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Science Vs. Religion

  1. Feb 23, 2004 #1
    I am writing a HSC report on whether or not religion contradicts science (vise versa) and if so whether or not this then affects the way people follow their belief systems.

    I am Catholic myself, so I am able to think up evidence for the Christian and parts for the Jewish religions. (i.e. '7 days of creation vs. man was created by evolution', 'Jesus born by immaculate conception' & 'Moses parted the red sea' etc.) However I have never really had much exposure to any other major religions (i.e. Hindu, Buddhist or Islamic)

    I was wondering if people could help me with getting evidence from other religious scriptures (e.g.: Torah etc.) that have been contradicted by modern scientific proofs or theories.

    Although such discussions may offend people, anyone who can in post evidence of such contradictions from their religion, to include in my report I am in great debt to you.

    Thanking you in advance,

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 23, 2004 #2
    I'll try to keep from expressing my personal opinions on the subject (I started writing something about that, but it's not appropriate), but there is something I should mention.

    Science does not contradict religion. Religion is based upon interpretation on belief, which is a perfectly fair basis. It is not specific enough to be compatible with science. Evolution and the Big Bang do not contradict Creationism because the definition of "mankind" and the "beginning of the universe" is not precise enough.

    Other than that, I have little to offer. I neither deny nor accept religion because I'm not qualified to make such a judgment.

  4. Feb 23, 2004 #3
    The writings upon which religions are based, as well as commonly-held religious beliefs, contradict known scientific fact often.

    The more specific a statement, the more it opens itself to contradiction. For example, things like the bible's creation story and the story of Noah's contradict geological, paleontological, and archaeological evidence.

    Most stories that give dates open themselves up to falsification. Stories that contradict evolutionary evidence are pretty safely considered false.
  5. Feb 24, 2004 #4
    this is very true - but it doesn't have to be that way.

    the problems arise when religion strays into science's territory with improper measuring sticks (it happens the other way around too).

    one of the most significant debates (or debacles) was evolution vs creation in the 1800s. darwin's ideas came under unceremonious attack in most unscrupulous fashion. fortunately, darwin had a rather powerful 'bulldog' in the form of thomas henry huxley (creator of agnosticism) who had the reputation of terrorizing his opponents, who bruised and battered, would say not nice things about him, depicting him as being anti-religion.

    huxley wasn't anti-religion. he maintained that true reason could never quarrel with true religion - just as reason is a medium for the revelation of truth so is religion a medium for the revelation of morality:

    "between science and religion as spiritual aspiration or religion as humility, or religion as morality, he saw no conflict ..."

    in fact, it was also said of him that

    "there is so much real Christianity in Huxley that if it were parcelled out among the men, women and children in the British Isles, there would be enough to save the soul of everyone of them and plenty to spare."

    the conflict doesn't need to be there, but you fortunately, can find lots to write about for your report :smile:
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2004
  6. Feb 24, 2004 #5
    I wanted to make a side note to clear up a commonly-held misconception:
    The "Immaculate Conception", commonly believed to refer to Jesus' birth to a virgin (pure, i.e. immaculate) mother does not, in fact, refer to Jesus' birth but in an indirect way.
    Jesus was never conceived.
    The "Immaculate Conception" refers to the birth of Mary.
    Mary, Jesus' mother, was a miracle herself.
    She is, according to Christianity, the only human born (since Adam and Eve) completely free of sin.
    God needed an "immaculate" vessel for the birth of his son, so he picked Mary to bless as his vessel and be born clean of sin.
    Mary was the Immaculate Conception, not Jesus.

