January 25, 2015

Scientific Theories And Religious Theories - Are They Same Thing?

An engraving by Albrecht Dürer, from the title...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today, near the end of my art class, a student asked me my opinions about religion and science. I was glad to talk about it, though obviously it's not the subject of my teaching. The discussion was interesting. I said that the difference between religion and science is that religion derives from our wish, science from facts. One of students immediately disagreed, saying science derives from theories as well as religion, and claimed that their science teachers told them so.

I understand that lots church goers often believe that scientific theories are just like theological theories, which means something come from our (crazy) heads. But based on my understanding, any scientific theories, at the moment they could claim themselves as a "systematic theories", there were already supported by massive amount of facts, because it is precisely because of those hard facts that the theories were constructed, or deduced. Making evolution as an example. The "theory" that humans evolves from apes (or more actually, humans share same ancestors with apes. I am not an expert on evolution so bare with me), who could conceived such a theory just by "thinking" or "wishing"? What kind of benefit we human can get from such hideous idea? But it nevertheless was born because lots of FACTS suggested so, and the following one and half century's scientific studies and fossil excavations all support and prove this theory. Contrary to scientific theories, religious theories are all "abstract ideas" from the beginning. There maybe some "Christian scientists" look for evidences of Bible, but anyone with decent history knowledge know that Bible was not born the same way as evolution.

I don't think my students believed what I said. They claimed that evolution is not true neither, could not be proved, even their science teachers told them so. I am no scientist so I don't suppose my words are convincing to them more than their teachers. But that's OK. What seems frustrating to me is, these students are highly influenced by their parents, who are all proud church goers, and believe bible almost literally. For a moment or two, I believe I appeared to be annoyed, or emotional, because I was again "stunned" how simple facts could be distorted, even in such young students. But I tried my best not to be so upset.

Well, A middle aged art teacher's peace can be disturbed by her teenagers students. Maybe there really is something wrong with me? I better laugh it off.


  1. Yun, Issac Asimov said that the bible is the best atheist's resource (well, I don't recall his exact words but this was the gist of his idea). I know he has written about the Bible and I would love to read what he said about it. I agree with you. There is no evidence to support the foundation of religious truth. Religion is based on faith and faith is faith. A thought-provoking post to start the week. Excellent.

    1. I know nothing about Issac Asimov but your mentioning about him stirred my interest.
      I am against organized religions but not in spiritual level. Faith is important, probably the most important regarding human survival.

    2. Julia, the best place to start is his excellent "I: Asimov," his six-hundred page condensed memoir (completed shortly before his death). Chapter 108 (Life After Death) is a great summary of many of his views on religion. And, as fate would have it, Asimov was not only the most prolific author in recorded history but also wrote a full Bible Commentary!

      And Yun Yi is right - there is a huge difference between pure faith and testable theory. Testability and critical thinking are what make science different from religion. Scientific theories like evolution have been tested and backed up by evidence, while religious ideas have not (and were never designed to be questioned, anyway). Religion can contain great lessons on how to be a better human; but when it says the earth is only 6000 years old (to use a Christian example), this is a testable claim. The claim was tested and proven fully false. But when religion speaks of the value of love - well, I think this has been proven in all of our experiences! You can have it without accepting religious ideas about science.

    3. Thanks for the recommendation. I was going to google the books he wrote about the Bible.
      (I am not religious but I am a spiritual person).

    4. Thanks Bookworm for your insightful input. I will have to check Issac Asimov out. Very fascinating.