Juvenalian Judgments: The Debate Over Religion and Science

I can hear it already: the steady drone of beeps in the early morning hours, a never-ending tone of email notifications, a reminder of all the people that disagree with what I’m about to say, with my very existence even. Well, this article isn’t for you. It’s for them.

Stop it. Just stop it. Get over your stubborn differences, and accept that the other side is right. Holy mother of Newton, you need to stop being fundamentalists and come to terms with the fact that religion and science are not mutually exclusive.
For years, people have thrown words and court orders and flaming spears (although that last one was primarily done by Christians, I believe) at the opposing party in hopes of convincing the world that science and religion cannot, and will not, ever live in harmony. You get people like the famed scientist, Peter Atkins, saying nonsense like, “Science is almost totally incompatible with religion”. People often ask if you believe in “God or evolution”. The Big Bang or Genesis. Adam and Eve, or the fossil record? The thing is, not all of these things are mutually exclusive.
There are plenty of religious scientists, just like there are plenty of scientifically-trained religious people. Being interested, or even educated, in either subject does not dictate a lack of skill or knowledge in the other. What is really at the heart of the issue is how people apply either field to certain issues.

Fundamentalist religious groups apply religion to areas where religion cannot aptly explain a phenomenon. In my opinion, that is almost everywhere, but let’s try not to be so overzealous. However, while science can explain how something happens, it has more difficulty explaining why. And I don’t mean a simple question and answer like “Why is this kettle boiling?” “Because the flame under it is heating up the water”. I mean why does the kettle even exist in the first place? Now, I know some smart-ass is going to leave a comment saying, “It exists because some person made it and blah blah blah”. And to them I say, “Turn off your Internet, please”.

Why do WE exist though? Sure, the many fields in science can explain how we got here. They can tediously pour over every minute step in the evolutionary process. But none of it tells us why we are here. It all focuses on how we are here.
Then again, religion doesn’t exactly do a bang-up job explaining things other than loose connections on why things happen. And even then, when you look for real answers in places like The Bible, you’re more likely than not to come up with ambiguous statements that can be interpreted to mean anything.

It seems to me that these two fields can easily live in harmony with each other if people get past their own close-minded, single-field stubbornness. Baha’i people have acknowledged this for years. Even the Vatican has acknowledged that science plays an important role in religion. And if Catholics can be convinced to change their minds, you can too.

The endless debates about things like evolution and the Big Bang are nauseating.
So what really needs to be stressed is that it isn’t the evidence you have to answer your questions, but rather the way you interpret the data that leads you to your explanation that is important. Anyone can find meaning in something if they look for it, but finding something doesn’t equate to explaining something.

Justin Huft is a third-year psychology and social ecology double major. He can be reached at jhuft@uci.edu.