    Anyway, back to your original question, I do believe that many religions (most notably the big three Abrahamic religions) directly contradict scientific understanding to a great degree, but not all of them.
    The teachings of Siddhatta Gtama (the original "Buddha") were, for the most part, scientifically sound.
    They dealt mostly with advice on how to live life in harmony with one-another and with nature.
    There was very little metaphysically other than the concept of samsra (the cycle of birth and rebirth) and the concept of what happens after you complete your cycle of birth and rebirth.
    Furthermore, Buddha taught that you should not take anyone's word as truth, not even his, rather learn for yourself, so Buddhism requires no blind faith.
    Granted, many people would deny that Buddhism is a religion for that very reason.
    He didn't even believe in a "soul" or "God".
    Those two points, in fact, is what drew him away from his Brahaman upbringing and served as the impetus for his development of the Dhamma.
    Buddhism, Taosim and Brahamnism were all similar in many respects, and were all (to one degree or another) consisten with scientific learning.
    They did not contradict scientific knowledge at all, they offered explanations for what science could not rather than alternatives to what science did offer explanations (such as the big 3 do in many ways).
    Brahamanism was basically the roots of modern Hinduism (and indirectly the roots of pretty much all Eastern Philosophy).
    In fact, the Vedas (the four books the provide the foundation for Brahamanism) included the scientific learnings of early India.
    Science and Philosophy (or religion) were indistinguishable, and the adopted philosophies, much like modern science, were of an open nature and lent themselves to evolution.
  7. Feb 24, 2004 #6
    By the way...
    THIS is good source for Scriptures of MANY religions.
    There are translations of the main religious books from all around the world and dating quite far back in history (many of them having multiple translations).
    I have found a few minor inconsistencies, so you might want to get a second source before quoting if you plan on publishing the paper, or you have an anal teacher, but all in all the translations are pretty accurate.
    You can order a CD with over 900 books on it for only fifty bucks and he puts out quarterly updates for something like ten bucks per CD.

    It is my favorite religious text refernce site on the net, although the search engine is not robust at all and leaves something to be desired.
  8. Feb 24, 2004 #7
    I am familiar with the Hindu teachings. There are no contradictions between science and indian philosophy. Here is an article for you:

    By Linda Johnsen

    Courtesy & copyright Yoga International

    It is amazing how much Western science has taught us. Today, for example, kids in grammar school learn that the sun is 93 million miles from the earth and that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per hours. Yoga may teach us about our Higher Self, but it can't supply this kind of information about physics or astronomy.

    Or can it?

    Professor Subhash Kak of Louisiana State University recently called my attention to a remarkable statement by Sayana, a fourteenth century Indian scholar. In his commentary on a hymn in the Rig Veda, the oldest and perhaps most mystical text ever composed in India, Sayana has this to say: "With deep respect, I bow to the sun, who travels 2,202 yojanas in half a nimesha."

    A yojana is about nine American miles; a nimesha is 16/75 of a second. Mathematically challenged readers, get out your calculators!

    2,202 yojanas x 9 miles x 75 - 8 nimeshas = 185,794 m.p.s.

    Basically, Sayana is saying that sunlight travels at 186,000 miles per second! How could a Vedic scholar who died in 1387 A.D. have known the correct figure for the speed of light? If this was just a wild guess it's the most amazing coincidence in the history of science!

    The yoga tradition is full of such coincidences. Take for instance the mala many yoga students wear around their neck. Since these rosaries are used to keep track of the number of mantras a person is repeating, students often ask why they have 108 beads instead of 100. Part of the reason is that the mala represent the ecliptic, the path of the sun and moon across the sky. Yogis divide the ecliptic into 27 equal sections called nakshatras, and each of these into four equal sectors called padas, or "steps," marking the 108 steps that the sun and moon take through heaven.

    Each is associated with a particular blessing force, with which you align yourself as you turn the beads.

    Traditionally, yoga students stop at the 109th "guru bead," flip the mala around in their hand, and continue reciting their mantra as they move backward through the beads. The guru bead represents the summer and winter solstices, when the sun appears to stop in its course and reverse directions. In the yoga tradition we learn that we're deeply interconnected with all of nature. Using a mala is a symbolic way of connecting ourselves with the cosmic cycles governing our universe.

    But Professor Kak points out yet another coincidence: The distance between the earth and the sun is approximately 108 times the sun's diameter. The diameter of the sun is about 108 times the earth's diameter. And the distance between the earth and the moon is 108 times the moon's diameter.

