Religion or science: That is not the question

Published: March 19, 2012

It is high time for us to have a society that does not intertwine science and religion, as both these subjects deal with different aspects of life and must be approached separately. PHOTO: AFP

The argument begins with this question: why should science and religion be kept separate? The answer depends on what you believe; however, let me present my case in favour of the separation of science and religion.

Science is the study of nature and how it functions. The beauty of science is that when a theory is presented, scientists of that field do not immediately agree with the theoretical claims. Rather, they put the theory to intensive criticism and tests. In many cases, the theories are disproved on the basis of counter evidence or errors that are deduced. If the scientists are unable to produce counter evidence or sufficient flaws in the theory, then supportive evidence is analysed, keeping in mind that the plausibility of a theory depends on the number of supportive empirical evidences provided by researchers.

In contrast, religion is entirely based on dogmas, which in most cases cannot be denied, questioned, critiqued or revoked.

The real problem arises when religious scholars start claiming new scientific discoveries as something that had been ‘revealed’ to them thousands of years ago. However, this claim takes place only when the scientific discoveries are compatible with their held beliefs. If the new discoveries, regardless of their significance, are contradictory to their beliefs, the theory is out rightly opposed and most of the time its researchers are persecuted, banished, and shunned. For example, when Galileo supported the Copernican theory through his research and study, he was charged with heresy and was persecuted.  He was later forced to withdraw his support for the theory in exchange of a less harsh prison sentence.

From the time of Galileo’s death in 1641, it took the Catholic Church some 350 years until 1992 to acknowledge that Galileo was indeed correct in supporting the Copernican theory. For those 350 years, several generations were deliberately misinformed and their chances of researching and building on Galileo’s findings were greatly affected.

However, Islam in this case, does not seem to overtly counter science since the history of scientific advancements in medieval Arabia is evident of this. It was more of the religious followers; the clerics, the leaders who were at certain times against scientific and rational thought. This notion is also supported by many modern historians, such as E G Browne, George Sarton, Sayili, and scientists such as Dr. Neil deGrass Tyson. They have made this case by blaming famous medieval Muslim theologians, Al-Ghazali and Al-Ashari, for causing the decline of rational thought in Arabia.

However, the historians’ blame on theologians is not unjustified; al Ghazali in his book “The Decisive Criterion for Distinguishing Islam from Clandestine Unbelief” implied that in case of conflict between reason and revealed text, priority should be given to the former over the latter (al Ghazâlî 1961,195 = 2002, 112). Furthermore, while disputing with some of Avicenna’s (Bu Ali Sina) teachings, he added a fatwa at the end of another of his books, “Incoherence of the Philosophers”, declaring that everybody who teaches parts of Avicenna’s more controversial topics is an apostate and can be sentenced to death (al Ghazâlî 1997, 230).

Although it is true that al Ghazali’s fatwa was not the only cause of scientific decline in medieval Arabia, there were political and economical factors, as well. However, when it comes to following a fatwa, the followers take it seriously, especially if the fatwa is coming from an authoritative figure such as, Imam al Ghazali.

If anyone thinks that these things don’t happen in today’s day and age, they would be wrong, as more recently, there was a case of a British Imam’s attempt to reconcile the theory of evolution with Islam. The result of his attempt was catastrophic for him. He was stripped off of his Imamat, received death threats, was shunned from the community and, worst of all, he was called an apostate. All this happened because he claimed that the theory of evolution could be compatible with religion, but sadly he was not given a chance to explain his standpoint.

As we are aware, overwhelming evidence supports the theory of evolution; however, since it is deemed contradictory to religious beliefs, it is outrightly opposed. Another example would be the opposition to stem cell research, details of which cannot be elaborated in this small space.

I have only presented a few examples to show how religious arguments have interfered with scientific progress. History, however, is filled with instances which are detrimental to the progress of reason and rationality.

Can you imagine where we would be if there were no religious interferences in scientific progress?

It is high time for us to have a society that does not intertwine science and religion, as both these subjects deal with different aspects of life and must be approached separately.

