Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible

by Lorna Salzman

Religion and science are indeed incompatible, notwithstanding statements to the contrary by some scientists and theologians.

Religion and science both offer explanations for why life and the universe exist. Science relies on testable empirical evidence and observation. Religion relies on subjective belief in a creator. Only one explanation is correct. The other must be discarded.

Religion does offer other things as inducement to believe its explanation: moral codes, rewards and punishments, personal guidance and a refuge from human pain and conflict. Were religion to abandon its belief in a creator, it would then remain as a moral philosophy with which science would not take issue. In fact some religions come closer to philosophy; Buddhism is one example.

Unfortunately historic fanatics like Mohammed and subsequent institutions such as the Catholic papacy took advantage of human frailties, fears and innate irrationality, to create power structures and doctrinal controls over all aspects of human life and behavior, based on the mandates of a creator. For obvious reasons, it became imperative to denigrate and destroy those ideas that contradicted or undermined their doctrine and threatened their control. To defend their power, they had to insist that the doctrine was given to them by a creator, thus crushing any arbitrary secularism that might rear its head. Those who raised doubts were eliminated.

Evolution was and is the most powerful challenge to religion in that it reveals the material origins of human beings and especially their mind. The power of theology was immediately diminished when Darwin showed that life on earth did not require a creator. But the powerful do not readily relinquish power, as radical Islam and the stubbornness of the Catholic church demonstrate.
Nor do even the educated faithful, scientists included, seem willing to redefine and rename religion as moral philosophy.

Even so, scientists in the laboratory in effect discard their belief in a creator in order to do their research. If they did not do so, they would be laughed out of academia. So they live a kind of lie in their professional work, accepting the proofs of physics, chemistry and biology but pretending that the existence of a creator has not been disproved... a pretense that by itself is completely irrational and unscientific.

Explanations require evidence. None exists for a creator outside the human mind, whereas the evidence for evolution and the origins of life mounts every day. In the face of this uncontradicted evidence, religious belief in a divinity is no more viable than belief in the now-proverbial Flying Spaghetti Monster.

© 2002 Lorna Salzman. All rights reserved. Material may be quoted with permission.