Tag Archives: Religion

Controversy between Science and Religion

Is it possible for a person to be both religious and accept science at the same time?  The debate between science and religion has occurred for centuries.  Ever since the Classical antiquity, these two different views of acquiring knowledge have been a hot topic with many different views and opinions.  Science generally acquires knowledge by using reason, empiricism, and evidence, whereas religion relies on revelation, faith, and belief in the unseen.  In The Eye of Allah, the Abbot’s faith is tested when he discovers pathogens under a microscope.  He finds himself in a situation where science interrupts his life and causes him to pick whether he wants to keep his faith or turn to science and reason.

In early 1200s AD, religion dominated life.  Religion was the main answer to why things happened because technology had not evolved yet, but mainly because scientific reasoning was not conventional.  The conflict between church and science was created because scientific thoughts were sins and were not accepted in society.  The church often ruthlessly persecuted many scientists or people who spoke out against the church, causing narrow-mindedness.

Rudyard Kipling in The Eye of Allah introduces science in a time when society is not ready for it.  When the Abbot is faced with the challenge of keeping the microscope or destroying it, he says, “’it would seem’, he said, ‘the choice lies between two sins.  To deny the world a Light which is under our hand, or to enlighten the world before her time” (170).  It is true that the Abbot does not know what to do, but in the end he chooses to pick his religion over science.  The reason is unknown, but it can be assumed that he wanted to censor the world from this new technology or simply because he wanted to save his position in religion.  In the end, was he right to choose religion over science?  Was the Abbot really helping society?  And is it indeed possible to believe in both religion and science?

Dr. Faustus: Movement into the Renaissance

Deal with the Devil
Deal with the Devil

Dr. Faustus was written in the Renaissance and therefore represents how to be a good Christian. As a character, Dr. Faustus is not a good Christian. But he teaches readers of the time what they shouldn’t do. Faustus is showing the way not to die; if you live life as a good Christian and avoid the devil and temptation then you will go to heaven.

 

On page 14 we can see a shift away from the divine, and the definition of something more temporal. Faustus says “Had I as many souls as there be stars, /I’d give them all for Mephistophilis. /By him I’ll be great Emperor of the world, /And make a bridge through the moving air, /To pass the ocean with a band of men; /I’ll join the hills that bind the Afric shore, /And make that [country] continent to spain, /and both contributory to my crown. /The Emperor of shall not live but by my leave, /Nor any potentate of Germany. /Now that I have obtain’d what I desire, /I’ll live in speculation of this art /Till Mephistophilis return again” (p.14, scene 3). In this speech and throughout scene 3, Faustus defines hierarchy as the chain of being. He challenges mans place in the divine hierarchy as he is trying to let his own individual desires control his outcome. He believes that by making a deal with the devil, he can outsmart the devil and prove that there is no heaven or hell.

 

The moral of Dr. Faustus is to be a good Christian. Christopher Marlowe wrote in a time when Christianity and Plato’s idea of the great chain of being were being accepted and shifted towards justifying knowledge with religion and the church. This idea of the great chain of being means that people were born as natural slaves and could become saints if they are good Christians. This shift toward the renaissance and away from medieval synthesis is how Marlowe portrayed the character of Dr. Faustus and the way he wanted to gain more knowledge not given by the church and religion, as the heat of the renaissance was a time when people started to rely on their senses.

Does Knowledge Alienate us from God?

We discussed in class today some of the broader similarities in worldview that one can discern in Gilgamesh, Genesis, and in Hesiod’s account of Prometheus and Pandora. All three deal fundamentally with what it means to be human and what we can and should, therefore, know or not know. In all three, we see how gaining knowledge has certain trade-offs and often comes with stiff consequences…

Of all of the characters we have read about, Utnapishtim, the survivor of the Babylonian flood story, seems the most fortunate in the whole gaining-of-knowledge shtick. He manages, though somewhat haphazardly, to survive the flood and is therefore granted the gift of immortality. For him, knowledge does not lead to death (or some other bad outcome), though his experience also seems like a bit of a fluke. As we learn from Gilgamesh, who fails multiple times in his quest for immortality, it seems near impossible to bridge the gap between man and god, immortal and mortal.

The other two stories seem to imply that knowledge alienates us from the divine—or at least that knowledge creates a sort of antagonistic relationship between us (humans) and them (God/the gods). In these stories, knowledge inspires wrath or punishment; and in the story of Adam and Eve in particular, it leads to a break-down in the relationship between humanity and their creator. Whether or not we accept any of these stories as part of our religious faith today, we see this conflict play out in contemporary terms in the science vs. religion debate that is a regular part of the “culture wars.” Does the knowledge offered to us by scientific progress (think of scientific theories like the Big Bang or Evolution) end up separating us from God? Does the accumulation of scientific knowledge diminish our belief in the divine? If it does, what have we lost? What have we gained?

 

We didn’t talk a lot about Pandora today, but it’s not uncommon to see the metaphor of Pandora’s box applied to the human thirst for knowledge more generally. We, like Pandora (or Eve?), can’t control ourselves when it comes to hunting down new discoveries and exploring new ideas, but in the process of opening that box, we often don’t slow down enough to consider the value of what’s flown out once the box is opened–let alone what the consequences of opening the box are in the first place!  We will explore this theme more fully at a later point in the term, but for now, it is worth considering whether religion and faith are a casualty of scientific progress and whether this is good, bad, or somewhere in-between.