A few days ago, I saw yet another article which asked a question that just keeps coming around: are science and religion compatible? You might not be terribly shocked to learn that I have an opinion on this.
Science and religion are very different, of course. Religion is usually based on claims of revelation. Religion relies on subjective experience and authority. (Maybe not all religions are authority-based but the Abrahamic ones certainly are.) Scientific methods of investigation, on the other hand, are exactly the opposite.
Scientists and the fans of science don’t always live up to the standards of science, of course. After all, doing science, just like doing religion, is a human enterprise and humans are reliably fallible. Humans make mistakes, humans are easily fooled, and humans are sometimes dishonest. However, that doesn’t mean that science and religion are equal. When it comes to understanding the world, science tends to get it right in the long run while religion often gets it wrong and very often clings desperately to its wrongness. As I see it, the difference is this: science recognizes the propensity of the human mind to be fooled, to make mistakes, to be dishonest and it is specifically designed to compensate for those frailties. I think that religion, on the other hand, _relies_ on those same frailties for its continued existence.
Are science and religion compatible? I don’t think so. I think that the differences described above point to conflicts at a basic level. Eventually, I think one is bound to directly contradict the other. (I suppose it’s possible that some kind of religion _might_ be compatible with science but it’s not any of the religions with which I am familiar; I am quite familiar with the Abrahamic religions.) Of course, that’s not to say that one cannot do both religion and science. Through the “magic” of compartmentalization, many humans seem to be quite adept at holding as true two or more propositions which are mutually exclusive. Humans are consistently inconsistent.