TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

"Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind." -Albert Einstein Discuss your opinions!

Science and religion are often brought up in today's context.
Do they need to come in pairs or can either science or religion go without the other?

Share:
  • Jul 17 2011: Einstein shared Spinoza's belief in "Deus sive Natura",
    he believed that Universe is alive and responsive, "Whatever is, is in god",
    as far as I know he never practiced any main- stream religion, so to avoid ambiguity ,
    don't take the term "religion" literally.
    I think by "religion" Einstein ment the sense of the the sacred in life,
    He was one who understood that "we can never grasp the totality of existence from deduction alone "
  • thumb
    Jul 16 2011: I think the modern scientific paradigm speaks for itself. Our modern scientific method makes no appeal to religion and yet it works perfectly well. Maybe Professor Einstein sees the scientific method as impaired (I'm guessing he meant lame as impaired and not as in boring) without religion or maybe he is conveying a radically different idea to what this quotation is always equated with. I don't think all of Einstein's contemporaries shared this view (if indeed that is Albert Einstein's view):

    "If we are honest — and scientists have to be — we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination." -Paul Dirac
    • thumb
      Jul 16 2011: I always took this as science itself has no intrinsic since of morality (of course many scientist do). Trying to find a cure for AIDS, or trying to find a way to make a strain of AIDS more contagious both falls under the heading of science. We have to look into the historical sense in which Einstein lived. Arguably the greatest scientific feat of his day was the atomic bomb. No doubt the science of the day was a reflection of the culture of the day which was one of military.
  • thumb
    Jul 19 2011: I can't wait for Alain De Botton's TEDglobal talk to appear online... might shed a lot of light on this discussion
  • thumb
    Jul 15 2011: What do you think Einstein meant by religion?
    • thumb
      Jul 15 2011: Thats a good question Christophe!
      Well I feel nature loves diversity ( variation), so we have blind, lame , deaf, dumb, paranormal, abnormal, so called normal etc etc in society.
  • thumb
    Jul 18 2011: The weird science of quantum reality in many ways runs parallel with the implausability of mythology - and possibly religion, if taken literally. Both reveal dimensions that lie totally outside the logical frame of reference of most normal people.

    Could it be possible that further advances in quantum physics might bring science face-to-face with religion?

    If that's true, who will be the first to say: "We got there before you!"
    • thumb
      Jul 19 2011: My bet is that Quantum physicists would seriously be puzzled by your comment. Quantum mechanics may be hard to understand, but it already gives us a very accurate view of the quantum world and has various everyday applications. I don't think there's room in quantum mechanics for a God of the gaps anymore than there is in Einstein's theory of General relativity.
      • thumb
        Jul 19 2011: No indeed. Religion and science are mutually incompatible - at least at this time.

        Sorry - I should have clarified my view that it is more the eastern religions (Buddhism, Hinduism etc) that contain allegorical symbolism that seems to run vaguely parallel with what is being discovered by quantum reality.

        You may not agree, but I think there is a definite predisposition in the human psyche towards a need to understand what is going on with us and the universe. Then, the understanding was contemplated through religion and broad, metaphorical symbolism. Now, it is through the narrowly conceived certainties of reductionist science.

        To paraphrase Einstein: Reductionism is lame without contemplating the broader picture; taking religious symbolism literally is blind...
        • thumb
          Jul 19 2011: Of course science is reductionist. How can the search for truth be anything else? I don't know where the "narrowly conceived certainties" comes from though. Doesn't sound like science to me.
      • thumb
        Jul 19 2011: Reductionism (and therefore certainty) is nothing more than a comfort blanket. Also, reductionism is most certainly not what 'truth' is made of.

        Certainty, by its very nature, repels doubt because doubt is too risky to contemplate, especially within the strictured confines of empirical science. Yet having doubt about something is actually the thing that gives the mind freedom to hypothesise and to contemplate in broad, far-reaching, panoramic terms. Reductionism effectively puts a strait-jacket on 'thinking out of the box'.

        Are you seriously saying that there should be no doubt at all about anything and that we, and all that we look at, are all nothing but a product of reductionism and mere physics and matter waiting to be discovered?
        • thumb
          Jul 19 2011: Science does not deal in certainties, so you can banish that word from the conversation. When trying to get to the bottom of how things work, it is inevitable for reductionism to take place. The word may have a negative connotation, but really it makes sense. I hear the word reductionist thrown around a lot by people who criticize science for whatever reason, but I always fail to get what the point that is being made is.

          You might want to rephrase that last question.
      • thumb
        Jul 19 2011: No. No need to rephrase.I stand by my assertion that it is not necessarily religion in itself that should inform science, but the products of the mind that emanate from the same place - ie the ability to bring forward to consciousness, possible answers to those big questions that can only be revealed by allegory, symbolism and metaphor - long before science can even begin to contemplate it. Only then should reductionism take place to make sense of it empirically.

        This is merely my own opinion, for what it's worth, of what Einstein might have meant, as stated in Queenie's original question.
      • thumb
        Jul 22 2011: OK, let me state my position: I am approaching this question from the standpoint of psychology. I am not approaching it from the standpoint of religious or scientific dogma (both, in my opinion, are as bad as each other in isolation) and furthermore, I refuse to be drawn into a simplistic either/or argument.

        Don't get me wrong - I am utterly fascinated, almost to the point of addiction, to science and what it can do. Not only that, you may be surprised to hear that I have NO TIME WHATSOEVER for modern interpretations of religion that just seek to indoctrinate, to manipulate, to 'socially engineer' entire nations, and that have become completely ulterior in their every motive. What I DO have lots of time for however, is the incredibly powerful part of our mind where religion originated - NOT religion itself. I am talking about the unconscious mind, which (depending on which psychologist you choose to believe) is 'all knowing'. The unconscious, though all knowing, is also silent. Conscious access to it is all but impossible. It only makes its contents known in spontaneous, enlightened 'eureka' moments. It is where the very best ideas (including scientific ones) come from.

        I run the risk of annoying both theists and atheists here - but my reasoning is that there should be a balance - a collusion of all parts of our mind that could potentially inform where we go from here: Absolute respect for science, but also respect for the essential, existential parts of our existence - which can, and does, inform science.

        Isn't this what Einstein meant? - Discuss
  • thumb
    Jul 16 2011: Yes and no. Just to be helpful of course. Science can and has made the claim that it is independent of religion. Religion in time has made similar claims. I think the purpose of each is very similar but ultimately different. The purpose of religion isn't to understand why things are but to appreciate that they are and to appreciate the creator of those things. Science is a focused understanding of why things are and to appreciate that they are not created. Seemingly insignificant ideological differences but big enough to cause a sociological chasm.
  • thumb
    Jul 15 2011: I think he meant that its much more fun to turn magic into science than just going on like a computer being fed new data as science improves. By religion I think he meant believing there is a mysterious force guiding the world makes discovering the world much more fun.