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Science vs. Religion: Response to New Yorker article "Teaching Doubt" and its Readers

Updated on March 17, 2015
Graduation Ceremony
Graduation Ceremony

Intorduction

This is a subject I normally would not touch with a 40-foot pole. I respect that the human race holds many different beliefs globally. For the sake of encouraging critical thinking from my readers I would like to cast aside my own beliefs in order to approach this topic without bias.

It is important to respect the value of science as well as religion. It is especially important to respect the opinions of one another. Keep in mind, however, that opinions are just that: Opinions.

I would like to ask my readers to keep an open mind to ensure productive conversation. Any nasty and demeaning comments will be denied. Comments are welcome, but please remember to be thoughtful and respectful of others.

I came across the New Yorker article "Teaching Doubt" on a social networking site and took the time to evaluate this heated and heavily debated topic. I also took the time to see what readers had to say and have taken their comments into consideration in order to formulate a response.

The article discusses the discomfort from politicians and teachers alike about challenging students' religious beliefs in the classroom. Asking questions and finding empirical solutions to these questions is the essence of science. Although Christianity is usually referenced to when discussing religion in the classroom, there are many types of faith throughout the world.

Before we begin debating, it is important to first clearly define the differences between science and religion. It would not be fair to say that either one is "bad". Facts, ethics, and beliefs, are all very complex. It cannot be denied that science has played an important role throughout history. Religion is important to many people. The challenge is to know where to draw the boundary between the worlds of science and religion. Scientific theories are very plausible and there seems to be little evidence for religious theories pertaining to topics such as the creation of the universe. However, to say that there are no supernatural entities with absolute certainty would not be accurate either. The feats created through science cannot be denied. The only thing we know for sure is that there is a great big world out there with corners of the universe still left unexplored and untouched.

The human race will only progress through maintaining open-mindedness. One thing history has taught us is that intolerance is dangerous and will lead to destruction.

Old School house (free clip art)
Old School house (free clip art)

Defining Science and Religion

1.) Science is knowledge. More specifically, Science is knowledge through the study of the behavior of the physical and natural world through use of observation and experimentation.

Scientific hypothesis can be measured, calculated, and evaluated through factual evidence. It has become a valuable tool for medicine, exploration, social and community improvement, and more. Examples include cures for diseases, creating effective interventions and preventions, creating technology allowing us to travel safely across the globe and even into space. Science has taught us about nutrition and has helped the average lifespan of the human species as well as other species to be prolonged.

Science is inherently unbiased. At least, it is supposed to be. Science is used to ask questions and explain the world around us in a logical, measurable way. Scientists do not always get the answer they may hope for, but they will find answers regardless.

2.) Religion is a system of faith and worship of a superhuman power, god(s) or goddess(es). There are many different religious systems. These systems are based on cultural, social, and personal experiences and beliefs.

Religion is not based on factual, measurable evidence. Religion has been known to be used to create intolerance and has served as an excuse for persecution and war. However, religion itself is not what causes the negative outcomes. Feuds over religion develop due to individual people who are simply closed-minded. Religion, like science, has its place in the world. Religion is not necessary to teach someone to be a good person and to treat others with respect. However, it is a powerful tool for teaching inner strength, forgiveness, attainment of peace, and selflessness. Religion has also enriched our lives through music, art, poetry, and more, throughout history.

Although religion does not answer our questions in a the factual way that science does, it is important for many people who turn to it for comfort and understanding. The meaning of life, acceptance of death, and personal journeys are things that science cannot answer in-depth. Science may know how a body decomposes or how it can be embalmed and preserved, but it cannot prove if the spirit and soul exist. Religion gives people a chance to form their own beliefs, whether they are passed down across generations, or newly created in today's world. Religion helps us make sense of things that science cannot. The truth behind these answers is strictly based on one's personal beliefs. Like science, religion is plausible, however there is simply not a lot of evidence to support religious theories pertaining to topics such as the creation of mankind or the universe itself.

"Those Who Teach, Can" by Ryan Cooper
"Those Who Teach, Can" by Ryan Cooper

Education

What is the Role of Education?

There is a great deal of irony surrounding this question. Today, the role of education is defined very differently from what it used to be. In Ryan Cooper's 11th edition of "Those Who Teach, Can" we learn that formal education in America began in the 1600s as a way to teach boys about religion, arithmetic, how to read, and how to write. Few girls had educational opportunities. At best, housewives would offer to teach young girls how to read basic prayers in addition to household skills such as cooking and sewing. District schools eventually emerged. It was suggested that Satan's influence would keep people from understanding the scriptures. This was the reasoning behind educating the nation's youth.

