Why Science and Religion Are More Similar Than We Think

Written by on March 14, 2019 in Spirituality and Religion with 41 Comments

science and religion similaritiesBy Dr. Srini Pillay

Religion and science both help us understand the world and make sense of the confusion that surrounds us. However, a bitter rift between the two has led to tremendous polarization and conflict, with proponents of each convinced that their view is the correct one.

Science has long blamed religion for the start of this fight. Tensions can be traced all the way back to the 1600s, when the Catholic Church persecuted scientists — among them Copernicus and Galileo — for their views. And in more modern times, scientists have correctly pointed out that religious differences are often the basis for terrorism and the lack of safety that we currently feel throughout the world.

Anti-science proponents have also had their say. Whether they oppose embryonic stem cells, vaccines, or psychiatric pharmaceuticals, plenty of notable people (including those who run the most powerful nations in the world) claim that science should take a backseat to religion when it comes to moral or ethical decision-making.

But are the differences between science and religion really that cut-and-dried? Does the divide really need to be so vast?

Historians and scientists alike are beginning to ask these exact questions. Alvin Plantinga, professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, says the conflict between science and religion is merely superficial. He feels that digging deeper will reveal there’s actually a “deep concord” between the two. Francis Collins, genetics researcher and the director of the National Institutes of Health, has also been very vocal about how science and religion overlap in his own life.

Notwithstanding the obvious problems with fudged data, scientific bias, killing people for their scientific ideas, and religious fundamentalism that leads to terrorism, it may be helpful to spell out why science and religion may, in fact, have more in common than we think. If we can see these similarities, perhaps it will lead to more conversation, humility, and productive conflict.

Hypothesis and Faith: Are They Really All That Different?

The scientific method begins with a hypothesis, a belief based on data that can be verified or debunked through tests and observation.

Religion also begins with belief, and while detractors may view it as blind faith, it actually does emanate from a database that includes scriptural testimony (from the Bible, Quran, Torah, or Ramayana), inference (“I cannot explain why something exists; therefore, I must attribute this to a higher power”), and direct perception (“I had an experience of God”).

Scientific and religious beliefs begin the same way, but the polarized proponents of each fail to see this. Scientists say that religion is not verifiable or observable, and believers in God claim scientific perceptions are limited.

Both Work Better When Personalized

Science-based interventions typically involve the study of large groups and rely on the principle of averages. For example, medical treatments are deemed effective only after they’ve been tested multiple times across multiple studies and compared with multiple other treatments. In that sense, the findings of science are generalizable — perhaps to a fault. That’s why more and more medical scientists are recognizing that large groups tell us little about an individual, and they’re calling for a more personalized approach.

Studies show that religion may be beneficial for those who suffer from chronic inflammation and mental health disorders, but it is unclear whether these benefits are generalizable. Just as no two scientific test subjects are exactly alike, no two people who attend religious sermons are exactly alike. One person might hear a sermon and feel a sense of inner peace, while another feels motivated to create strife in the world.

This is why both science and religion serve us best when they’re personalized.

Both Revolve Around Love, Passion, and (Sometimes) Power

Religion can help romantic relationships remain solid and families bond. Studies also show that people who practice a religion may be happier and feel greater satisfaction than those who do not. Religion is also linked to feelings of personal empowerment.

Science fuels a passion to improve health and technology. Scientists themselves are impassioned, much like the people who believe in science (just visit this Facebook page to see what I mean). Belief in science has been proven to relieve stress and anxiety and promote feelings of self-control; further, science is considered to be a vehicle to accumulate power in the world. As Carl Sagan wrote, science serves as a “candle in the dark.”

When you think about it, the desires and passions of scientists and religious folks largely come from the same place.

Both Appoint Higher Powers

Religion and science both rely on higher powers to justify their basis. In religion, it’s priests and gods, and in science, it’s journal reviewers and heads of departments or institutions.

I believe that every human being has a need to belong and a need to be independent and free — and these desires occur simultaneously. It is a master-slave dialectic of sorts; neither method could extoll its virtues without the other. The supreme beings in science and religion help us contextualize these desires.

I am a scientist who believes in God. My scientific perspective is sometimes great; at other times, it’s awful. Sometimes, my religious practice is great; at other times, it’s awful. And I have personally seen how both scientific and religious extremism can hurt people.

Yet I wonder whether we could take a more conversational stance on the matter. Rather than justifying our personal belief systems when there are clearly holes in them, perhaps we can discuss them, grow from them, and recognize that we have much more in common than we have differences. And perhaps we could try out different perspectives while keeping a few basic principles in mind.

Life is precious. We have a limited amount of time on earth. No matter what our beliefs are, we should come to question them most if they separate us from others. Without doing so, we become victims of false certainty in a clearly uncertain world.

