Albert Einstein once said, “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” Science is about observation, investigation and discovering the truths about nature. Religion, given its different forms, is a human practice based on the belief that there exists a supreme being, whom we call God, who creates and governs the universe. Although science and religion appear far apart, their common denominator is hope and faith, which we invest when we choose to believe. Furthermore, both science and religion share a common pursuit, which is to help the human race understand the truths embodied in the universe.
To an atheist, all scientific facts just happen without any purpose or origin, thus accepting only how but not why. Naively, some like to say they will believe if they actually see God or a miracle. We may never see God in this world but miracles are everywhere if we care to look around. Miracles not only consist of the extraordinary, but also the phenomena that occur with precision, constancy and eternity that we take for granted as ordinary. For instance, when we jump from any height, we always land on the ground with a force proportional to how high. We never see this gravitational force but it exists as evidence of something precise, universal and eternal. Where does this powerful force come from? Scientists explain it as the attraction between two bodies (the earth and everything else) but fail to account for its origin. It cannot be due to chance or nothing, can it? Imagine where we would end up without this force. In addition, there are so many natural forces around us that work in unison and make life possible. If you think life just happens, you don’t appreciate the complexity and value of it.
All the physical laws in nature have led Stephen Hawking, another famous scientist, to say that “God has little choice” because those laws are made to stay unless He wants to change them. This may imply that after having created the beginning, God leaves to all creations the freedoms to develop in their own ways according to the laws of nature.
By contrast, a religious zealot will tell you he believes because he has seen both God and miracles. I think both the atheist and the zealot are putting up naive excuses rather than true reason. The fact is, we believe because we want to invest our hope and faith. Many people even want to believe in something ridiculous beyond reason. They just want to employ excuses to impress other people that their thoughts are based on reason, not fantasy.
Hope and faith are practical human needs. We feel better and secure if we have something to believe in, like science, religion, even rumors or propaganda in the public media. In the old times, both science and religion had to endure persecution. The scientists got persecuted because the truths about nature that they had discovered contradicted with church teachings. The religious faithful also got persecuted because their practice ran counter to the absolute monarch or a competing religion. Nonetheless, science and religion persisted and grew because both fulfill a practical human need.
Do science and religion disappoint? They both do in different ways. Scientists at times commit errors or report the wrong results based on insufficient evidence. Yet everybody understands science is a learning process. Many times new discoveries obsolete and replace the old ones. Then science renews itself once again. It gets stronger rather than weaker by admitting and correcting its past errors.
Religion disappoints in a totally different manner. A religion cannot admit errors in its teaching which it has proclaimed to be the truth. However, only the truths about nature can withstand the test of time, while those religious “truths” invented by humans do not have the same power. Thus religion is stuck in a time capsule as the world progresses. Furthermore, a religion is led by a church or organization likely staffed by corruptible people who are preoccupied with preserving their power and influence rather than spreading the truth. Besides, religion has largely failed to help the faithful learn and understand God’s plan. Then what is God’s plan? To begin, we must ask the following tough questions:
Why is there so much suffering in this world?
Does suffering, besides working hard and doing good, necessarily lead to happiness, redemption and salvation?
What is the meaning of life? How much materialism do we need in this world?
Why doesn’t God punish the evil and save the down-trodden and innocent?
Why do some of the religious leaders betray us when they are supposed to serve God and the faithful?
Why does God allow some religions to flourish even though they practice killing and violence?
Does God try to save us in this world besides promising to take us to the next?
Although we may not find an answer, we should not be disappointed and jump to any conclusion about God’s plan. The reason is that we have the ability to experience little by little every day the truths in God’s plan. Similarly, we should not pretend to know all about science due to our ignorance. Every scientist will tell you that we are only scratching the surface of knowledge despite all the modern discoveries.
God is revealing His plan gradually through our accumulation of scientific evidence and personal experiences about this world and the rest of the universe. The purpose of science is to find out how, when, why and the origin of things. We have successfully traced the origin of the universe to some 15 billion years ago as a result of the Big Bang from a primeval atom. What will come next? Scientists will likely discover more evidence regarding smaller particles inside the primeval atom, but will not be able to confirm where they came from, nor where they derived the enormous energy for the Bang. They cannot assume that this came from nothing or by chance for it would be unscientific. The primeval atom will remain the greatest scientific mystery forever.
Religion can help circumvent the riddle about the origin of the universe. However, it does so by insisting that God created the universe and humans in a not-too-distant past according to the holy scriptures. Thereby it also denies the gradual process of the evolution of species that has been happening since the beginning of time. This sets up a permanent conflict with science regarding creation and evolution.
Let me propose a question. Is it possible that God has created the beginning without humans, and then let the process of evolution take its natural course starting with a one-cell organism? Being all powerful, God can create something out of nothing however He pleases, not necessarily as related by the holy scriptures written in a human language. This proposition does not disparage the dignity of humans, but emphasizes how far we have evolved from a humble origin. A simple re-interpretation of religious teaching like this would unify science and religion right away. In this way, religion provides an explanation about origin that science cannot prove. Science lends plenty of evidence to the power of creation, evolution and all the natural laws embodied in God’s plan.
If we are truly seeking the truth in order to believe in either God or science, it is not difficult to conclude that science is the book of revelation about God’s plan. The best way to see God is through looking at the scientific evidence that reveals the wonders of His creation. Unfortunately, religion stands in the way because of all the indoctrination invented by its leaders. No religion has the courage to admit that its self-made doctrine about nature is wrong for this may perhaps undermine its legitimacy. Thus the culprit remains the long-established religious doctrines, not the truth or evidence that science discovers everyday. Strangely, God does not intervene. We don’t know why. We only know that He gives us the intelligence to try to understand His plan, but gives us total freedom to do whatever we want with that intelligence.