In today's world, education has progressed to enable both men and women of all races to become contributing members of society. The results show improvement with the changing times. Humans are creating medicine and technology which greatly improves the quality and longevity of our lives. Education is no longer meant as a means to control an unseen, evil entity corrupting our children's youth. The role of education today is meant to encourage critical thinking, creativity, the pursuit of knowledge which can be tested using scientific methods to arrive at answers for many very real problems in the world. Today, education allows children to advance intellectually and understand the world around us.


Dr. Lawrence Krauss discusses Science & Religion

What should schools teach our children?

The answer to this question comes down to this: Do we want to progress as a human race, or do we want to cease progression? With the assumption that progression is positive and desirable, the answer is simple. Introducing critical thinking into the classroom has sparked a revolution of new ideas and inventions which would have surpassed the imaginative capabilities of people from the 1600s.

When it comes to science vs. religion, teaching the plausibility of scientific explanations will help accomplish this feat. Science has been designed to question everything and increase our knowledge, skills, progress, and independence. Teaching theories that are different from those taught in various religions can seem new and scary. But new is not necessarily bad. "New" gives us a way to improve our every day lives. Religion certainly has its place, but it will not aid in the progression of humankind. If religion is solely depended on we as a race would be as blinded as we were in the 1600s.

Religion has its place. It answers questions which science cannot such as the meaning of life. No one was around to see the earth come into existence. But the same could be said for god(s) and other entities in religion. Any theory is plausible, but it ultimately comes down to evidence which is why the scientific theory is being taught in school. It is reasonable to discuss these different theories, even in a classroom. However, one thing for sure is that religion did not create treatments for diseases which would have once been undetectable and fatal. Religion did not send mankind into space or build airplanes to take us around the globe.

How do we learn about scientific beliefs in school and still hold on to religious beliefs? Religion can play an important role in bringing hope and peace to people's lives. Religion is something that can be therapeutic. Changing our emotions and learning how to cope with different aspects of our lives is not as simple as turning a light switch on and off. Religion within a community can build strength and friendships. Religion tends to serve best as a life coach, rather than an educational coach.

Learning about science does not mean a person has to give up their religion. Adopting a religion does not mean a person has to give up their scientific knowledge. Learning to be tolerant and accepting of every individual's needs and beliefs is important for creating a harmonious world for everyone. It is natural for people to have unwavering disagreements. It is a fact that science and religion are incompatible with one another. Having said that, a little open-mindedness would certainly go a long way.

Do teachers have an obligation to challenge students' religious beliefs?

It is important to remember that the purpose of teaching science is not necessarily to prove or disprove something, but to ask questions and find answers. Sometimes we do not always arrive at the answer we are looking for. Teaching science is not only meant to introduce scientific theory and methods. It is meant to teach critical thinking, eliminate bias, and analyze data. Teaching students with religious beliefs to acknowledge that a world created by science rather than religion is plausible is important for developing critical thinking skills.

Teachers are hired to teach students about scientific theories as facts. However, it wouldn't hurt to discuss with students the flaws in any theory and highlight supporting reasons for why the theory of evolution is so important.The theory of evolution provides explanation and evidence for how living things change and adapt throughout history. Facts mean nothing without understanding why and how these facts came into existence.

My advice to teachers would be to listen to your students' questions and let them know that you acknowledge their opinions and beliefs. Take the time to explain the subject matter in a way they can understand, and create a dialogue. Do not underestimate the power of conversation. Conversation is a great tool for teaching and can be a great way to help your students become more engaged with your class and involved with their education.

Failing to challenge students' religious beliefs would only ensure ignorance. Failing to question the world around us would rob us of autonomy and the ability to think critically. Without science we would all be sheep following the rest of the herd blindly.

Complete rejection of science or religion merely creates an intolerant world full of hateful people armed at the teeth and ready for war over something as simple as a difference of opinion.


Freedom of Religion

America was founded on religion. Soldiers fought for our freedom of religion. The constitution requires the separation of church and state. It is important to understand that you have freedom of religion, however it is also important to acknowledge that other people are entitled to be free from religious indoctrination, including in the classroom.

If a teacher has a student who is religious and disagrees with what is being taught, this can be addressed by asking questions and generating constructive conversation and critical thinking.

A teacher who has a few inspirational quotes from history is not violating the constitution.

However, if a teacher uses the story of Adam & Eve to explain biology or plasters the 10 commandments on the wall, this would breach constitutional rights.