    Could this be the reason the ancient sages considered 108 such a sacred number? If the microcosm (us) mirrors the macrocosm (the solar system), then maybe you could say there are 108 steps between our ordinary human awareness and the divine light at the center of our being. Each time we chant another mantra as our mala beads slip through our fingers, we are taking another step toward our own inner sun.

    As we read through ancient Indian texts, we find so much the sages of antiquity could not possibly have known-but did. While our European and Middle Eastern ancestors claimed that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago, the yogis have always maintained that our present cosmos is billions of years old, and that it's just one of many such universes which have arisen and dissolved in the vastness of eternity.

    In fact the Puranas, encyclopedias of yogic lore thousands of years old, describe the birth of our solar system out of a "milk ocean," the Milky Way. Through the will of the Creator, they tell us, a vortex shaped like a lotus arose from the navel of eternity. It was called Hiranya Garbha, the shining womb. It gradually coalesced into our world, but will perish some day billions of years hence when the sun expands to many times it present size, swallowing all life on earth. In the end, the Puranas say, the ashes of the earth will be blown into space by the cosmic wind. Today we known this is a scientifically accurate, if poetic, description of the fate of our planet.

    The Surya Siddhanta is the oldest surviving astronomical text in the Indian tradition. Some Western scholars date it to perhaps the fifth or sixth centuries A.D., though the next itself claims to represent a tradition much, much older. It explains that the earth is shaped like a ball, and states that at the very opposite side of the planet from India is a great city where the sun is rising at the same time it sets in India. In this city, the Surya Siddhanta claims, lives a race of siddhas, or advanced spiritual adepts. If you trace the globe of the earth around to the exact opposite side of India, you'll find Mexico. Is it possible that the ancient Indians were well aware of the great sages/astronomers of Central America many centuries before Columbus discovered America?

    Knowing the unknowable

    To us today it seems impossible that the speed of light or the fate of our solar system could be determined without advanced astronomical instruments. How could the writers of old Sanskrit texts have known the unknowable? In searching for an explanation we first need to understand that these ancient scientists were not just intellectuals, they were practicing yogis. The very first lines of the Surya Siddhanta, for of the Golden Age a great astronomer named Maya desired to learn the secrets of the heavens, so he first performed rigorous yogic practices. Then the answers to his questions appeared in his mind in an intuitive flash.

    Does this sound unlikely? Yoga Sutra 3:26-28 states that through, samyama (concentration, meditation, and unbroken mental absorption) on the sun, moon, and pole star, we can gain knowledge of the planets and stars. Sutra 3:33 clarifies, saying: "Through keenly developed intuition, everything can be known." Highly developed intuition is called pratibha in yoga. It is accessible only to those who have completely stilled their mind, focusing their attention on one object with laser-like intensity. Those who have limited their mind are no longer limited to the fragments of knowledge supplied by the five senses. All knowledge becomes accessible to them.

    "There are [those] who would say that consciousness, acting on itself, can find universal knowledge," Professor Kak admits. "In fact this is the traditional Indian view."

    Perhaps the ancient sages didn't need advanced astronomical instruments. After all, they had yoga.
  9. Feb 24, 2004 #8
    I thought the 108 beads was due to the fact that there were 108 original Upanishads.
  10. Feb 24, 2004 #9
    No, I think they were doing the 108 bead thing before the 108 upanishads were written. That 108 upanishads were kept to reflect the same thing that the 108 beads do. I rejected Vaishnavism, perhaps you heard... Karma is real, but not in the way that almost every religious/ new age/ pseudo spiritualist believes. In "why I rejected religion" I attempt to demonstrate why this view of Karma is utterly ridiculous.
  11. Feb 24, 2004 #10
    Also, do you have any idea where exactly in the Rig Veda that quote comes from?
    I have been searching for it.
    I have come across two other instances where people stated that the RV says this, but I can't find it anywhere.
    I am fairly certain that it isn't included anywhere in the Samhitas.
  12. Feb 24, 2004 #11
    How is that possible if the 108 original Upanishads were part of the Vedas, on which all of Hinduism and ancient Indian culture was based?

