For much of today’s world, science and religion are seen as opposing forces, mutually exclusive and entirely incompatible. Some of today’s scientists identify themselves as atheists or agnostics and appear to think that a belief in God signifies ignorance in a person. Likewise, some religious groups decry science as the unholy work of the devil and view scientists as agents of Satan. I propose that both of these views are equally incorrect.
How has such a strange and destructive opinion become so widely accepted? It would seem that saying these two concepts were incompatible would be like saying that 19 and purple are incompatible. They are very different concepts and either can exist with or without the other. They are neither compatible nor incompatible.
However, they coexist and they do intersect just as purple and 19 do. It is quite reasonable for a person to look at a basket of eggplants and say, “Look, there are 19 purple eggplants in the basket.” This statement does not affect the concepts of 19 or purple in any way, yet they can work together to better define another concept, that lovely basket of eggplants. Purple and 19 can be used to define a basket of eggplants Just as religion and science can define our life and universe. A Catholic priest, Monsignor Georges Lemaître proposed the Big Bang theory and described it as “the Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation”.
The vast number of new ideas that were discovered in the last century and the different types of discoveries has made it virtually impossible for the everyday person to understand them or even to be aware of them. In the 17th century Robert Hooke discovered the cellular structure in living things. An average person with a little education could understand a discovery like this. In the 18th century Benjamin Franklin discovered that lightning is electrical and Edward Jenner developed the small pox vaccine, again, discoveries that most people could grasp. These were visible things that could be seen and applied to life.
By the 19th century the discoveries were beginning to become more technical and difficult for the average person. Alessandro Volta discovered electrochemical series and invented the battery at a time when very few people had any idea that electricity was anything but a lightning bolt. Marie Curie discovered polonium and radium, and coined the term “radioactivity” which was also a completely foreign concept to the average person of her day.
In the 20th century new ideas and concepts were becoming so esoteric that very few people understood even the words used to describe them much less the concept. Albert Einstein published his theory of special relativity, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes described superconductivity, Niels Bohr came up with the model of the atom and Erwin Schrödinger devised the Schrödinger equation, the start of Quantum mechanics. And these are just a few of the thousands of discoveries that we saw in these one hundred years. Now, in the 21st century we hear things like the Higgs boson is finally found at CERN (confirmed to 99.999% certainty). Who is this “Higgs” and how did he lose his boson? A substantial number of people would think that was a serious question.
The discoveries made by theoreticians and researchers now are completely meaningless to the average person until engineers turn the new idea into a physical product that can be purchased and used and many of them never will be seen even if they are in everyday consumer products. It would be very interesting to see how the marketers could spin the Higgs boson to pitch it as the key to a new or better product. Buy our new product with ten percent more bosons!
At the same time that the discoveries were becoming too complex for most people to understand, the media was becoming more interested in reporting about them. Unfortunately, the media had no more understanding of the new concepts than the average person and they took no time to try to learn about them. They typically take excerpts from a technical paper published for other scientists and spin their own story in a manner to attract more readers. This has resulted in some very strange public impressions of scientific discoveries ranging from the widespread news stories a hundred years ago that our ancestors were apes to the recent news stories about the discovery of a “god” particle.
Science focuses on what things are made of and how they work and religion is focused on why people and things exist and why they have meaning. The media people mixed those two separate purposes into a confusing mixture that angers both groups, religious and scientific.
Darwin – “Generally the term (species) includes the unknown element of a distinct act of creation”