‘In this era of rapid Scientific development, religion is becoming obsolete.’ How far do you agree?

Author: Ying
School: Raffles Institution
Year Written: 2020
Grade: A

People are inherently curious, and will always seek to understand that which surrounds them, through means such as science or religion. Religion, defined as the unwavering faith and believe in a higher being, explains many of life’s mysteries such as the reason behind our fragile existence through subscription to God’s word. Science, on the other hand, explains a multitude of conundrums through vigorous experimentation and observation in order to obtain solid proof to explain natural phenomena. Though the two approaches may seem to have divergent natures, they are in fact not mutually exclusive and can coexist in harmony without one rendering the other obsolete.

Critics may argue to say that Science and religion are ultimately divergent in nature. Given the many conflicts that have occurred between the two approaches in the past, coupled with recent Scientific development, religion has definitely been rendered increasingly obsolete. Science is the use of empirical evidence and vigorous experimentation to establish beyond a doubt that a given hypothesis is true. Through the use of the Scientific inquiry, which is based on the fundamental cornerstone of curiosity, vigorous crosschecking occurs between various scientists to ascertain the validity of the hypothesis before it is established as a fact. Religion, on the other hand, employs the use of God’s word, instead of logic and empirical evidence, to ascertain a certain belief. It does not require solid proof to establish a belief, its cornerstone being that of faith, which is the unwavering belief in a higher being. Evidently, the two are divergent in nature and cannot be used at the same time to explain a single phenomenon. Examples of this include Darwinism in defiance of creationism and heliocentrism as opposed to geocentrism. Given current rapid scientific development, which has resulted in more people employing scientific methods to explain phenomena, it would seem that lesser people would subscribe to God’s word, rendering it obsolete.

However, detractors have overlooked the fact that though it is indeed true that religion and science are divergent approaches, they are in fact not mutually exclusive. This can be seen in many cases where scientific beliefs have been reconciled with scripture. Buddhism has actively encouraged the exploration of the world through empiricism, which is similar to that employed by the scientific inquiry. As Abdul-baha, who is the founder of the Baha’I faith aptly quipped, “religion without science is superstition and science without religion is materialism. Indeed, it is clear that it is possible for science to be integrated into religion and the two are not mutually exclusive. Recently, liberal Catholics have even managed to reconcile scriptures with Darwin’s theory of evolution. Evidently, Science and religion, though divergent in nature and approach, are not mutually exclusive and can be employed together.

Furthermore, Science and religion serve different domains, and when each remains in its own domain, the two can exist in harmony without posing conflict. Science provides an explanation for various natural phenomena in the physical world whereas religion tends to provide explanations to a myriad of conundrums to which Science cannot provide any answer. While science can explain how various systems in our body are interrelated in function that allow us to be a fully functional being, it cannot explain the purpose behind our existence. Science can explain the causes behind mental illnesses like depression and invent chemicals like dopamine to raise levels of happiness, but it is unable to teach us how to find our inner peace. Indeed, doctor Jennifer Wiseman was astute in her observation that while science is wonderful tool for understanding the physical universe, religion gives the answers to the more philosophical questions in life and explains our significance in the context of the universe. Both science and religion ultimately serve to better our human experience and lives and when each remains in their domain, they can coexist in harmony.

Science and religion can also serve to reinforce each other and are thus able to coexist without rendering either of them obsolete. Indeed, many scientists such as Richard Smalley have expressed the view that science serves to further reinforce religion, as they are better able to appreciate God’s handiwork after understanding the myriad of wonders of the physical world through science. Furthermore, religion serves as a much necessary check and balance on science and prevents ethically questionable scientific research from occurring, reinforcing it. Through the many values propagated by religions like Christianity such as the sanctity of life and nature, boundaries are drawn in fields like genetic engineering and cloning, preventing ethically suspect research from occurring that may result in the value and dignity of life being contravened. It is no wonder that the tide of pubic opinion has been turned against genetic engineering in many countries such as Britain, where genetically modified products have to be clearly labelled and genetically modified foodstuff face an outright ban. Indeed, religion and science are able to reinforce each other and the existence of each domain only strengthens the other. In this respect, neither is rendered obsolete.

Science and religion, though divergent approaches, are not mutually exclusive. As Doctor Andrew Harman once said, “Science is about learning, Buddhism is about living.” Ultimately, science and religion are just tools to enhance the human experience and it is up to us to wield them appropriately to improve our lives instead of cause conflict.