Science & Religion, How do they interact?
In evaluating the four leading models of how science and religion interact, it appears obvious that no model has a patent of truth on how the interactions have taken place in all times and in all cases. There are examples of science and religion at odds, as well as examples of science and religion in agreement. However, most examples seem to have some truth from science and some truth from religion interspersed through time, people, and places.
In evaluating specifically the “conflict, or “warfare” model, we can discern that this is just not the case for the majority of history. Consider the Babylonian astronomers, whose motivation for conducting observational and quantitative science was so that they could predict and interpret the will of the Gods. Thus, their religious beliefs served as motivation for their scientific endeavors. This is an example of science and religion not being in conflict with one another. It is also noteworthy that their religious motivation did nothing to impede their impressive scientific advancements in astronomy and mathematics.
As for the compartmentalization model, it is difficult to believe that this is a serious contender as an accurate model to describe the historical relationship between science and religion. Through both the Babylonian and Greek cultures, most theories or ideas involved an overlap of some sort. As stated above, the Babylonians definitely had overlap in their religion and science. Although leaning much more on qualitative rather than quantitative processes, the Greek culture could not speak of nature without describing how a divine power corresponded with nature. So in their description of nature, their theories of the role of the divine, or as in Aristotle’s case, the Unmoved Mover, definitely had a role in shaping both their theological and scientific beliefs. Aristotle’s belief in an Unmoved Mover is one example of how his religious beliefs are in partial agreement with the Judeo-Christian tradition.
The complimentary model is, I believe, closer to reality than either the conflict or compartmentalization models. However, it too has examples where the model does not hold true. In many cases, this model is true in that it does seem more often than not that it is religion that is revised, not science, where the two overlap. For example, more and more interpretations of the first chapter of Genesis, such as the Day Age theory, Gap Theory, etc., are being espoused in an effort to conform to the necessary long periods of time required of Darwinian evolution. On the other hand, one example of an overlapping area in which it was science, not religion, that was revised, is the question concerning the eternality of the universe. Religion, specifically Christianity, teaches that “In the beginning, God created”, which obviously denotes a beginning. Science, on the other hand, taught that the universe was eternal. Only in the last several decades has science revised its teaching to now show that the universe had a beginning at the Big Bang.
The qualified agreement model is the most accurate model. This model allows for us to follow the evidence and truth wherever it leads. As stated above, there are examples of science coming to truth and changing its views in light of greater knowledge, and there are also examples of religion re-evaluating theological and doctrinal interpretations in an effort to reconcile their theological beliefs with scientific discoveries. In the end, there are many religious and scientific beliefs that continue to change over time.
Religious belief and reason are not totally separate. History has shown that each plays a role in the interpretation of, or the motivation for, the other. It is very difficult to evaluate a worldview model of either without importing a preconceived perspective of the other. Religious belief and reason do have something in common. They both help to formulate the belief in the other, according to the primary belief of the adherent. For example, one’s religious belief will many times drive their reason and interpretation of scientific discoveries. Likewise, one’s belief and confidence in science will help steer their theological beliefs. Even today, devout Christians and staunch Atheistic scientists have the same scientific data, but in many cases, they will interpret the data in different ways.