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Does It Have To Be Religion vs. Science?

Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on February 6, 2023

Noted author Douglas Adams once wrote that “Proof denies faith.” Although the work in which this sentence appears is most certainly a comedy, many a true word has been spoken in jest over the years. The scientific community tends to reject the concept of faith for lack of some physical proof; religious communities have often shunned scientific advances as denying the divine. The result has been centuries of disconnect between an exasperated scientific community and devout followers of various faiths. 


That gap has been one of the most difficult to bridge in modern culture; the world has been split into the faithful and the nonbelievers, each blaming the other for medical misfortunes. The former group accuses the latter of not being deserving of a cure; the faithless are sure that they could have gotten to the pharmacy earlier had the faithful not stopped to pray.

The faithful and scientific approach other matters differently as well; economics on any level, for instance, can be either a precise mathematical science or a simple prayer for sustenance. Child rearing is subject to the same issue, where the faithful often take views opposed to the scientifically proven methods of education. 


Matters are hardly improved by what little discourse can be found between the two groups. All too often, sound logical arguments on both sides of the dispute are summarily dismissed as “superstition” or “misconception.” With such a sensitive topic in play, it is a small wonder that insults and belittlement are quick to fly. Although this may have a certain therapeutic effect, it is only rarely the answer anyone is looking for. As a rule, the public tends to be poorly educated in both fields, making their decisions based on headlines and eye-catching phrases as opposed to having actual knowledge of the arguments being advanced.

Clearly, faith and science have had a rocky and even hostile past, but recent times have seen both movements striving for a shared, cooperative future. Many major faiths have begun to recognize scientific advances as revealing the Divine intricacy inherent in the world; in return, the scientific community has begun to accept the important role faith plays for many. More than half of the accredited institutions of medical study in the USA require students to take courses in religion or spirituality. Organ donations in several countries are required to take the donor’s faith into account.


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Morning Ritual

Some of the most famous questions of scientific ethics have been referred to religious figures for resolution. In 1977, the medical community was rocked by a then-revolutionary separation of Siamese twins at the cost of the life of one of the twins. The ethics of the surgery stumped all atheistic advice and was only resolved by consultation with religious advisors. 


The opposite movement has become a trend as well; many religious leaders will instruct their congregations that the best step in medical emergencies is following the directives of scientific experts. Volunteer medical organizations driven and supported by several faiths give medical and other aid to the ailing the world over. For religion and science, past performance hopefully does not indicate future results.

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