It is important to know where to draw the line between religion and education. In the corresponding video one woman faces complaints and possible termination due to her use of inspirational quotes in the classroom. Although in some ways the response towards the references in her classroom seem to be hostile and uncalled for, there are a few red flags.

One thing is for certain. The classroom is not a place to subject others to your personal beliefs. The classroom can, however, be a platform for constructive conversation involving the dilemma between science and religion.

A Final Word

There are several points which I would like for my readers to think about.

1.) There are many plausible theories. Empirical evidence from scientific findings has greatly improved quality of life and longevity. Scientific theories contain a great deal of supporting evidence.

2.) Religion is important to many people and can be therapeutic and beneficial. It can also create close community ties and give our lives a sense of purpose. Religious theories have very little evidence to support them, however they cannot be disproved beyond all doubt.

3.) Where there is freedom of religion, there is also freedom from religion. Acceptance and open-mindedness will free the world from blindness and create a better world.

4.) The future of our world depends on the education of our children.

My final question to you is...

What kind of Future will you create?

Thank Your for Reading!

I hope my article in response to "Teaching Doubt" has shed some light on both sides of the debate. Science vs. Religion can be a difficult topic to discuss without stepping on toes.

Critical thinking and constructive dialogue is always welcome. If you would like to leave a comment about this article, I look forward to hearing from you.

I would like to ask my readers to please be respectful of each other in the comments section.

Thank You for Reading!

Comments

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    • amanda5577 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda 

      3 years ago from Michigan

      Randy- You make some valid points. The most I am going to say about the idea of different theories for scientific subjects such as creation, is that there is plausibility and evidence that science is responsible for the creation of the world. There is no plausible evidence for the existence of a god or other entities for the creation of the world. However, I cannot confirm or deny the existence of a god or entity. And as previously stated, Religion serves purposes to some people in an attempt to explain, perhaps, why things came into existence. Religion has a personal meaning to many, but the theories of creation in religion simply cannot be proven. This is not to say that religion isn't valuable- but in this situation, there is scientific evidence, which makes scientific theories more plausible.

      I certainly agree that ideas change, and will continue to change throughout human history. If ideas did not change and evolve there wouldn't be so many religions in the world today, or even scientific theories for that matter. Science exists to question obtain knowledge about the world around us in ways that can be tested. Scientific studies use controlled and independent variables to arrive at conclusions which answers many of our questions.

      If the human species is to continue progressing throughout history, it is important that we continue to change and adapt not only for our survival but for survival of future generations. If we never evolved from the "caveman days" we would have died out a long time ago, like other species in the animal kingdom. It is our unique ability to have these ideas and to pursue greater knowledge which allows us to find more accurate information about, for example, how the world came to be what it is today. It doesn't answer why, but at least science can answer how.

      Because of the overwhelming scientific evidence and plausibility to scientific theory, this is why I believe that in school, children should be taught science in the classroom. Religion is a personal belief system based on no evidence and should stay at home. If religion were taught in school as the end-all-be-all to the world's creation, we would never evolve, and in fact we would probably still believe that the world around us was flat and that we are the only planet in existence; something which has been disproven for decades.

    • Randy Horizon profile image

      Randy Hirneisen 

      3 years ago from Philadelphia

      Amanda, after I wrote this comment I felt a little bad about what I wrote. When I wrote "Anyone who comes along and tries to tell me their religious beliefs are right and another's religious beliefs are wrong, gets my wrath straight in their face". Was not the best way I could have said this. If you really think about what I wrote, it appears to be a kind of prejudice in itself. And as I said I do not like closed minded stereotypical thinking and it appears it sneaks up on me occasionally also. The wrath I speak of is verbal and nothing more. Everyone has a right to their opinion if I agree or not. I read about too much violence around the world because of this and this is not new. These days the religious fanatics are killing innocents using their religious beliefs as an excuse. Only a few hundred years ago they did the very same when they burned witches at the stake. Same basic terrorist behaviors and it upsets me very much lately.

      But your article was not really about this, it was about what we are teaching our kids in school. And your point is very good and something that needs to be thought about and addressed. Creation theory seems to be a hot spot for some, but just because science see's that creation came about by a big bang, does not challenge the source of this action. There is more going on then we can box into mere concepts and so ideas will naturally grow, expand and change. To cling to a concept as though it is somehow real beyond the mind that conceives it is not being entirely real with ourselves. Wouldn't you agree?

