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Are Religions and Science mutually exclusive?

Science contradicts religion in many ways; For example, if humans are an evolutionary progression, what would this mean for stories such as Adam and Eve.


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  • Mar 17 2014: Hello TED friends! I hope you all had a nice weekend. I appreciate the continued conversation and have caught up on the posts. It's my understanding that some (not all but some) of you feel that the two are able to be balanced. If so, a follow-up question: Are religions and science only able to co-exist when they have no impact on each other?

    Explanation: science relies on evidence for scientific Theories, religion does not use this process and instead relies on faith or personal experience. The two may only avoid conflict when they are held apart? A religion ought not make worldly claims. Likewise, nothing ought to be claimed as science without evidence. Is this a reasonable conclusion to make?
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      Mar 17 2014: GOOD question Tai..."Are religions and science only able to co-exist when they have no impact on each other?"

      I don't see it as the practices that conflict, but rather the people who choose to separate them? The conflict seems to arise when one or the other challenges an existing belief? If nothing is challenged, and people accept each other's beliefs as each other's beliefs, there is really no conflict.....is there? It is when one tries to push his/her personal beliefs onto others that there is a conflict?
      • Mar 17 2014: Yes, in the case that religion accepts changes from the scientific community, I agree here.
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          Mar 17 2014: Well Tai, even if religion does not accept changes from the scientific community, it isn't a challenge until religious groups try to impose their beliefs and practices on everyone?

          As a personal practice, they do not need to accept scientific beliefs for THEMSELVES. The challenge is their need to impose their beliefs on everyone else....in my humble perception.
    • Mar 17 2014: That IS a good question sir. It seems though that these two issues can't help but come in contact with each other and have an impact. This conversation as a whole could probably be studied to find the source of conflict. At a broad view I would say conflict comes from a lack of effort in seeing another point of viee and acknowledging/respecting theidea that people have the "right" to hold a different viewpoint. Most of us agree that western religion taken literally doesn't fit with the modern scientific findings and theories and likely shouldn't be taken as literal historical fact, but that doesn't devalue some of the lessons that can be learned from western religions, namely loving and respecting others. On the other hand there is sometimes a lack of acknowledgment of the evolution of scientific thought as our tools become more accurate and our understanding of the "meaning" of the data changes. To be a fundamentalist on either side of the debate seems to be too narrow a view in my opinion. As our understanding of the physical world changes (and it has been changing constantly since the dawn of h umanity) so should our interpretations of religous thought change. Is there any scientific fact or our understanding of said fact that has remained unchanged in the last 2000 years? Is there any religousbelief whose interpretation in the context of our worldview can remain unchanged. I don't think so in either case. I think ultimately the conflict stems from clinging to tightly to "knowing" the truth. As much as a lot of peoplr find comfort in religous faith, so too do some people find comfort in the belief of the infallibilty of whatever current scientific paradigm they happen to be living through. As always, keep calm, take a deep breath, try to keep an open mind, and talk to people in a manner that you would want to be talked to in, and communication can take place.
      • Mar 17 2014: I am in general agreement here as well, I do not think that it is possible to avoid contact either.. I would only add that it is better if love and respect have a non-religious basis but I understand that this is the main positive that religion can provide.
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          Mar 18 2014: Tai,
          Love and respect do not have a religious basis. While these elements are often taught by religions as part of the foundation of the religion, how many times has there been abuse and violation of human rights in the name of a religion, or a god? How many times do religions discriminate under the umbrella of their dogma (rejection of same sex partners for example)? How many times are people abused and religious leaders protected because they are "religious" (sexual abuse of children for many years for example)? Some of these practices are criminal behaviors.....not love and respect! Some folks believe, however, if one does it in the name of a religion or a god, it is ok!
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        Mar 18 2014: Good points Jacob!
        One can simply observe this conversation to understand the source of conflict!

        I agree that conflict often comes from a lack of effort to see or understand another point of view and acknowledging/respecting the idea that people have different viewpoints.

        There can indeed be lessons learned from religions, and one important one, as you insightfully recognize, is loving and respecting others. Unfortunately, although many religious folks preach love and respect, they are often not practicing it.

        Another good point.....the holy books were written by humans a couple thousand years ago and reflect many ideas of that time. Things change, and while those books may have some valuable lessons, things have definitely changed in our world. The new pope said something about it may be time to rethink some of the churches dogma! Well yeah.....after 2000 years, it might be time to re-evaluate???

        I totally agree with you....the conflict lies in thinking one "knows" the truth, and arguing that "truth" no matter what evidence shows us something different. I think that is why religious fundamentalist often contradict themselves.....they are repeating some of the old "stuff", while realizing at some level that it simply does not make any sense.
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      Mar 17 2014: Hi Tai.
      You are right in a way. When science and religion have no impact on one another they co-exist. This is probably because they have no axe to grind with one another.
      Where they normally collide is on the subject of 'Origins'. Here the 'evidence' is pretty well understood by both sides. However, one side believes the evidence is in agreement with the bible, the other side believes it is not. Both sides would claim the mantle of scientific reasoning, so the differences are driven by well credentialed scientists within the field. Some are so persuaded by the science that they adopt the 'religion' as well, others remain sceptical and just stick to the science.
      Personally I see no point in following a religion which has no basis in fact. So, in my case, as in many others, the science preceded the faith, and not the other way round. So in my particular case science and religion are easy bedfellows.

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        Mar 18 2014: Hi peter, I suggest we don't agree on all the evidence.

        E.g. evidence the earth and universe is billions of years old. Suggest some of these positions are more than differences in interpretation.

        suggest there are more than two sides. it's not just bible believing literalists and non bible believing folks.

        even amongst Christians there are different views of origins. Some accept an old earth and evolution but believe yhwh was involved.

        also amongst the others there are those that believe in the Koran or other theistic or deistic origin stories.
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          Mar 18 2014: You're right, there is a whole panorama of beliefs, as many as there are humans. So to say that it boils down to 'Science' on one side, and 'religion' on the other, is way too simplistic.


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