Dr. Srini Pillay, founder and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group, is a pioneer in brain-based executive coaching who is dedicated to collaborating with experts to help people unleash their full potential. He also serves as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and teaches in the Executive Education Programs at Harvard Business School and Duke Corporate Education.

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  1. 10153143294811825@facebook.com' Patricia Barras says:

    Science to me, is the physical explanation of Gods word! Maths the language of God! God had to manifest on a physical level! Science is how ots done.

  2. 1096699527009704@facebook.com' Brian Mcfarland says:


  3. 128009700897902@facebook.com' Khi Fowla says:

    Check santos bonacci out on youtube know thyself part1 he explains this very well and clear

  4. 1034544903236498@facebook.com' Saadiqah Cynthia Scherr says:

    Science explains religion… Things that were spoke of thousands of years ago, can now be proven with science.

  5. 1006032719459310@facebook.com' Llewellyn Love says:

    Both science & religion are absolute bull shit because they are hand in hand with government, law & media! The very belief in the word ”Belief” is what enslaves most of us! Lemme tell you something, its all about love,,,, see what Einstein said to his daughter in one of his last letters ~ When I proposed the theory of relativity, very few understood me, & what I will reveal now to transmit to mankind will also collide with the misunderstanding & prejudice in the world. I ask you to guard the letters as long as necessary, years, decades, until society is advanced enough to accept what I will explain below. There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes & governs all others, & is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe & has not yet been identified by us. This universal force is LOVE. When scientists looked for a unified theory of the universe they forgot the most powerful unseen force. LOVE IS LIGHT, that ENLIGHTENS those who give & receive it. Love is gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others. Love is power, because it multiplies the best we have, & allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness. Love unfolds & reveals. FOR LOVE WE LIVE & DIE. Love is God & God is Love. This force explains everything & gives meaning to life. This is the variable that we have ignored for too long, maybe because we are afraid of love because it is the only energy in the universe that man has not learned to drive at will. To give visibility to love, I made a simple substitution in my most famous equation. If instead of E = mc2, we accept that the energy to heal the world can be obtained through love multiplied by the speed of light squared, we arrive at the conclusion that love is the most powerful force there is, because it has no limits. After the failure of humanity in the use & control of the other forces of the universe that have turned against us, it is urgent that we nourish ourselves with another kind of energy. If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world & every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one & only answer! Perhaps we are not yet ready to make a bomb of love, a device powerful enough to entirely destroy the hate, selfishness & greed that devastate the planet. However, each individual carries within them a small but powerful generator of love whose energy is waiting to be released. When we learn to give and receive this universal energy, dear Lieserl, we will have affirmed that love conquers all, is able to transcend everything & anything, because love is the quintessence of life! I deeply regret not having been able to express what is in my heart, which has quietly beaten for you all my life. Maybe it’s too late to apologize, but as time is relative, I need to tell you that I love you & thanks to you I have reached the ultimate answer! Your father, Albert Einstein

    • 1187110851302452@facebook.com' Blake Pollard says:

      Science is a process developed by humans used to discover facts and the workings of the universe. Without science we would not have the medicine, technology or array of other knowledge and abilities we as a species do today. Science is not bullshit.

    • 1244546465559235@facebook.com' Rodney Smith says:

      Science is truth proven through the study of real things and religion is having faith that fairytales of imaginary friends are true.

    • 1006032719459310@facebook.com' Llewellyn Love says:

      Government dose not let us know a fraction of what science really discovers! This is where my problem lies, both science & religion are full of lies & deception because of government mainly <3

    • What a wonderful letter. Thanks so much for sharing it. Love is indeed a powerful force, and scientists are beginning to recognize this. Here are some articles if you are interested. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25762915
      and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18633778
      I agree that love has the power to transform, and I would add that it is most powerful when it is inspired, although the conscious intention of it is better than the absence of it. With much appreciation…

  6. nil.pokhrel@gmail.com' Anil pokhrel says:

    Religion is a version of science that came to practice. I dont believe in god that is programmed by religion , but believe, by science. Religion is attached so deeply that it opposes new theories. I believe meditation spirit.

  7. 1670175126562891@facebook.com' Tim Bappe says:

    I’m a Christian and I believe in science. Interesting read though.

  8. 769296129883258@facebook.com' Tawney Guyon says:

    “I want to know the mine of God” – Albert Einstein

  9. 1482056608770855@facebook.com' Joestar Gazer says:

    In 1974 Ramesses II mummy was sent to Paris for examination and study. Bucaille led a team of French scientists in examining the mummy. According to Maurice Bucaille, he was more interested in finding whether Ramesses II was the pharoh at the time of Moses and to find out how Ramesses died. He believes what he found was a turning point in his ideas that led him to become interested in Quran. Dr.Maurice and the Pharaoh – Qur’an & Science https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Elan6Qplhc

  10. 10207950975363060@facebook.com' James P Moon says:

    Have you read thank God for evolution by Michael Dowd?