    No I haven't read this.
    Is it a thread in this forum?
    This and your love theory were the only two things I have read by you so far.
  13. Feb 24, 2004 #12
    Hello. I'm not certain which quote you're referring to. I don't speak Sanscrit or have much knowledge of the scriptures. At guadiyadiscussions.com they might know. My understand is that "The Vedas" and "Vedic literature" are two. I have some translations of the upanishads and it says that they were written over a span of some time-- the most recent are only a few hundred years old. They are considered to be extensions of the Vedas.. but the four origional Vedas outdate all other "vedic" scriptures like Srimad bhavagatum, bhavaghad gita... According to Indians, the "Vedas" always existed, albiet not always in written form. They were actually divided into four divisions and written 5000 years ago by sri Vyasadeva at the beginning of the Kali Yuga. Actually, I think Bhavaghad gita and srimad bhavagatum were also done by Vyasadev. My post is in one of these forums-- most likely in epistemology and metaphysics along with "plant sentience.I I'm really disillusioned that Stephen Knapp, who has studied under Srila Prabhupada and is brahmanically initiated, could have such little understanding of Karma. Several other vaishnavas claimed they also disagree with his examples.
  14. Feb 29, 2004 #13


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    Science takes an approach to death completely different of usual religion.
  15. Feb 29, 2004 #14
    That is only relatively true. "science" IS religion. It serves the same purpose. Science seeks to explain and provide understanding. What is "usual religion"?
  16. Feb 29, 2004 #15


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    "Usual religion"
    - Includes unfalsifiable claims like life after death
    - Asserts striking departures from normal experience in the past (miracles) and even in the present, but can never duplicate them for examination.
    - Claims moral authority above civil law.

    That's a start.
  17. Feb 29, 2004 #16
    I would think that "attempts to explain" transcends any of those points, and that is a trait shared by science. Some of possioble motives behand science are:
    -to extend human life span (perhaps even indefinitely) this equates to "life after death" it is the same desire just transformed) Also, to find other planets that are habitable so that we may relocate one this planet is destroyed, and continue living.
    -to control nature (the same desire for miracles, transformed)

    For the spiritual person, religion is as useless as a well on a riverbank. Religions "promise" things like going to heaven if you behave in this way or love this, etc. This is a bragain, it is not spirituality, and that "love" is tainted. Religions have been used as tools to control people, that of course does not mean that they "made up" or somehow distant from science.
  18. Feb 29, 2004 #17


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    Some of possioble motives behand science are:
    -to extend human life span (perhaps even indefinitely) this equates to "life after death" it is the same desire just transformed) Also, to find other planets that are habitable so that we may relocate one this planet is destroyed, and continue living.
    -to control nature (the same desire for miracles, transformed)

    Long life does not equate to life after death. You are just as dead if you die after 2000 year as after 20. And if somebody lives a long life, that can be verified, but that somebody lives in some other condition after death, that nobody can verify. Christians can't even agree whether souls of the dead "sleep" till the second coming or go straight to heaven upon death. So much for evidence.

    Power over nature is something maybe capitalists desire, but not scientists. They want to know how nature works, not how to exploit it.

    And if you have noticed, scientists are almost completely opposed to the president's moon-mars plan. They would rather send robots like spirit to collect information. And they are furious that Hubble is to be abandoned and probably destroyed just to shift the money to exploration by humans.

    Your attempt to tar science with the same brush as religion has failed.
  19. Feb 29, 2004 #18
  20. Mar 1, 2004 #19

    Real philosophy is the art of wonder, not the art of persuasion or argumentation. Presuasion and argumentation accomplish nothing useful except to gratify the ego. I am trying to be neutral in regards to both science and religion, but you seems to be against religion and in favor of science. This will not make one a good philosopher in my opinion.

    Religion has a tendancy to "promise" things, science does not. You missed this.
  21. Mar 1, 2004 #20
    Lets get this straight.

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