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Fanaticism and Ridicule: Science and Religion

Currently, there are some who resist the reconceptualization of science and religion.  They fragment science and religion, and dismiss one for the other, claiming that only one or the other has led to humanity’s successes. How often is it that we hear religion caricatured as a superstition of idle fancy, or a hollow ritual of football-detracting compulsion. How often is it that we hear the thunder of ‘hail to science’ with the glorification of the latest cell phone mobile technology; and how often is it that we read of principle-compromising cover-ups of Church-father molestation scandals. If Thor ‘God of Lightning’ was real, one would think that we worshiped him as he flowed in our power cables.


A Mendelian punnet square emerges with fanaticism and ridicule on the Y axis and religion and science on the X (Figure 1). People often fall into habits of speaking fanatically about the exclusivity of science as a source of human betterment, or the monopoly that religion exercises over truth. Both are caricatures of reality, and neither adequately describes it. A discourse that ridicules religion as an empty ritual and a superstition for the ‘masses’, co-exists with a view in society that mocks science as a) a theoretical preoccupation of the disconnected elites, or b) a dangerous and heretical arrogance before the angry, angry Lord. The dichotomies of this punnet square are to be utterly and wholly discarded. The present discourse pays no attention to these ways of compartmentalizing our epistemic experience and collapses these dichotomies under the view: reality is one, knowledge of reality is multi-factorial, and ultimately represents only diverse views of a single entity.


We propose an alternate schema that reconclies these epistemic systems (Figure 2). We start with the understanding that reality is one (R1=S1). Science and religion are two systems of learning about it. Religion offers the Revealed Word of God and its authoritative interpreters (R2), and science offers the physical universe as an experience of facts and laws we can all observe (S2), as the first level of the two great systems. The interpretations and methods for justification of ethical commands in religion (R3) and the standards and justifications offered by the scientific method (S3) are the next level of knowledge offered by these two systems. Practical knowledge of daily spiritual disciplines as an individual and cultural norms of the collective within a community (R4), and technology and practical knowledge of scientific inquiry in application (S4), constitute the third layer and final of these two knowledge systems. They both intertwine to produce the harmony and betterment of the human condition and human society.

3 replies on “Fanaticism and Ridicule: Science and Religion”

This is a helpful contribution in view of the typical confusions. In my own writings about science and religion I like to remember that both science and religion have many forms, and both started with very vague notions. For example religion serves many purposes, many of which are sociological – eg providing a group with agreed belief forms that provide acceptance and support to followers. (With thousands of denominational forms even Christianity is hard to define according to beliefs). Although at its best science might include the sort of experimental based beliefs of evolution, atomic theory and relativity – many scientists are unimaginative and have little to do with advancing knowledge.
I agree that the implication that both science and religion would make better progress if rigorous thinking was applied and beliefs were shaped by experience and experiment eg Francis Galton and the testing of prayer. In practice many practitioners of religion and or science are reluctant to test radical ideas. Hillaire Bellock called it a “desperate holding onto nurse for fear of finding something worse.”

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