    It’s basically the best book to explain how science can deepen your relationship with Christ.

    We’re all star dust evolved to the point that we can look back on the stars we came from and ponder the meaning of our existence.

  11. 1482056608770855@facebook.com' Joestar Gazer says:

    We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness? https://legacy.quran.com/41/53

  12. 1649287115339673@facebook.com' Cory Berg says:

    No rift here, science just ignores what it doesn’t understand, or can’t prove

    • 1187110851302452@facebook.com' Blake Pollard says:


    • 1649287115339673@facebook.com' Cory Berg says:

      I don’t really keep track, it just when I read articles I see correlations between science and religious theory when scientists seem to think they can debunk everything, an example I did just think of tho might be David Bohm, who claims atoms (molecules?) don’t move unless your looking at them, and he was corroborated by Einstein, who said they didn’t have a way to prove it, (until the invention of the laser, this was like 1930’s to 1950’s I think) and I’m not sure if its the same study, ( I like to read, not necessarily study )- but that can change the positive or negative electron in an atom, and its twin will also change- unless your looking at it- so you could have two atoms in front of you and change one, only that one will change, but if you isolated the same two atoms and moved one any unobservable distance away, (the other side of the bldg, or the other side of the earth), then when you change one atom the other also changes and they cannot explain this any other way except to hypothesize it thru consciousness, believe I read about it in ‘Energy Medicine Technologies’ Finley Everbole(?), but I can’t say for sure without checking

      • I appreciate what you write about reading and not studying. I think we would all be better served through conversation like this without proclaiming ultimate knowledge. Besides, the unconscious brain is doing much for to and for us than we might consciously recognize. Thanks for this reflection.

  13. 10205615269048640@facebook.com' Dave McCloskey says:

    Gary W. Christopher
    Kathleen Christopher

  14. 710382152429223@facebook.com' William Anderson says:

    If your mind is as open as it should be, you would agree when I say that ya can’t have one without the other! 😀

    • Agree. I think that life is much more fulfilling when we are open to learning…and there is this compelling world of opposites that seems to bring things into view. Personally, I prefer to rise above this world of opposites as I find thinking and perceiving to be quite limited. Rising above this with pure mindfulness is great when it can happen. Yet, I am engaged by “the bow”—the utterly mesmerizing feeling of the largeness of all that eludes my perception but is palpable nonetheless. Thanks for your thought on this.

  15. 948173371870792@facebook.com' Barry Flanagan says:

    Niether one holds any respect from common man.

  16. 568379783316844@facebook.com' Mary Wang says:

    God is universe and science is like telescope which can see and explain part of the universe.

  17. 887749651294854@facebook.com' Tony Vass says:

    No God no spirits, no soles, just a lot of energy.

  18. Anonymous says:

    One is the study of everything real and is aimed at disproving it’s own discoveries to leave only the truth. The other is the study of fairytales and made up theories that are hell bent on saying everything except what is witten in the fairy tale is wrong regardless of any facts or proof to the contrary. God is another word for bullshit.

  19. 1050818914958058@facebook.com' Miguel Matel says:

    Religion and science should not be separated it mus coexist

  20. 1099999013345588@facebook.com' Tom Whitney says:

    Of course they are similar,science is my religion! To be clear the science I speak of is not the consensus science that’s bandied about as settled science nor the technological horror that is engulfing humanity today,but the science of self knowledge which to me is the highest science of all!

  21. 1524791757837714@facebook.com' Eddy Waddell says:

    Black Friday and the Christmas tree Lighting will be the Perfect time to protest for any and all reasons people have today. Low wages, high rents, homelessness ect….. YOU WILL HIT A NERVE AND THAT’S WHAT YOU WANT. Rise up

  22. 1688173704729087@facebook.com' Carrin Behr says:

    Agree, Science and Nature are the hallmark of God’s legacy on the universe, we should be in awe!!

  23. 10207440134784189@facebook.com' Shannon McCall Pendergrass says:

    What if? Everything we know about science and religion is wrong? Humans are so arrogant and think we have the knowledge of all things but what if we are all wrong about the reality behind it all?

    • 10207440134784189@facebook.com' Shannon McCall Pendergrass says:

      I have no doubt that I will be attacked for this line of thinking because it questions your reality but I will know it’s only your arrogance talking and you will get bit back because I am just human.
      So if that’s why you are here you have been warned and I will not be nice it was just a theoretical question?

  24. I think it’s more about a conversation and sharing thoughts than knowing. “Knowing” is difficult for anyone to claim, yet opinions abound. Sharing is where it is at, when we can. I thank you for this.

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