Religion without Philosophy is superstition; Philosophy without Religion is atheism. Ralph W. Emerson.

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Last Amended: 11 Jan 2007

Science and Religion

HOT LINKS :  
See Peter Russell's site.
Science... and Values (a new page)

Children Receive ‘Spiritual Healing’ on the National Health Service

With acknowledgments to The Humanists' Website,
this précis is of an article published in 'The Independent' on 13 Mar 2005.

Graham King stood last week at a hospital bed and placed his hands gently on the head of a 12-year-old boy suffering from leukaemia. He slowly moved his hands to the boy's chest. Using the power of cosmic energy, Mr King was helping to heal him.
 
In a ground-breaking move to complement conventional cancer treatments, Mr King, who has no medical qualifications, has been appointed the first paid National Health Service healer to help Britain's sick children. With the blessing of the hospital's senior consultants, Mr King was laying his hands on the body of Martin Johnson, who in 2003 was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia that can prove fatal. ...
 
But does healing really work? Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School at Exeter and Plymouth universities, believes it may well be all in the mind. "The evidence is extremely mixed for any form of spiritual healing, including reiki," he says.

A Rabbi's Observations on Religion and Science

The conflict between religion and science is more apparent than real. There is no fundamental issue between them. While the conflict has been waged long and furiously, it has been on issues utterly unrelated either to religion or to science. The conflict has been largely one of trespassing, and resulted from the attempt of the one to poach on the preserves of the other. As soon as religion and science discover their legitimate spheres, the conflict ceases. The conflict was always between superstition disguised as religion and materialism disguised as science, between pseudo-science and pseudo-religion. The unquestioned authority of theologic rubrics in scientific matters had to be challenged. The respective spheres of science and religion had to be sharply defined. The process was long and painful. The church suffered major defeats, first in the realms of astronomy and geology, and latterly in biology and in other fields of human knowledge. Here again the church lost but religion gained. For religion, tied to the dead body of antiquated scientific notions, was tragically handicapped. The authority of its spiritual and moral verities was vitiated by the pseudo-sciences with which they were intertwined. Men could not readily dissociate the two, and their rejection of the one entailed also the rejection of the other.
 
Obviously the issues over which religion and science, and religion and secular national sovereignty, warred had nothing whatever to do with the essential principles or purposes of religion. There was never any real conflict between religion and science as such. There cannot be. Their respective worlds are different, though not in opposition. Their methods are dissimilar and their immediate objectives are not the same.
 
The method of science is observation, that of religion [is] contemplation. Science investigates; religion interprets. One seeks causes, the other ends. Science thinks in terms of history, religion in terms of teleology. One is a survey, the other an outlook. Religion and science are the two hemispheres of human thought. They are different though converging truths. They grow binately.
 
Both science and religion spring from the same seeds of vital human needs. Science is the response to the human need for knowledge and power. Religion is the response to human need for hope and certitude. One is an outreaching for mastery, the other for perfection. Both are man-made, and like man himself, are hedged about with limitations. Science can see only those things which man is equipped to see—and his equipment is sadly deficient. Man cannot transcend his own humanity. Science, vitiated by the constricted agencies of human cognition and by the definitive organization of the human brain, cannot lay claim to an order of truth which is objective and absolute, nor can religion lay claim to perfect and final truth on the authority of some supernatural revelation. All truth comes to man by way of his mind-groping and the compelling needs and experiences of his life.
 
Neither religion nor science, by itself, is sufficient for man. Science is not civilization. Science is organized knowledge; but civilization, which is the art of noble and progressive communal living, requires much more than knowledge. It needs beauty, which is art, and faith and moral aspiration, which are religion. It needs artistic and spiritual values along with the intellectual. Man, too, in his individual capacity requires much more than organized knowledge for his life’s equipment.
 
Science and religion are not rivals. They are each other’s complement and man’s binocular vision. In the past science frequently aided religion to correct its perspectives and religion has delivered science from the pitfalls of naturalism, materialistic monism, and moral nihilism. It is only when one presumes to be the oracle at the other’s shrine that confusion ensues. When the scientist from his laboratory, on the basis of alleged scientific knowledge, presumes to issue pronouncements on God, on the origin and destiny of life, on the purposes of creation, and on man’s place in the scheme of things, he is passing out worthless checks. The funds of his scientific data are utterly insufficient for such large orders. When the religionist delivers ultimatums to the scientist on the basis of certain hierarchic cosmologies embedded in his sacred texts or when he rummages about the storerooms of geology, chemistry, or biology for some scraps of sanction or some random affidavits to support his claims, he is a sorry spectacle indeed.

The above was written by Abba Hillel Silver (a leading Rabbi, 1893-1963), as long ago as 1930, in 'Religion in a Changing World' (New York: Richard R. Smith, 1930), pp. 29-37 in part. I believe this writing - though apparently balanced - is still very much relevant to the attitude of many religionists who remain attached to the idea that religion (as such) is a singular truth. But let's be patient. The way this article is written does not specifically preclude the idea that religion and science may meet - join in union - at some stage. Indeed, Silver refers to "...different though converging truths...".

NOTE: It was Silver, however, whose rousing speech in the American Jewish Conference in August 1943 led to a transformation of American Zionism into a vigorous activist movement. He mobilized both grassroots Jews and pro-Zionist Christians to demonstrate, write, and pressure Congress and the White House to support Jewish statehood - the beginnings of the Jewish-Christian alliance that continues to this day. Silver convinced the Republican Party to include a pro-Palestine plank in its 1944 platform, which forced the Democrats to do likewise. This was a precedent that assured Zionist concerns a permanent place in American electoral politics. And Silver's nationwide protest campaign in 1948 helped secure swift U.S. recognition of the new State of Israel - the first step in cementing the America-Israel friendship that has endured ever since. (Source: A David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies' article by Dr. Rafael Medoff, August, 2003).

If we are to truly retain the notion of One Universe, One God, and the unitary function of religion and science, perhaps we have to dig deeper than the surface of our religious books to see closer links between religion and science than we would at first admit. In fact, without leaving the Jewish world, the Jews' mystical Kabbalah itself provides clues to the mathematical and scientific link. And in Islam, we find perhaps the greatest embrace of religion and science in relatively modern times. The Christian world has a great debt to the advances made by Muslims in science by their experiential study and their willingness to absorb ideas prevalant in Classical Greek and Hindu times. In words such as algebra and alcohol, the English language is replete with words of Muslim/Arab origin.

But, as it has been said elsewhere:-

There - we have it! The substitution of 'spirituality' for 'religion'!

The following websites go into the subject of science with spirituality in considerable detail, and interesting reading they are, too!

Peter Russell has a highly illuminating site about spiritual issues. Yet Peter was a colleague of the famed physicist Prof. Stephen Hawking and has had a long career in business! A fascinating assimilation of ideas and free access to his book "From Science to God". Click here for his page.

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