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During the Renaissance, Europeans became more inclusive, and science developed rapidly. It was also during the 14th–17th centuries when the public awoke and overthrew the pope, and religion was able to develop freely with more open and modern thoughts. Through its development, the role of science has gradually changed. At the beginning of its development, science seemed to be a part of religion. Many great scientists were also Christians, trying to prove God’s existence by science. But as science formed its own theory, it no longer fit into religion and created conflicts. But today, people finally begin to find a middle ground in the relationship between science and religion. Science was once defined through religion. Later, they separated into two incompatible sectors, and today, people are finally seeing the overlap between them.
At the beginning of the Renaissance, religion influenced advancements in science. Religious officials supported research of science, especially during the Renaissance, where Ancient Greek studies were revived. The Elements of Euclid, a very important book which laid the foundation of geometry, was translated under the command of the Pope. Scientific theories weren’t a threat to religion, in fact, most people saw them as laws made by God. During this time, religious officials put efforts into spreading these ideas widely. The king at the time, Charles II, was also supporting science. The Royal Society of London was founded on November 28, 1660, after King Charles II granted the institution a royal charter. The society was a fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists. Most founders of the society held religious views, and some of them were even prominent churchmen. They devoted themselves to the study of science in order to contribute to religion. One of society’s most influential physicists, Isaac Newton, was an Arian and believed in Christianity. In his book, De Gravitatione et Aequipondio Fluidorum, he noted his view of the universe: ‘Since God is infinite, he must exist everywhere. Space is an effect of God’s existence, emanating eternally from the divine omnipresence. It was not created by him in an act of will but existed as a necessary extension of his ubiquitous being. ‘ God comes out of nowhere, creating time and space and at the same time being space and time themselves. Newton did rigorously explain how gravity caused rotation , but in the more complex solar system, this was too hard for him. As a religious man, he relied on God, believing that God made the universe stable by correcting the orbits from time to time. Newton’s thoughts reflected the mainstream belief at his time: God was the one who set the laws of science. In the beginning, science was only scattered knowledge, and did not contradict religions. People of religion saw it as a part of ‘God’s creation’.
As science formed its own system little by little, it became more incompatible with religion. The tension between science and religion started as early as the Renaissance. As science began to develop more, it began to contradict religion. The essence of both are the same –theories of belief developed to explain the unknown. In the beginning, humans had neither enough wit nor enough technology to study the natural world. So they came up with a God who did whatever he wanted, explaining everything as God’s will. But as technology developed, people discovered more patterns in nature and formed new theories. These theories turned into the subject we know today as science. Moreover, science was based on observation – God could not be observed, but flower petals falling from a flower could be. As a result, people became more inclined to trust in science, shifting popularity away from the Pope. In later times of the Renaissance, science developed rapidly and the Pope sensed threat. To subdue the threat, they crucified many outstanding scientists. Development was blocked and scientific studies were forced to move underground. Many scientists couldn’t bear the oppression of the Pope, so they formed the Illuminati. The goals of Illuminati was to oppose religious influence over public life and abuses of state power. ‘Illuminati’ means ‘light’ and ‘being directly communicated from a higher source’. The name showed the underground organization’s attitude of superiority towards the religion. Their existence is proof of the undeniable conflict between the two groups. After the Renaissance, there were still many people who believed in religion. But new scientific discoveries continued putting pressure on religions. A well-known example would be Darwin’s evolution theory. In 1861, Darwin went on a voyage on HMS Beagle as a naturalist, aiming to find scientific proof of God. But six years later, he returned bringing up the evolution theory, saying that humans evolved from apes. This theory totally contradicted the Bible’s saying that ‘God made humans on the sixth day’. Once it was published, the theory received great resistance. Religious Europeans saw it as blasphemy against God, angrily scolding Darwin as traitor. Even with scientific proof, the theory wasn’t widely accepted until Pope Pius IX made statements supporting it.
Reassuringly, at the same time of conflicts, there were also people who combined the seemingly incompatible two, believing that they both existed at the same time. This sentiment has existed since the conflict first emerged. In his Open Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, Galileo defended science against orthodoxy. The letter was written in the 17th century, when debates about geocentric and heliocentric models took place. This debate, on a larger scale, represented the incessant conflicts between religious and Renaissance philosophy. Galileo supported the heliocentric theory, arguing that the earth orbits around the sun, which is the center of the universe. But this was seen as unorthodox, since the Bible said that both the sun and the moon orbited the earth. In the letter, he suggested that religion and science weren’t against each other. He wrote, ‘But I do not feel obliged to believe that that same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.’ He thought the Bible and our senses were both given by God, so that they were equal and both contained truth. As they were written by the same author, God, they should be compatible. Thus, people should study the laws of nature and the Bible with the same importance. But the religious public didn’t buy in his thoughts. His persistence of truth put him under arrest for 8 years, and he was finally persecuted by officials. There are also believers in both science and God in today’s more compatible society. Hayhoe Katharine is a climate scientist who believes in God. In her article, ‘I’m a Climate Scientist Who Believes in God. Hear Me Out”, she discussed her background and how that influenced her beliefs. She grew up in a science-religion intersecting family. Her dad was both a Christian and a science teacher. She thinks that we study climate change based on our observations of God’s creation. We can see with our eyes and test it with the sound minds that God has given us. She sees science as truth, and religion as belief. And they are not contradictory at all, but instead form her identity together. Hayhoe proves that even though contracting in philosophy, science and religion can remain peaceful in a person’s heart. By getting rid of its dross and combining its essence, they can act together and form a new theory of belief. In 2021, the PEW Research Center conducted a survey among Christians in the US. According to PEW, only 16% of Christians think that their religion ‘often’ conflicts with science, another 33% think conflicts only ‘sometimes’ occur, and the rest 51%, believe the two ‘hardly or never’ have conflicts and can somewhat co-exist. More and more people began to seek peace between science and religion. The world is more open nowadays, and we understand that science and religion aren’t necessarily against each other. Believers have trust in science, but at the same time, they believe in God as a source of mental sustenance.
Over time, science transferred from religion’s accessories to its enemy, and finally, people find peace between the two in modern times. Science and religion have the same nature—theories that explain the unknown. People choose the one that makes more sense to them. Science came later and it was once seen as an integral part of religion. But as the system gets more complete, it gradually becomes the mainstream of belief. But after all, the two religions aren’t necessarily incompatible. They can be seen as coexisting, forming a so-called new school of belief–the same way Judaism brought about Christianity.
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