According to Max Weber, religion is a belief system centered on a supernatural being. It is seen as superior to science, all-powerful, and inexplicable by laws of nature. However, this definition excludes non-Western religions and supernatural beings. So how does religion differ from science?
Scholars in various disciplines have been exploring the relationship between science and religion. There is even a field dedicated to the topic, and several journals exist. The Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University chairs the Science and Religion Forum, and there are scholarly societies dedicated to the subject, such as the European Society for the Study of Science and Religion, which holds biennial meetings.
However, there are differences between science and religion. The former relies on empirical claims about the natural world, while the latter relies on belief. In contrast, religion deals with questions about meaning, morality, and purpose. Both are based on empirical claims, but some people disagree with these claims. Those who reject these claims cannot call themselves Mormons, Muslims, or Christians.
As a result, the relationship between science and religion is complex. Although most Muslim countries enjoy high rates of technological development and urbanization, they underperform when measured in common scientific metrics such as the number of publications per scientist. In addition, some Muslims hold pseudoscientific beliefs that are rooted in their faith.
Despite these differences, science and religion are not mutually exclusive. There are some areas of overlap, but they should not be confused. For instance, some religious institutions have a very strong tradition of using the scientific method to study the natural world. However, it should be noted that scientists must continually test their ideas against observations in order to discover if they are correct.
In addition to Christian authors, Jewish thinkers have made important theoretical contributions to the science-religion debate. For example, Hermann Cohen, a neo-Kantian German philosopher, considered the relationship between Judaism and science, particularly in the light of scientific advancements. Cohen believed that, with the emergence of naturalism, the Jewish religious community was facing an epistemic crisis.
Scholars on the relationship between science and religion vary greatly in their philosophies. Some adhere to scientism, which holds that the knowledge of science alone is sufficient to answer all questions. Others adhere to deism, which holds that God created all things but no longer directs physical phenomena. Theists, on the other hand, believe that God actively intervenes in the world.
Some Christian authors have attempted to integrate science and religion. This approach is sometimes referred to as concordism. It is an attempt to interpret scripture in light of modern science. It holds that the Bible foretells scientific theories, such as evolution. The biblical account of kenosis anticipates such scientific theories. Moreover, it argues that many scientific-sounding statements in the Bible are actually erroneous, such as the earth being flat and immovable. Such an interpretation requires considerable sophistication.
In the early twentieth century, authors from various fields of study examined the purported naturalistic roots of religious beliefs and tried to explain the commonalities among religious practices across cultures. The positivist model of cultural evolutionism was influenced by Tylor, who thought that animism was the earliest form of religious belief. The positivist view of science also influenced cultural evolutionism, which argued that the evolution of cultures was a linear process. Moreover, it suggested that magical practices arose from a proto-scientific mindset.