“Truth” Or “Goodness” – The Difference Between Science And Religion

Issues in Science and Religion
Issues in Science and Religion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somebody said Oscar Wilde said, “Old people believe everything; middle aged people are confused about everything, young people know everything.” Based on this quote, I found I was quite “normal” to be confused about lots of thing these years, because I am middle aged!

One thing I have been “a little” confused about was the difference between science and religion* (or faith). When I was young I was a science “believer”, but later I found the science had its limit, and realized that believing science was not much different from believing “God”. So, it seems to make sense to say, that there is not much difference between science and faith. But I am not satisfied with this thought. I found these two fields are still essentially different: one is derived from an objective thinking style: to know, or to understand how the world (universe) works; another is derived from subjective thinking style: to wish, to hope, so that human kind would be mentally in a better condition, either during or after our lifetime. Science respect facts  (“fact”, or “truth” here mean anything that can be verified by our sensory organs), regardless they are good (“good” means “favorable”) for humans or not; on the other hand, faith focuses on humans needs, regardless what they believe are true or false.

From this point of view, we’d better not ask truth in religion, nor, seek morality or emotional comfort in science, though these two fields do cross each other at some points. Take the human origin as an example. Both science and religion have their interpretations on this subject: science says human evolved from lower life forms, religion says humans were created by God. People from different sides always demand each other for proofs. I would say, please don’t ask science to provide evidences for evolution, because if there were no evidences, there would be no such idea; also please don’t ask believers to provide evidences for God, because the beauty of faith is “blind”. To say evolution is completely an objective view, not only because it was based on evidence, which means no one would just invent such idea by imagination, also because no human being would be “spiritually” or “emotionally” benefited by knowing we evolved from lower life forms. On the other hand, to say faith is subjective, not only because we got this idea out of our imagination, but also the idea makes us feel good. Imagine, if the story of Adam and Eve was true, would we not feel much better by knowing we are protected by God, and a guaranteed life after death? So, from this view, science and faith, which one would be “truer” should not be a dispute, and which one would make us feeling better but may not be true is also obvious.

Science doesn’t always do “good” to human, because it does not mean to – it is out of our curiosity, an instinct that is like our sex drive, or our appetite for foods. To simply put, we just need to know, regardless of the outcome; faith is not always truthful because it doesn’t care about truth, it was created for consoling our desperate living situation. The reason that science and religion fought so violently for centuries, by my opinion, is because most people confused by the essential difference of these two fields, so they ask science for “good”, religion for “truth”. When people found that science can do “bad”, they think we should not at all believe whatever science says, and when people found faith is not “true”, they would think we should be completely cynical, not to have faith at all. They forgot that these two fields derived from different side of our brains, serve for different purposes, and they have their respective necessities for humans. Unfortunately, I found many people, probably majority, due to many reasons – possibly both natural (biological) and cultural (educational) reasons, only possess one type of thinking style, either subjective, or objective. Only in minds of some, maybe minority of population, these two thinking styles can coexist peacefully.

By saying “these two thinking styles coexist peacefully”, I did not mean they (science and religion) should negotiate with each other, thus lose their own attributes, rather, I mean their difference is granted by their “owners”, and the owners know how to use them for different purposes, such as, when concerning about “truth”, or facts, they go to science; when talking about value of our life, struggle in despair, fighting with injustice, pursuing happiness, they would hold faith without hesitation.

So, science and faith, rather than letting them fighting with each other, we probably should realize that they can be “friends” to each other, and leave them as they are, without change their identities.

Hope I don’t sound so confused after all. 🙂


*In this article, “science” means scientific spirit, or an objective attitude towards the world, doesn’t include all contents under the full meaning of “science”, such as knowledge, discoveries and technology, etc.; “religion” in this article means faith, or spiritual attitude towards the world, doesn’t include religion institutions and doctrines.

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