Oct 20, 1997 - 20:48 -
I have a question:
They are not in conflict. Science builds a model of the behavior of material reality. It is both useful and beautiful. But it can never say anything about why things happen, only about how measurable reality behaves.
The intellectual danger comes when we confuse our model with the real thing, which is fundamentally unknowable. For example: people say "The Laws of Physics". But nature is not compelled to obey them.
It is very important to understand that science is not a search for Truth. The scientific standard for evaluating a model of reality is not philosophical truth, but utility and simplicity. Allow me to explain this statement, and discuss some philosophical ramifications.
Many of us think that "Energy cannot be created nor destroyed." The First Law of Thermodynamics --- The Law of Conservation of Energy --- says so. But this way of thinking is nonsense! This scientific principle is actually the *definition* of Energy. Energy is *defined* as a calculable function of observable measurable quanities so *constructed* as to remain constant throughout all observed processes. When the "Law" is broken, we do not say "energy is not conserved "-- we say "we have discovered a new form of energy". Energy is much too useful a construct to discard. We *choose* to model the behavior of reality by seeking constants -- mass, strangeness, parity.
Similarly, we model the directionality of time by constructing another mathematically calculable function of observable measurable quanities, designed to increase thoughout all observed processes -- called Entropy. Thus the Second Law of Thermodynamics is also a definition.
The scientific models say more about the people who make them than about the reasons for the observed behavior of reality. The same is true of the "less fundamental" sciences. Many of us are married to the model of evolution and geological time, even though there is no *stable* objective reason for this model. How can I justify such a seemingly radical statement? Simple -- Go back and read old scientific journals. Every experiemental argument used to originally justify and establish these theories has been discredited. Ditto for the arguments that replaced them. But now we have new proofs! Such ideas are much too useful and simple and elegant to be discarded.
(Reminds me of anti-semitism. The idea lives on. The rationale changes. It is really something within us, it needs no rationale.)
The models say more about the people who make them than about reality.
Now let's get personal. I model my own awareness as being the result of "existing" through "time" in a "reality" that is "external" to my-"Self". But these concepts are all self-created elements of my model of being. The root of Beingness is unknowable. "Within" and "without" are created constructs.
Never confuse the model with reality. So where is Truth? Science builds a model and knows how its model works. Religion views our understanding of the model as a *veiled* clue to the nature of an unknowable hidden reality -- transcendental -- which animates all of material reality through correspondences between the elements of the two worlds.
I have seen two different approaches to your question in recent Jewish books:
In addition to the mystical approach I took above, there is also the rationalist approach. Religion and science are not in conflict because they rest upon different postulates -- both unprovable and both un-disprovable.
In other words: If God is God, He can create a world with fossils already in it.
Science can describe the behavior of the world but can't explain why the behavior should be. It is helpless to address meta-physical questions outside what is measurable. Religion can describe all the why's of the world even to deriving some knowledge of God from the characteristics of His world as modelled by Science. The impossible challenge of Science is to explain the presence of order in its model. The difficulty of religion is to reconcile our model of good with our model of the world. This is the problem of (apparent) evil, common to all religious thought.