    • amanda5577 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda 

      3 years ago from Michigan

      Randy- Thanks for reading and commenting on my article! It's true that religion vs science is a heated topic for many and is likely to remain that way for quite some time. It has become a fact that not everyone is willing to tolerate the existence of different viewpoints, and I find that to be the most frustrating part of the science vs. religion debate. It's also frustrating when people combine science and religion to be the same thing, somehow manipulating facts to serve their own self-interests. I completely agree with you that it is important to respect one another and know your boundaries.

      C. Rosendaul- Thank you for your comment. Regardless of how humans and their brains came to exist, you are right about the importance of how scientific breakthroughs have helped a number of people. We may not know everything in this world, but a word of caution to all: When there is clear, testable, measurable, scientific evidence of something, it is important to embrace that knowledge rather than to deny it simply for the sake of religious beliefs alone. Science and Religion, as I have stated many times, each serve a very different purpose, and are each important in their own ways.

    • C Rosendaul profile image

      C Rosendaul 

      3 years ago

      You did a great job on this hub.

      I am a born again Christian and agree with your statement: "Learning about science does not mean a person has to give up their religion. Adopting a religion does not mean a person has to give up their scientific knowledge." God gave us a brain for a reason.

      Scientific breakthroughs have occurred throughout my lifetime, and will continue to occur long after I am gone. It is prideful and arrogant (on either side) to think we know it all now, whether we primarily rest our beliefs on science or God.

    • Randy Horizon profile image

      Randy Hirneisen 

      3 years ago from Philadelphia

      Loved your hub! I also do not like to get involved in the debate between religion and science. I honor everyone's system of belief and that they have the right to it, if I personally agree or not. A proven fact is just that and not what I'm talking about here. But just as I do not try to force my beliefs on others, I also expect the same privilege and freedom from a religion I do not hold dear to my heart. Religion gives hope and promise to some, but it can also bring intolerance and prejudice. I personally believe no one has the right to force their system of belief on others. It's great to share it, but everyone has the freedom of choice. Anyone who comes along and tries to tell me their religious beliefs are right and another's religious beliefs are wrong, gets my wrath straight in their face. Sorry, I hate prejudice of every kind. Your hub brings a valid point. Great article.

    • amanda5577 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda 

      3 years ago from Michigan

      Rakim- I am glad that you understand the point I am trying to make. I agree with you that people, despite having conflicting beliefs, should not make other people feel uncomfortable or bullied for having these different beliefs or lifestyles.

      My article is to discuss the difference between religion and science, when and where they are appropriate, and how to find balance. If people can accept the existence of different viewpoints and lifestyles, the world would be filled with less animosity. Acceptance is a two way street, however, and it should be accepted that religion and science are two completely different systems intended for different purposes.

      As stated in my supporting video, there is no disproof of God or other spiritual entities, however there is no evidence to support their existence either, which is why religion is not appropriate for an educational setting, provided that we want to encourage future generations to progress and flourish. However, science cannot teach us, for example, the meaning of life, which is a personal belief. Therefore, many people turn to religion to act as a guide or way of life.

      What is so intriguing about the supporting video is that there is plausible, measurable, scientific reason for the creation of the world, and creation of life, which does not involve religion. As far as why the world came to be what it is today, and why life itself exists...well, those are more philosophical questions that cannot be answered through testable, measurable, scientific data. That is something left for our personal beliefs and interpretations to decide.

    • Rakim Cheeks profile image

      Rakim Cheeks 

      3 years ago

      I respect your point. However, science has caused controversy as well. For example, I have heard plenty of scientist say you shouldn't live your based upon spirituality. You should live it according to science, which makes a lot of people angry! It's ivalid because everyone lives different lifestyles.

    • amanda5577 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda 

      3 years ago from Michigan

      Rakim-If you think about it, it's not all that crazy for people to have a difference in belief. In fact, wars have been waged due to issues like this. Religion has caused so much controversy throughout history for one major reason: the idea of control. Religion is supposed to be a personal and spiritual belief, as I mentioned in my article. To indoctrinate others and impose your beliefs onto others simply makes someone a bully. To involve religion in people's education and in the world of science is to hold the back from a world that is bigger than personal belief. For example, people once believed the world was flat, and in time this was disproved.

      The reason that people discuss topics such as this is to attempt to understand the differences in beliefs, expose bias, and develop solutions based on conversations. To simply write it off as an assumption that everyone "believes in something that they don't believe in" is an ignorant statement at best. The human race should be given a little more credit. We have the freedom to believe as we choose. This autonomy allows us to think for ourselves, explore and formulate new ideas, test new hypothesis and so forth.

