The Difference between Science and Religion

Are science and faith mutually exclusive or can they coexist? James Choung explores the realms of religion and science and whether or not they are contradictory.

Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection

  1. How would you describe the relationship between religion and science?
  2. What strengths and weaknesses do you see in James's statement that science deals with the "how" of things while religion deals with the "why" of things?

I'm a geek and a nerd by heart. I love the technical aspects of things, you know. I as a kid tore apart clocks and built radios, and love, love, love that kind of stuff, and I think it would be very hard for me if I saw science and religion at odds with each other. MIT's a little bit different in that you are trained to look for the one answer as fast as you can, right? And you take your test. they're all science or math questions that have actual answers to them, and so you're just trying to do that as fast as you can. And so you're trained to look for the one answer, and in some ways that sort of primes you a little bit to look for an answer when it comes to life and faith. There actually are a lot of people who are religious. Uh, it's, it's fascinating how many religious groups there are on campus. Um, I think it has something to do with the institution, too. The scientists there, there are a lot of people who follow, who follow God. There are a lot of people who are spiritual. I think a lot of that is because they're studying the cosmos. They're studying creation. They're looking around at all the data of the world, and that leads them to believe that something out there must have created this. Uh, it's a beautiful world. Uh, I would imagine that it would allow places of worship, uh, over test tubes and measurements because you're seeing how neatly and beautifully things are designed. Whereas at other liberal arts colleges or colleges across the river or up the street where you're studying people and mankind and societies, and you can see when you're studying each other and the stuff that we do to each other and the junk that's, that we, we're a part of, that it would be easy to lose sight of who God might be. It wouldd be easy to lose sight that God might exist because you're studying us. But yeah, at MIT, I don't really see science and religion being at odds with each other. They just deal with different things. Um, I really think that science deals with the "how," the mechanics, how things work, and religion deals with the "why," the purpose, the meaning, the stuff behind it. So they don't really, they shouldn't really contradict if, if all of this is God's truth and if this really is God's world, then let the scientists dig deeply to see what's there because they're just showing us what, what's, how things work, and let the theologians and the pastors and spiritual people, let them figure that stuff out there because they're helping us with purpose and meaning. They're, it's a, they're different realms, and the problem is when one starts crossing into the other. You know, where you have scientists, because of the way they see evolution working out on our planet, and then they take the leap from there to say that God doesn't exist because of what they found here. Well, they've just crossed the line. They're not staying within their realm, and when theologians then, like you know, back in the middle ages when they were arguing that the earth is the center of our solar system based on what they were reading in the scriptures. Well then, they took a book that was supposed to help us with purpose and meaning and tried to make it, make science say something else. That's, that's where religion jumps its space, but if you fundamentally let the fields do what they're meant to do, then you can have scientists who are practicing, faithful, spiritual people. You can have theologians who are studying, who figure out what's going on in the sciences, but they respect the limits of each of the realms, and in that way I think they absolutely go together, because both speak of a different kind of truth, but you need both kinds of truth, um, in our world to continue to find both how things work as well as how we're supposed to live. And so I, I just see them as going like two wings of the same airplane.