Danish Shah

Danish Shah

The author is an IT professional by day and a quasi couch/facebook/twitter activist by night. He tweets @Danisshhhh (twitter.com/Danisshhhh)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Intelektual

    @Gullible Nomore:
    also Ur point is as always Pointless ! Cuz it adds nothing but contradiction on ur part !Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Gulliable Nomore:
    Please Look into the law of conservation of Energy, and dont forget the fundamentals of Newtonian Physics processes of Fusion/Fission, E=mc(sq).
    Also for any Bang lest Big Bang a certain amount of Energy is requisite !
    If you still fail to understand perhaps you are more limited than Science itself !
    Also ur remarks like “had a dream” “woke up one day” are irrelevent coz I never said that nor is that how Islam was transfered to us !Recommend

  • karma

    religion- reverse gear
    science-topgearRecommend

  • Faris

    SCIENCE IS PART OF RELIGION but only the MUSLIM RELIGION through its quran. ITS INSEPERABLE. hey you daanish or anyone who say otherwise, then I hope theyre brave enough to prove me wrong.Recommend

  • http://myspace.com/taravadu Kulamarva Balakrishna

    @Faris:
    Vienna,May 8,2012
    In the olden far away from Islamic days religion was called by a word,
    “dharma” in Indian subcontinent with far wider all encompassing
    meaning.For example it meant quality,code,belief etc in other words
    a nomadic gypsy conceptual compound like today´s “letchoo” served
    at traditional eateries,also sold in food and drinks markets.Islam
    inherited this “unison” all inclusion technology of the oldest of the
    old humans.That makes Islam interesting and simple ideology at
    the same time for individual composition according to convenience
    and needs.If the specialists go for hairsplitting generalists make
    keeping hair mass bound by wild resins.There is both appeal and
    revulsion united.
    Taravadu Taranga Trust for Media Monitoring TTTMM India
    –Kulamarva BalakrishnaRecommend

  • Faris

    @Kulamarva Balakrishna:
    wow inetersting fact. And the fact is the quran contains scientific hints that is proved centuries afterwards by technologies that are not available during the formation of the quran, which makes the quran miracolous.Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Faris:
    what are those hints that you talk of?Recommend

  • Faris

    @Gullible Nomore:
    stages from conceivement, fetus, and birth of humans for example. You need microscope and tools that arent present during the revealment of the quran to figure that one out right. But it’s correctly mentioned in the quran.Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Faris:
    hahahahah stop watching Keith Moore’s videos from the 70′s. He was obviously delusional or high on Riyal fumes. But what’s in the quran is plagiarized from Galenic science, word for word. And to top it off, Galen was wrong about embryology as well. So I would recommend to please do some research before you start wrongfully glorifying.Recommend

  • Altaf Gohar

    @Gullible Nomore: If some one doesn’t believe on Islam and science. Please visit the following link. http://www.cometoislam.com/IslamandScience.htm. It will show you every thing about Islam and Science.

    ThanksRecommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Altaf Gohar:
    I’d rather go to a scientific website, like scientific american or http://www.journals.elsevier.com etc. to learn about science than a site that is called “come to islam” thank you very much.Recommend

  • Faris

    @Gullible Nomore:
    who said I watched keith moore videos ?
    quran didnt plagiarized galenic science, there are major major difference. want prove ?
    here will prove how actually you who is glorifying :
    http://www.islamicwritings.org/quran/medical-miracles/does-the-quran-plagiarise-ancient-greek-embryology/
    Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Gullible Nomore:

    U r blinded to facts and logic Hints wont do u any good Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Faris:
    Again, try reading actual research fron ‘scientific’ sources rather than ‘glorifying islam’ websites. But what a bunch of wishful thinking and word twisting by the ‘anonymous’ author! By the way, research is done by analyzing both sides of the story, not by calling god pure energy just because that suits your twisted faith and that is exactly what the author has done there. Oh! Welcome back intelektual! I missed your trolling! lolRecommend

