Ah yes, the old religion versus science debate. What should be taught in school? Which subject should be of more importance? This is a debate has stirred in our nation for decades, and has only intensified as we continue to break barriers in the scientific realm. Unfortunately, this debate, much like our politics, tends to be pretty polarized. The most common arguments are for either science without any religion to distract, or religion with some science to fill in the gaps of understanding, with little middle ground.
What many people at the forefront of the debate tend to overlook is that both religion and science play equally important rules in our lives. Both disciplines are vital in increasing our understanding of the world around us. Sure, science may be more “factual” or concrete, and religion may be frustratingly vague for some, but both equally impact the human experience, and they both have a place in our day-to-day lives.
Now don’t get me wrong: it is entirely unacceptable to cover religion in an academic science course. There is no place for it, and it is easy to muddle and misuse the two. Religion and science are two very separate schools of thought, and since they both offer explanations for how things have come exist, there is a high potential for overlap that must be avoided. Science is based on facts, reasoning, and the continual testing of what is “known”. Religion is based on faith, introspection, and interpretation. Religion holds no bearing in a science class and needs no mention, just as science is not as applicable in a place of spirituality. We must recognize the value of each, but keep them apart in our minds.
Take, for example, explanations for the beginnings of life. Passage 25 of the Tao Te Ching (one of the sacred books of Taoism) says that “There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born… it is the mother of the universe. For lack of a better name, I call it the Tao.” In contrast, science offers us the Big Bang theory. Take what you will from them, but both these theories are equally viable for explaining how life began. One may resonate more with the mind than the heart, but is important that perspectives like these be available to us to help guide our own interpretations of existence.
The key is to look to a variety of perspectives for information, and not to use schools of thought against each other. Science and religion do a great deal towards defining our world, but they are not as useful at explaining each other. If we are to revisit the metaphor of the Tao, scientific and religious thought exist in a relationship comparable to Ying and Yang. If one attempts to overshadow the other, things fall out of balance and the image is blurred. However, if they work together, they can complete each other and make our understanding whole.
Many people do not acknowledge this relationship and mistakenly misuse science and religion, pitting them against each other rather than using them in cooperation. It does not do any good to attempt to use science to prove the existence of a deity or to disprove a particular set of beliefs. On the flip side, it is equally unproductive to utilize religious texts to supplement scientific lectures. The story of Adam and Eve plays about as much of a role in the study of genetics as oceanography does when studying the Quran. This type of thinking is the equivalent of banging your head against a wall. To do so in an academic setting is a despicable waste of university resources and of everybody’s time.
However, there is potential for compromise within academia. As an addendum to my initial statement, covering religion in science classes is entirely unacceptable UNLESS it is discussed in an unbiased fashion. If there is strong desire within the university community to incorporate religion into a science course, a discussion could be held on how the two relate to each other. Religion and science bear no weight on each other in an academic sense, but to highlight the harmonious connection between the two would promote positive, progressive thinking among the student body. Science is important for our physical and mental well-being, and religion is important for our emotional and spiritual well-being. It is paramount that everyone address these areas, as they are equally important in our lives.
Sean Kennedy is an undeclared freshman major who knows at least one person will angrily misunderstand the point of this article. Love, hate and confusion can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Both religion and science play equally important roles in our lives
We must recognize the value of each, but keep them separate in our minds
Both can be presented, but only in a completely unbiased fashion