Is Religion and Science Compatible?

Are religion and science compatible?

Some people I have encountered on the internet seem to think no. I get an email newsletter from a secular humanist organization. And they seem to think no. Carl Sagan was an atheist. Neil deGrasse Tyson considers himself an agnostic. And I could probably cite many more examples.

What do the rest of you think?


This is a vague and ill-defined question, but for some interpretations of it, the answer is clearly yes. Your two examples notwithstanding, there are plenty of other examples of people who are both scientific and religious.

Lots of scientists have also been Muslims or Christians so I’m not sure what pointing to a couple of scientists who weren’t proves.


every major step science takes forward, religion loses another “truth”. so, no, they are not compatible.

As long as the religious understand that their holy books are not to be taken literally, I think religion can coexist for a long while with science. Maybe not forever, but for a while.

These are not examples of science being incompatible with religion. They are examples of individual scientists that are not religious. The two things are not the same.

I just want to point out that in 1950 the Roman Catholic church decreed that evolution did not contradict religion, and that Catholic schools have been teaching evolution ever since. They also lifted the prohibition against reading Galileo’s works in 1835. Mendel was not just a monk, he was the head of an abbey, and the original proponent of the Big Bang theory was Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian priest astronomer/physicist. Max Planck was an elder in the Lutheran Church. Owen Gingerich is a Mennoinite astronomer. Abdus Salam was the first Muslim to win a Nobel Prize.

Your question would better be phrased “Is a literalist interpretation of the Bible compatible with science.”

Stephen Jay Gould’s idea of “Non-Overlapping Magisteria” seems valid here. Religion deals with questions that science isn’t interested in. The soul. Life after death. Ultimate right and wrong. Whether the cosmos was the result of an intelligent creator. Whether there is One God or many gods. What the gods want of mankind.

Science is involved in questions that have actual answers that can be derived by an open process. What is the mass of the proton; how old is the earth; what causes Diphtheria; what cures Diphtheria; etc. These are questions religion isn’t equipped to address.

So long as everybody respects the line of demarcation, all’s well.

Agreed. A further question would be, putting the Bible aside and going on to a more general theme, “is it possible to have a definition of ‘God’ that is compatible with science and a scientific view of cosmology”?

And of course it is.

Just not a definition compatible with traditional organized religions.

So just those things with no evidence to even support the concepts, nevermind the actual soul, right and wrong, and all the rest. The problem with the “compatibility question” is that its flawed on its face. Religion makes statements about the universe that have not a shred of evidence behind them. A book says this is true therefore it must be true because the book says its true. This is the very opposite of science and the scientific method. One follows evidence to see where it leads, the other literally either makes shit up or just keeps declaring previously made up stuff to be true.

Religion is about making meaning. Valuing and assessing knowledge is something everyone does all the time. New knowledge affecting our frameworks and previously held assessments also happens all the time. I don’t foresee changes in this process anytime soon, even if it goes unacknowledged by many.

Thirded. It’s all about what exactly one interprets “religion” to be:

For those with a rigid, fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, the Quran, or whatever, the answer is almost certainly “No.”

For those who can view theology as something that is not directly at odds with science, but rather occupies a completely different, even complementary, space in the human experience, the answer is “Yes.”

Disagree because no such clear line exists. Many areas of modern-day science were once considered philosophical, and indeed religious, matters. And from your current list, I think belief in a soul, if it was ever tenable, is going to be harder and harder to defend as we understand more of how consciousness works.

So either we let this science/religion line move (in which case religion becomes “god of the gaps”) or we accept that ultimately faith and reason are not compatible.

One could just as well say that disbelief in a soul will become harder and harder as our understanding of consciousness advances. Unless you have some definition in mind for “consciousness” and “soul” which are inherently incompatible?

Can you clarify what this means? because this sounds like new age Depak Choppra level nonsense from here.

Soul implies rather strongly that there is something magical that will continue on after we die.
Something that once again has no evidence for its existence at all. Given the rise of Atheism world wide I would also suggest that the first part of that sentence has no evidence either.

I don’t think that means they started teaching it, right? The schools that taught evolution before continued teaching it. The Church moves slowly, so Humani generis reflected ongoing thought (and was a bit of a fencesitter). There was never any condemnation or proscription of the Origin of Species. Newman (1868) and others spoke positively.

He thought it up, but did not name it. The name was possibly derisive by Fred Hoyle, a non-theist who dismissed the theory.

Why assume science will disprove the existence of souls? You’re predicting results that science hasn’t produced. Your belief that souls don’t exist and science will someday prove that is essentially just an article of faith.


You have it perfectly backwards. Hes saying science will prove the soul is real. Also the burden of proof is not on science, its on those making the claim that the soul is somehow real.