  • Faris

    @Gullible Nomore:
    hahahaah idiot, I bet you didnt read it quite thoroughly, ‘glorifying Islam’ ‘wishful thinking’.
    And please tell me WHERE in that article there was ‘WORD TWISTING’, please do tell me, or is it YOU who are just ignorant and desperate and not having the courage or even the intelligence to read that long article huh ? hhahhha LOL

    both sides of the story ? what story huh? love story ? wahahahah lol

    and dont forget, point out where in that article there was word twisting or any other faults by the muslim writer, please do ‘smart intellectual’ guy, hhahahRecommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    Hahahaha you crack me up bro, haven’t had a good laugh in some time.
    By ‘word twisting’ i meant his twisting of words to fit his ‘view’ and not the use of the actual word ‘twisting’. That is hilarious, hahaha thanks for a good laugh though!Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Gullible Nomore:
    Considering Both sides of argument is not just reading scientific journals if u care to notice the argument is a Vs. situation not just about proving religion from scientific method !
    Its about considering religious doctrines in a n unbiased manner and analysing them rationally via logic ! and if you Know a thing or two thats what science does in absence of directly verifiable evidance Evidance which is absent to prove your contrary argument either !
    U cant prove it scientifically based on evidance that God is not pure energy now can U !
    So in this argument scientific way is irrelevent because it would be inconclusive ! Logic on the other hand wont be !
    By the way I never left U just never answered any of my questions !Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Gullible Nomore:
    What Faris meant was Prove what words were actualy twisted or how within that argument not just an absent personaly opinionated comment.
    Glad to c u are still capable of laughing at ur own lack of common sense :)Recommend

  • Faris

    @Gullible Nomore:
    nice to know you have a sense of humor like that by the way you keep laughing, but didnt I asked you to point me where in that particular article does the author ‘twisted’ words and please point me out and prove it to me that quran totally plagiarise the greeks, please do, because once you do, I’ll straightly point out the DIFFERENCE between the quran which is actually totally correct about embriology, and the greeks which has its falses.
    Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Intelektual:
    You talk about Logic? How on the world is it logical to consider ‘pure energy’ as ‘intelligent’? How can that ‘pure energy’ think, perform miracles, listen to prayers etc etc? It is absolutely absurd. Now as far as proving that god’s not pure energy is concerned, that is a redherring question. Its like saying hey i believe unicorns are made of candies, since candies are pink and unicorns are pink therefore they made of candies.
    How the heck do u prove that? Well it is written in ‘The Last Unicorn’ by the unicorn god himself, that “pink is the color of unicorn for a reason…”
    Catch my drift?Recommend

  • Faris

    @Gullible Nomore:
    hey smart guy, answer my question if you want to prove you’re not that smart.Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Faris:
    According to Quran the bones are formed first and then the flesh, according to ACTUAL embryology, they both start forming together. Chew on that for a while…Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Gullible Nomore:
    How do Humans get to be intelligent ! U r organic decayable vulnarable and dependable matter yet u r doing all this stuff (that is far from intelligent btw) its logical but the Energy that is enabling u to do all that should not be able to do all this says ur twisted logic !!!
    matter a derivative of Energy is sustaining life yet is still dependable on Energy !
    Also U would believe in higher energy beings if its a far fetched sci-fi movie w0nt U !
    And how do u disprove it ! Arguments from Unicorn God ??
    Now Ridiculous exagerations about Pink unicorns are just so0o U and i m so not catching ur drift cuz itx moving towards the non-sense side ! Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Gullible Nomore:
    Quran uses and not then in describing the relationship btw bones & flesh so once again ur point is pointless.Recommend

  • Faris

    @Gullible Nomore:
    hahaha, on the contrary , according to Prof Keith Moore in 1998, in the 7th week the lump of blood developed bones, only which then flesh starts to appear from and subsequently surrounds the bones.
    chew on that.Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Intelektual:
    Yea, Pickthal’s translation suggests a “then”, Mufti Taqi Usmani’s suggests a “then” but Mufti Intelektual’s suggests its an “and”. Well i have to take Mufti Intelektual’s words for it because heck he’s a master linguist. Even if you do come up with some translation that suggests an “and” doesn’t prove anything, it only proves that it is as vague as (as someone aptly put it) the horoscope reading from a sunday news paper. Change the translation and interpretation as you like, to fit the bill…

