Of Science & Religion

I’m no scientist, and I do think I will never have the intellectual capacity to ever be one. But I have always been intrigued with science – from biology all the way to what lies in and beyond the cosmos. However, as a person of faith, I’ve always felt like there was a glass ceiling between religion and science, that these two subjects were mutually exclusive and can never be converged.

In bringing up topics of science i.e. the origins of our species, I have been lambasted by many Muslims that listening to science is akin to leaving faith. For a while, I tread that line; afraid to cross the border in fear that understanding more about our universe will cause me to leave religion entirely. I guess it can be said that I was afraid of the unknown.

However, the more I learned, despite how little I know, I became more and more convinced that the elegant mathematical principles of the universe, along with the complexity of life and nature, cannot possibly exist just for the sake of existing. There must be something bigger, a larger explanation, a higher consciousness in which we human beings are a small, but integral, part of.

That was when it hit me: Science is only an enemy of religion if you make it to be.

There are many people out there who, upon learning the origins of the universe, came to the conclusion that there is no need for a supernatural being or deity because “everything has been explained”.

And then there are those like me. Who, with every little knowledge we gain about the cosmos, revel in the ingenuity of the respective God(s) that we believe in.

Science is not denial of religion, though many have used it as such. For me, science is a tool used to further understand our vague beliefs – stories of the world passed down generations after generations in the form of religion. Science does not strip away the beauty of divinity; instead, it explains it. Just like how understanding a rainbow doesn’t make it any less beautiful in the eyes of the beholder.

Where many saw Galileo’s Copernican views as being anti-religion, in fact, it was not a battle between science and religion; but of that between modern science and traditional science. And essentially, that is what religion is: Traditional science – outdated ways in which we see the world which has to be constantly renewed and updated with the best available scientific knowledge of our time, and the scientific knowledge of the future that is to come. Science does not refute religion, but instead explains more holistically the metaphors we were taught to understand the universe.

Many argue that science cannot explain everything, and that is where faith comes in, and I wholeheartedly agree. It is probable that we might never be able to figure out everything. There will always be another mystery awaiting at the end of every scientific breakthrough. However, as organisms blessed with higher intellect, I believe that it is our responsibility to pursue rational inquiry to its limit. Our conscious awareness of the world should not be wasted.

I truly believe that there is a reason why our species has the ability to discover and understand the universe and every new scientific knowledge gained brings us one step closer to that. Perhaps, just perhaps, it is because we are the only species right now that is able to steer the course of our world – either into oblivion due to our careless use of resources and our thirst for incessant violence, or into a greater world in which we can pass on to future generations and by ensuring the continuity of the nature that sustains us.

Truly, if our greater intelligence is the hallmark of our species – a distinguished advantage over all other life on Earth – then we have to learn to use it better.

Humans are but a blip compared to what lies beyond our atmosphere. It is very easy to feel disheartened in realising that we are not the special creatures we thought we are, but instead are short-lived organisms merely existing on the surface of something beyond our grasp. But just because we are not the center of the universe, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are not important. We can still be seen as an integral part of a divine plan, even if our role in it is minute.

We’re just a part of a planet in a galaxy in the observable universe. We are one small part of something bigger, and it is so humbling. Just to be a part of this magnificent universe is truly the greatest experience. We should not waste it.

Even if in the eyes of the cosmos we are meaningless, it does not mean that our personal lives should be as well. Science does not deny meaning behind existence.

The involvement of humans in the cosmos is too intimate to be called accidental. I refuse to be confined by the rigidity of traditional thinking, which is why I believe it is important that we each pursue our own paths of discovery, continually advancing into new insights and knowledge – even if it poses an intellectual and existential crisis for us along the way. I don’t know about you, but it is a risk that I am willing to face.

Although it is undeniable that delving into the sciences can change what is to be reasonably thought of God and religion, it does not have to entail to a complete rejection of Him and religious faith.

Keith Ward, in his book Pascal’s Fire, echoed my mind when he said, “I am committed to belief in God, as the most morally demanding, psychologically enriching, intellectually satisfying and imaginatively fruitful hypothesis about the ultimate nature of reality known to me. That is why the discoveries of modern science are important to me.”

Religion still flourishes in our current scientific age, but as Einstein had once remarked, “Religion without science is blind.” And because of this, I will continue seeking answers – even if it drives me mad.