on the correct method of finding out the truth about the world or reality. It was an unequal and unjust fight between the two till the recent past. Religion won the battle most of the time, though it could not-cannot- perpetually defeat the human spirit of inquiry into the truth about the world. The fierce battle was sometimes violent against the inquirers in their search for the truth about the world. In short, it is nothing but a perpetual clash between rationality and irrationality approach to discovering the truth about the world, living or non-living.
Religion relies on divine scriptural revelation for uncovering the truth about the world, living or non-living. The scriptures are the divine authority texts which, according to the believers, contain unquestionable eternal truths about the world and life. But science employs its method of hypothesis, observation, experimentation and repeated and open testing at any time to reach the truth about the world. Such truths about the world are reliable and acceptable -and accepted. The scriptural evidence is oral unverifiable evidence recorded: It cannot pass the test of the scientific method. Divinely revealed truth has been repeatedly proved to be unreliable and false.
Some major past claims of religion disproved by science- we may highlight them:
1.’He(God) hath fixed the foundation of the earth forever, that they may not be moved.’ Planet earth is flat and the center of the universe. This is a geocentric theory of the universe and Ptolemy, the astronomer supported it.
‘Comparative theology shows us that this is the conception of Nature universally adopted in the early phase of intellectual life. It is the belief of all nations in all parts of the world at the beginning of their civilization: geocentric, for it makes the earth the centre of the universe; anthropocentric, for it makes the man the central object of the earth.’ ‘On the basis of this view of the structure of the world, great religious systems have been founded, and hence powerful material interests have been engaged in its support. These have resisted, sometimes by resorting to bloodshed, attempts that have been made to correct its incontestable; errors-a resistance grounded on the suspicion that the localization of heaven and hell and the supreme value of man in the universe might be affected.’ (J.W.Draper, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science(1875).
Nicolas Copernicus, the Polish astronomer published the theory in 1543 now universally accepted as the heliocentric theory of the universe which holds that the sun is the center of the universe, that the earth orbits itself in one day and orbits the sun in one year, and that the planet earth is a globe. For supporting Copernicus on this theory, Galileo, the astronomer was jailed and made to recant by the Church. For siding with Copernicus and Galileo on this theory, Giordano Bruno, the Italian philosopher was burnt alive on 16-2-1600 at Rome. What a brutal and inhuman punishment for telling the truth! What a noble life laid down for the truth!!
Religion’s claim is untrue
2.’God created everything out of nothing.’Lucretius(c.99-55 B.C), the Roman poet and thinker firmly says: ‘nothing can emerge from nothing’ and ‘ nothing is brought forth by any supernatural power out of nought.’ The scientists and the people have unequivocally accepted this view and demolished the religion’s creationist theory.
Religion’s claim is false.
3. God created man in his image.
‘All things grow, little by little, as they ought,
From a certain seed, preserving their own species as they go,
So each thing needs its own kind of material to grow.’-Lucretius, The Nature of Things.
Man and the other life on this planet are products of the natural process going on in the world for millions of years which is well-known as Darwin’s evolutionary theory. The supernatural God has nothing to do with the creation of all life on the earth. Darwin’s evolutionary theory, with exhaustive evidence, dethroned God from the exalted unique position of the Creator of the universe and man.
Religion’s claim is baseless.
4. The scripture is God’s voice and judge of what is or is not human knowledge.
The above elucidation at 1. and 2. clarifies that the scriptural truth claims about the world, living or non-living, are false, that the scripture is not the infallible voice of God and that God is not the arbiter of what human knowledge is or is not. Bertrand Russell, in his History of Western Philosophy, says: ‘All definite knowledge-so I should contend- belongs to science; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology.’
Religion’s claim is without any basis.
Claim to Be Only True Religion and Its Disastrous Effect
5.’ I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ One ’s religion is the only right and true religion for humanity: Other faiths are false.
This rigid stand of religion begot its tyranny and intolerance of other faiths. Bigots of one religion attack physically and ideologically innocent followers of other religion with bombs and arms and do away with them in the name of their God! The attackers are indoctrinated with the scriptural promise that violence against their religious counterparts is no sin and that they will have the happiest afterlife with God in heaven for faithfully executing the divine command on the earth.
6. Prayer to God brings good luck and God’s gift.
God has never answered man’s prayers in the history of the world. Prayer is a zealous wish of man’s seeking someone’s helping hand in his adversity. It remains man’s wish not granted. When God does not exist, how can He grant prayers?
‘But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.’ This is a scriptural prohibition against transfusion of blood of a healthy person into a needy patient’s body for his medical treatment Medicine requires another’s blood to be transfused into the body of the needy patient to save the patient’s life and medical professionals use this treatment despite the bigots’ resistance in some parts of the world. Those patients religiously going by the rule of the scriptural moral code may die; actually, many have died. Scriptural commands cannot cure human disease!
‘Medicine can cure: faith cannot.’- Jerry Coyne, the biologist.
Our short journey in the world of the long historical conflict between the two contenders for the correct method of reaching the truth about the world and life on the earth and its study has now convinced us that God does not exist and that the scripture is not the repository of the truth about the living and non-living world. God and scriptures are human creations. The concept of God is a gigantic human illusion. Scriptures as human records are fallible. Science employing freedom of the spirit of free inquiry, thinking and expression can lead us to truths about the world and life and propel the continuous enlightened growth of human life in all its aspects.
In France, England, and the USA, there have been calculated and mindless massacre of innocent citizens and in India and Bangladesh, assassins have committed cold-blooded murder of individual anti-superstition activists in the name of religion. These countries have secularism as their law and ideal. Clash of tenets of religions is the right path for us as humans having freedom of expression. In India, Dr Narendra Dabholkar, a medical professional , rationalist, and organizational multiplatform campaigner against superstitions, Govind Pansare, an organizational anti-superstition activist, communist and a rationalist, Dr M.M.Kalburgi, a reputed research scholar and a rationalist and Gauri Lankesh, editor and owner of a journal and rationalist-all mature and respected individuals of erudition and impeccable dedication- were shot dead, on the ground of their rationalist views, by killers allegedly hired by religious bigots. The police investigation into the assassinations is on and the murderers are not traced so far. They are martyrs to the cause of science and the truth. This type of homicidal crime unheard of in India in the past has rudely shocked the intellectual conscience of the Indian society.
Is It Not Insanity?
Let me end our short journey in the world of the battle between religion and science with the resounding message of J.W.Draper, the American polymath:
‘Then has it in truth come to this, Roman Christianity and Science are recognized by their adherents as being absolutely incompatible; they cannot exist together; one must yield to the other; mankind must make its choice-it cannot have both.’ THE WORLD CANNOT HAVE BOTH.
The message encompasses ALL God-based religions.
Science is victorious and eternal; religion is mortal and dying.
Science is the triumphant zeitgeist.