    @Faris:
    Until you provide ‘citations’ your point is moot. Besides, I know other doctors and embryologists (Dr. William Campbell, Dr. P.Z. Myers, etc.) who do not agree with Dr. Keith Moore at all, but you won’t believe their findings since they do not conform with your faith. Bravo!Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Gullible Nomore:
    I never claimed to be a Mufti Just searched the Quranic refrence read the translation then and there and posted it with references. ET did not allow the comment or else U cud hav read it urself nyways u can search it on the net and read the transcript & translation i.e. to say literal translation not some derivative explanation which you can then argue is vague! BTW I did not know Mufti saab had atheist followers ! A non believer believer of Mufti Saab’s for the least i am entertained !
    And exactly my point there are scientists vouching for pros then there are scientist vouching for Cons and U r gonna cite those who favour ur assumptions den how is it relevent.
    Logic and truth without refrences to third parties was what i asked from day 1.

    PS: you left the frst comment of mine unreplied, as usual.Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Gullible Nomore:
    Quran dot com, answering-islam, quranandscience dot com, some of refrences I searched using google den & there hence u dont have to listen to jus Me also if the interpretation is subjective ur point is pointless ! u have to come up with a better excuse to dis-credit Quran ! In the same ayat there are 4 to 5 facts that are not open to interpretation and are completly correct about embryology as per modern science not those greek pharmaceutical refrences u made, Yet u chose to focus 1 thng that acc. 2 u in open to human interpretation ! So again I repeat if u have decided despite all logic y bother arguing !
    Quran is flawless is not only my belief but tried and tested fact while acc. 2 ur argument Humans are flawed and I agree 100% !Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Intelektual:
    Oh, and also that scientist, beside being a non muslim, should not have been to Saudi Arabia for a psuedo-science conference or be on Saudi payroll. Thanks!Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Intelektual:
    In my last comment (which didn’t make it through) I asked for you to mention other scientist/embryologists who have endorsed quranic embryology. The criteria, for fairness’ sake, is that they can’t be muslims, and whatever actually made it in my earlier comment.Recommend

  • Faris

    @Gullible Nomore:
    hahaha, I knew this stupid remark was coming from you, well guess what dude, that was in the decades gone by when that scientist went to saudi, in 1998 he wrote that book that says bone first and flesh later. and guess what :

    The American Association of Clinical Anatomists awarded Dr. Moore with their Honored Member Award (in 1994). The American Association of Anatomists awarded him the Henry Gray/Elsevier Distinguished Educator Award in 2007 for human anatomy education in the anatomical sciences. wiki

    if he was biased and lacking credibility cause of his connection with desert rich guys, those accalades and positions wont come rolling for him.Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Faris:
    Dude, didn’t ask you to give me a list of awards he received. No one’s doubting Keith Moore’s credentials. I only asked you to CITE his research journal where he mentioned ‘bone first and flesh later’. Thanks!Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Gullible Nomore:
    What scientist are you talking about?
    I am asking u to read the translation that is not influenced through science just the literal meaning of the transcript !
    Cuz like I said before as long as we are discussing Who not “What” theres never gonna b a conclusion ! almost every Who had a nemises or critic !Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Intelektual:
    Which translation should I read? I just told you that Pickthal’s translation and Taqi Usmani’s translation used a “then” rather than an “and”. Or are you saying to read the translation that suits your interpretation or make the book look good? So again, which translation should I read?
    By the way, Pickthal’s translation is considered one of the most authentic english translations. Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Gullible Nomore:
    Read the references that i quoted in my earlier comment on May 15, 2012 – 12:43PM !
    and if U are referencing the translation that suits U to make The Book look bad !
    Y should I not do the same ! Who gave you the final say in a matter you dont even believe in !
    All you have been able to establish is that the wordings are open to interpretation !
    That does not undermine the fact that the basic knowledge thats imparted is correct and ahead of its time by centuries !
    Open to interpretation is not proof enough that Quran itself is wrong ! Naoozubillah
    Its a known fact that the Quran uses a poetic style and poetry is interpreted by others in ways quite different from What was actually said !!Recommend