Science and Religion Can Work Together
There are three branches of science (or scientific fields or scientific disciplines, whatever terms you prefer), namely formal sciences, natural sciences, and social sciences. And under each branch, there exist the many sub-branches of sciences, some of which we studied in schools. These include logic, math, statistics, and computer science, all under formal sciences; physics, chemistry, biology, botany, and ecology, all under the natural sciences; and history, economics, geography, political science, and psychology, all under the social sciences.
Just like science, religion takes different forms, most especially in the many societies that have existed throughout history, or one could just say that religion has branched into different denominations. Take, for instance, Christianity, which is split into four major branches: Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. Within each division of Christianity, particularly the latter three, there exist different denominations, each having its own sense of spirituality, school of thought, practices, and articles of faith. The same is also said for other religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.
Science and religion are two different fields of study, therefore two different ways of explaining the unknown – and two different ways of finding meaning and truth about our world. For those who fail or refuse to recognize any common ground between the two fields, science and religion are incompatible and in conflict with one another. One must choose between the two.
For those who believe the two fields are just two sides of the same coin, science and religion can help one another. Their focus is not on the conflict but on their potential for cooperation. Science and religion (or faith) can work together. Science allows us to search for a “how.” Religion (faith) leads us to search for a “Who” and/or “why.” If we put it that way, there is not much to fight about.
So, as there are many sub-branches of science and many denominations within religions, there ought to be many opportunities for interaction and cooperation between science and religion. Not many people on both sides would know this but when science and religion cooperate, society achieves the best outcomes.
A 2017 study by Aaron B. Franzen of the Department of Sociology and Social Work, Hope College revealed that faith could play a key role in both the physical and mental health outcomes of patients. Physicians who are both religious and spiritual are more likely to believe that faith can be medically relevant, and they are more comfortable sharing their own faith experiences and praying with patients. When physicians recognize their patients’ religious beliefs, the patients are more likely to follow the physician’s instructions.
A study by Jenny Trinitapoli and Alexander Weinreb, which they shared in their book, Religion, and AIDS in Africa, revealed that religion affected the spread of HIV in Africa and the care of sufferers, often with desirable effects: fewer infections, fewer deaths, and reduced suffering in general. The study further proved that when people in religious communities were more likely to abstain from sex, be faithful to their partner, use condoms if they were unable to abstain, and care for sick friends and congregation members when they received both a moral message and a scientific message about HIV.
In this pandemic, there has been growing opposition to the COVID-19 vaccines by the anti-vaxxers of all strips, joined by the alt-right and, to some extent, religious conservatives, particularly Christians. The religious strain of the anti-vaccine movement should have hit a snag when Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict had their first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine earlier this year.
The movement to stop global climate change offers science and religion plenty of opportunities to work together toward a common goal. Religious leaders of all creeds and denominations have urged their followers to care for the environment and adopt green practices. Many places of worship have gone green i.e., installed solar panels on their roofs, and hosted environment-related events. Pope Francis in 2015 issued an encyclical urging people to care more for the environment and combat climate change.
Whether in pandemic, any other crisis, or even in stable situations, there always will be plenty of opportunities for science and religion to work together, listen to each other and keep the doors open for constructive dialogue. As author Neil C. Griffen sets to prove the science and religion are not at odds, science and religion can exist alongside to answer humanity’s questions.