How and Why

David Cowles

Oct 18, 2021

Prior to 1600, to be accepted in the West, any new scientific theory had to demonstrate that it was compatible with the basic tenets of Christianity. Since 1600, every religious doctrine has been required to demonstrate that it is compatible with the discoveries of modern science.

Prior to 1600, to be accepted in the West, any new scientific theory had to demonstrate that it was compatible with the basic tenets of Christianity. Since 1600, every religious doctrine has been required to demonstrate that it is compatible with the discoveries of modern science.


While intellectually interesting, these efforts are fundamentally wrong headed. Truth to tell, for all their apparent intersections, science and religion don’t have a lot to say to one another. For one thing, they answer entirely different questions:


Science answers “how” questions. It is skeptical of “why” questions (are they even meaningful, can they have an answer) and, at any rate, it is silent on the subject.


Religion, on the other hand, is and should be silent on the “how” of things. Religion is all about the “why”; isn’t that enough? (In fact, major problems have occurred whenever religion has trespassed into the realm of the “how”.)


Fundamentally, while science is all about observation and measurement, religion is the belief that what can be seen and measured is not the most important aspect of reality. Science operates in the spatiotemporal realm while religion is all about the eternal.


Of course, we do not directly perceive the eternal aspect of things. We do, however, find intimations of eternity in hope and in love. But at the end of the day, the epistemology of religion is faith.

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