Faith and religion are pillars of human society that have existed since the beginning of mankind. Different forms of spirituality have appeared and evolved over time, with thousands of religions being formally recognized around the globe today. Despite the differences between the beliefs of each faith, one common thread amongst them is their apparent incongruence with science.

Like oil and water, science and religion are often treated as immiscible and incompatible. This is usually attributed to their differing explanations on how the universe and life came to be. Science predominantly holds to the Big Bang and biological evolution as explanations on the origin and development of life as we know it. Meanwhile, many religions believe in a variety of concepts, including intelligent design by a creator and reincarnation. However, this perceived incompatibility may be overblown for a number of reasons.

Firstly, many religious groups are partially or entirely onboard with scientific explanations on the origins of life. Some groups in monotheistic religions, like Christianity and Islam, believe in theistic evolution, which holds to the idea that a creator used natural laws and processes to bring about life and the universe. Many Buddhists see no conflict in biological evolution with their beliefs, as they understand organisms to be constantly changing over time. Hinduism similarly has no qualms with these scientific theories, as their religious texts lack a central creation event that would oppose the Big Bang or evolution.

Nevertheless, there are many creation-focused religious groups that deny or argue against the existence of these scientific processes, arguing for a pure creation event backed by alternative interpretations of scientific concepts like homology. An argument does arise on whether the denial of scientific theory may invalidate the veracity of what each religion purports to be true: if a religion makes a false or inaccurate claim, how can we trust the validity of its other beliefs? This leads to an important point regarding differences in the core purposes of religion and science.

Regardless of each religion’s position on scientific theory, these stances are not the central doctrines of these faiths. Science at its core is focused on discovering truths based on empirical evidence. Religion, however, focuses on finding and interacting with a higher being or achieving an enlightened state of existence. Herein lies the discrepancy. Science is expected to explain the origin of life, as uncovering the truth is one of its primary goals. This is not the case for religion, which may attempt to explain universal origins but ultimately strives for other objectives, such as the worship of a creator or the betterment of a person’s life. Invalidating religion due to an inaccurate explanation on biological processes or the origin of life is attempting to use science as a lens to view faith – an incompatible proposition that also acts as a disservice to the purpose of religion altogether.

Now, one may argue that the purpose of religion is outdated in modern society as it was originally used as an attempt to explain why phenomena like lightning and rain were occurring. With improved scientific knowledge and advancement over the centuries, surely science should have supplanted religion in society. And yet, religion is thriving around the world in even the most scientifically advanced nations. Religion clearly holds a more significant role in society than just explaining natural phenomena. For many, faith can provide a community to join and integrate with. For others, faith may bring about peace and tranquility or provide a deeper meaning to life. The importance of religion in society is multi-faceted, making it unlikely to ever be replaced by scientific knowledge or explanations.

Overall, there is fundamentally no reason a faith follower cannot be a scientist or vice versa. In fact, faith and science can actually be quite synergistic, with interest in one leading to the other. For example, a scientist may look to religion after learning about the complexities and intricacies of the universe, while a faith follower may seek to understand more about the cycle of life and creation through studying science. Thus, the incompatibility between science and faith lies not in their core focuses or beliefs, but rather when trying to force one into the other. One does not (and should not) preclude the other in society, with both providing tremendous benefit to how humankind progresses and functions.

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