The second type of conflict is between the methodologies of science and religion. An atheist writes:
Religion relies on authority — from a person, book, or tradition — and its Truth is supposed to be universal and eternal. But in science, the authority is in the evidence and reasoning, which are always open to challenge; so science's truth is relative and tentative.
A scientific investigation starts with a question, and tries to reach a conclusion by finding evidence and applying reason. A theological investigation, though, starts with a conclusion, and tries to wiggle around any impediments of evidence and logic in order to justify that conclusion.
The basic idea is that the method science uses to arrive at conclusions is very different to the method of religion. Science relies on observation, repeated testing, and is tentative. Religion on the other hand relies on authority, inspiration, and is closed to challenge.
This post is about the supposed latter type of conflict between science and religion: the methodological conflict. I'll start by granting (for the sake of argument only) the following implicit assumptions that atheists like the one quoted above make:
1. There is such a things as The methodology of science and The methodology of religion
2. These methodologies are truly different
These assumptions can be challenged, but I'm not going to do that. Instead I will show that even if science and religion have different methodologies, it doesn't follow that there is a conflict between them. There is a third implicit assumption which I'm not willing to grant:
3. If two methods of gaining knowledge are different, then they are in conflict
Those who argue that there is a conflict between science and religion need 3 to be true, because if it wasnt, then merely pointing out that science and religion have different methods of arriving at conclusions wouldnt be enough to show that there is a conflict.
So why believe that 3 is true? Just because there is a difference doesn't mean that there is a conflict. For example, there is a difference between French and German, football and tennis, and yellow and blue. Does that mean that French is in conflict with German, or that football is in conflict with tennis. Is the colour yellow in conflict with the colour blue? Quite obviously, difference does not entail conflict, so the proponent of 3 needs to do some work to convince us that 3 is true. He may argue that whilst difference per se doesnt entail conflict, difference in methodologies does entail conflict. But this is just begging the question. Why should we believe that? Restating the premise is no good, we need an argument for why it's true.
We can go further than simply pointing out that 3 is unsupported by giving a positive argument against 3. Take the following two methods of arriving at conclusions: vision and testimony. The method of vision is different to the method of testimony, but that doesnt mean that there is a conflict between vision and testimony. Sure sometimes testimony might tell us one thing but vision will tell us something else, but that doesnt force us to say that the method of testimony is in conflict with that of vision. Likewise with religion - even if religion sometimes tells us one thing but science another, this doesnt mean that there is a conflict between science and religion. The argument that religion conflicts with science because of different methods is bunk.
Edited by .InshAllah., 10 January 2012 - 04:06 PM.