      My goal when writing is to expose bias and to challenge everything. The human mind is capable of great things when given the chance. Assumptions and misconceptions are what hold society back and keep us from progressing as a whole. This is why I have made the argument that scientific knowledge, which is based on testable, measurable facts should be taught in the classroom, and that religion has a special place reserved in our hearts and in some cases within a community.

      I hope I have been able to clear up the reasoning behind why and how conflicting beliefs develop into major discussions.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Amanda,

      I DID enjoy this article. Yes, you did a fantastic job too. Your presentation was superb and graphics, excellent.

      Keep up the great work and I promise you that your work will touch many lives as it has mine.

      Kenneth

    • Rakim Cheeks profile image

      Rakim Cheeks 

      3 years ago

      No problem, but I find it quite strange and kind of crazy that people would bump heads with something that they don't believe exist. For instance, we all know that Santa Claus is not real. So why make a debate of it. If people didn't believe in religion they wouldn't go against it or better yet make it part of a major discussion. So it sounds like to me, they believe in something that they don't believe in. Or else they wouldn't talk about it! Think about it!

    • amanda5577 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda 

      3 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Kenneth! I'm glad you enjoyed my article, and thank you for your feedback!

      Rakim- I'm glad you enjoyed the article, however there is one comment you made which conflicts with itself and that is about whether God created science. As stated in the article there is no evidence to support the belief of God playing any sort of role in the creation of science, let alone the world.

      Religion is a very sensitive subject for many and I am not out to hurt anyone's feelings, but the whole point of my article is to challenge religious beliefs, more specifically in the classroom. Researchers who fail to look at research studies without bias due to religious beliefs results in failure to progress and see the cold, hard facts for what they are. Old-world thinking and non-factual beliefs have no place in the scientific community. That isn't to say that religion doesn't have a place, but again, let me emphasize that religion's value is restricted to giving us personal meanings, rather than scientific meaning.

      In that respect, I accept that you believe in God and believe that he created science. However, I cannot accept your belief as fact simply because there is no evidence to support it. In fact, would go as far as to say that God creating Science would be a paradox.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      This was one fantastic read! Loved every word. I voted Up + all of the choices. Your graphics usage was superb. I like hubs like this. I urge you to keep up the great work and may you have a world of success on HubPages.

      Sincerely,

      Kenneth Avery

      Your Friend for Life

    • Rakim Cheeks profile image

      Rakim Cheeks 

      3 years ago

      Very interesting hub! You gave a great deal of outstanding information. Everyone needs to be educated about this issue, and it's great that I ran across your hub Amanda. As a child, I was taught about Christianity of the good Lord. However, I got to know him personality at the age of sixteen, which made my life better. However, I'm also a fan of science as well. For example, I believe that human beings evolved from apes and gorillas. Not to mention, I believed there they are other species besides human beings on this planet (E.G, aliens). In my opinion, I believe that some people are fans of science. For instance, whenever a person is watering or growing flowers in their yards, they are liking some form of science. Not saying that they're not Christians or anything, but everyone opens their mind about some elements of science. Also, I believe God created science. Therefore, science and religion are always going to bump heads with each other. I agree with you. Teachers need to educate their students about this issue. Again, excellent hub. Loved it!

    • amanda5577 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda 

      3 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you for your comment, HSchneider. I agree. Expanding students' minds should always take precedent over personal beliefs. That is not to say that personal beliefs are wrong or unimportant, simply that one-sided viewpoints especially without evidence, will fail to aid in the progression of future generations.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent Hub, Amanda. Engaging student questions and enabling them to think critically is one of the most vitals roles that a teacher must perform. Students must be encouraged to question everything and only accept facts when proven. You are absolutely correct that teachers should leave their beliefs out of the classroom. That is with the exception of the belief that they must expand their students minds.

    • amanda5577 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda 

      3 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for commenting! You brought up several good point. Fact-finding is not something that should be feared. Learning to find the balance between facts and beliefs is very important.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      3 years ago

      Great hub. I also don't like to get into the debate; I am confident with my own faith, and respect people have different opinions. I also respect the field of science.

      As a religious person, I personally don't see anything wrong with teaching doubt, or with teaching science in the classroom. If a religion needs to fear someone trying to figure out facts, then for me that's a huge red flag for that religion. If someone is confident that their religion is based on truth, then all the scrutiny in the world shouldn't frighten them.

      Sometimes we might have to give up some pre-conceived notions about our religion-- inaccurate claims or histories, etc. I don't think that means needing to give up the religion entirely; in fact, I think it only can serve to strengthen one's faith.

      Great hub here, very thought-provoking.

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