• Decrease
  • Increase
  • Show Icons

Science and World Faiths

How do world faiths see the relationship between science and religion?

Christianity

Christianity bases its teachings on what is written in the Bible and all Christian faiths recognise the central importance of the Bible.  Sometimes what is written in the Bible can appear to contradict what has been learnt from science, although for many scientists with a Christian faith there is no contradiction between their science and their faith.

Dr Rowan Williams:

Dr Rowan Williams, former archbishop, says that in science issues of truth are addressed by observations whereas in religion, truth claims are supported by religious texts:

 


quote openThere are many kinds of text in the Bible, from parables to history and from songs to poetic metaphors. Before deciding whether science and religion conflict, the first question is, are they coveringquote close the same ground?

Jesus enthroned from the Book of Kells



What is the view from other world faiths?

We asked an Islamic scientist, a Hindu scientist and a Hindu Priest and Scholar to tell us how they see the relationships between their religion and science.

 

Islam and Evolution

Professor Nidhal Guessoum is an astrophysicist. His research focuses on gamma radiation, mainly from the Milky Way Galaxy, but lately from other sources in the Universe as well.

Here Professor Guessoum considers aspects of the relationships between Islam and Evolution.

Professor Guessoum:

“I think we can say that there is no single, uniform position on the theory of evolution from an Islamic perspective. Ever since the earliest formulation of Darwin’s theory (and indeed throughout subsequent improvements on it), Muslim scholars have reacted to it with a variety of viewpoints. These viewpoints include, for some, a full acceptance of evolution with regard to the origins and history of humanity. Muslim scholars who accept the theory of evolution also attach to it a theistic interpretation, namely that God planned the whole of evolution, by writing it into the laws of nature and perhaps even guiding it. However, there are also in today’s Muslim culture strongly creationist positions.

Despite there being a large spectrum of Islamic positions vis-à-vis evolution, some Muslim students have seen the theory of evolution as going against the teachings of the Qur’an and have thus resisted learning it. In what follows, I explore two of the reasons for this feeling of conflict and offer alternative perspectives.

Firstly, I think that difficulties arise from a confusion of genres. The Qur’an need not be used as a reference book, against which any scientific theory or result is checked. The Qur’an is a book of spiritual, moral and social guidance. It encourages people to explore the world and to derive from it a worldview; one that conforms to its theistic teachings. It does not, however, claim to present descriptions, much less explanations, for how the world works.

Secondly, stating that evolution goes ‘against the teachings of the Qur’an’ stems from taking certain stories, particularly the creation story of Adam, literally and accepting the interpretations of the Holy Book by old scholars as the definitive meaning of those verses. In the same way as we do not reject the sun-centred model of the solar system just because the Qur’an says ‘the sun rises’ and ‘the sun sets’, so we must not reject evolution just because the Book says ‘God created Adam from clay’.

The openness of the Qur’an to (re-)interpretation was recently underlined by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, perhaps the most influential Muslim scholar of the past few decades, who stated that: ‘If Darwin’s theory is proven, we can find Qur’anic verses that will fit with it…’

Islam does not forbid the study of evolution or any other theory; it welcomes new knowledge and deals with it objectively.

 

An Interview with Nidhal Guessoum

Read an interview with Nidhal Guessoum in which he responds to questions about Islam, science and explains how he came to be an astrophysicist.


Hinduism and Science

[onethird_columns  ]

[/onethird_columns] [twothirds_columns_last  ]

Jay Lakhani is a theoretical physicist who has explored the findings at the cutting edge of modern physics to see how they relate to ideas of spirituality within the Hindu tradition.

[/twothirds_columns_last]

Jay Lakhani:

“The equivalent term to religion in Hinduism is Dharma and the aim of Dharma is to understand and resolve the Human condition. This process does not necessarily invoke God.

The Human condition is best understood and resolved by understanding the laws that dictate both the external (physical) world as well as the inner (mental) world. Practising Dharma requires harnessing both these sets of laws to bring about human progress.

The Sciences too have the same aims. The hard sciences like physics and chemistry and engineering try to understand and harness the laws of the physical universe. The soft sciences like anthropology, linguistics, and social sciences attempt to understand and harness the laws that dictate the inner workings of humanity.

 

There is great deal of resonance between science and Hinduism. Some of the discoveries at the cutting edge of modern sciences like the Quantum Phenomenon in Physics and Consciousness in the Life Sciences sit very well with the findings of esoteric Hinduism.

Esoteric Hinduism does not invoke Gods and Goddesses but talks about the underpinning to everything and everyone as being the Spirit.

The Sanskrit term for this spiritual underpinning is ‘Brahman.’ It is defined as being of the nature of existence, consciousness and bliss.

Cows Decorated for Diwali

This fits well with the findings of science. Quantum Physics teaches that the empirical universe we experience is not material but be best defined as a dance of existence.Modern neuroscience affirms that consciousness though it manifests in the brain does not spring from any slice of the brain. Consciousness is something non-material and seems to be our very essence.

What social science sees as human desire for happiness is really misplaced desire for us to rediscover our inner nature which is source of bliss.

Are there sometimes contradictions with Science?

“As with other religions some of the narratives are sometimes considered to be literal truths and this creates real contradiction with science. Hinduism has partitioned its scriptures as

Smritis: ‘narrative oriented – called Purana or mythology and should be treated as such. In these scriptures the creation stories are very colourful but are not for real.

Shrutis: ‘experiential and philosophical’ – Upanishads and Vedas. For example in the Nasadiya Shukta of Veda the idea of a spontaneous universe without invoking God is explored.

As science moves forward it seems to resonate even more strongly with the esoteric teachings of Hinduism.

One of the fathers of quantum mechanics commented that concept of quantum resonates well with Hindu metaphysics.”

 

An Interview with Jay Lakhani

Read an Interview with Jay Lakhani in which he explains how he came to be a theoretical physicist.


A Hindu Priest’s view on Hinduism and Science


Krishna Dharma is a Hindu Priest and scholar.  He was born and raised in Christianity but for the last 35 years has been a worshipper of Krishna, a Sanskrit name of God meaning the ‘all attractive person’.

In this extract from a longer interview he suggests we need to examine the process by which we get scientific knowledge:

Krishna Dharma:

“Take experiments. These are about direct experience, either seeking to make discoveries, test hypotheses or demonstrate a known fact (hopefully). Data is gathered and conclusions are drawn. In Vedic epistemology this is accepted as a valid way of finding things out, and it is known, unsurprisingly, as ‘direct perception’, i.e. knowledge gathered by our senses.

An example of Hindu scripture

However, you may be surprised to know that we consider it the least reliable process. The reason for this is that our senses are fallible. We are always liable to misinterpret what we see. Ten people witnessing the same event are likely to give ten at least slightly different accounts. Try asking the police.

A good example is the sun, which appears as a small object in the sky, smaller than a coin. That’s as much as our immediate perception tells us. However, as we all know, it is in fact over a thousand times larger than the earth planet.So how do we know this if we cannot see it for ourselves? Quite simply by accepting knowledge from an authority we trust, in this case that most trustworthy of sources, our teachers. We learn so many things in the classroom that we have not and probably will never personally verify by sense perception. Fancy a trip to the sun? Acceptance of authority or aural reception as it is known in Hinduism is therefore an accepted means of acquiring knowledge, and the Vedas actually say it is the best means. But of course it depends upon having access to a reliable source.”

 

An Interview with Krishna Dharma

Read an interview with Krishna Dharma in which he responds to questions about Hinduism, Vedic scriptures and science and explains how he came to be a Hindu priest and scholar.

© 2011 FaradaySchools