The Complementarity of Science and Religion

May 30, 2018

In the twelfth century, theologian Thomas Aquinas declared that faith and reason were not in conflict and that the two were actually compatible. Aquinas even asserted that the human faculty for reason could support theological tenets of the Christian faith. Yet religious teachings and institutions have clashed with scientific discoveries in the past: In the 1600s, the Roman Inquisition found Galileo guilty of heresy; in the Scopes Monkey Trial of the early twentieth century, the debate about teaching evolution versus creation in schools suggested an inherent tension between science and religion that allowed one to believe in (and teach) either one or the other. Today, physicist Alan Lightman and others have attempted to reconcile science and religion and explore the ways in which both contribute to a search for truth and meaning. The scientific discipline, with its emphasis on empirical evidence, can answer important questions about how the universe functions, while religion can provide alternate explanations to fill gaps in scientific knowledge, and answer existential questions that science cannot.

This week the Berkley Forum asks: Can science and religion complement each other? In what ways, if any, do the two conflict? What role, if any, does perceived conflict between science and religion play in issues like the debate on climate change? How can believers reconcile the truth claims of each framework? Can metaphysical questions in science be answered through religion, and can science verify religious beliefs? Outside of the U.S. context, are there similar debates about the compatibility of science and religion?

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The Complementarity of Science and Religion