…but the pursuing the truth just might.
There are at least two fundamental, philosophical differences between science and theology that will prevent them from ever peacefully coexisting. The first has to do with the underlying processes that drive them, and the second has to do with the central purposes of their existence.
Note that I am distinguishing theology (and metaphysics) from religion. As I have said before, religion is simply the realization that the universe is bigger than us. Theology and metaphysics are systems of control that seek to capitalize on that basic understanding.
So, back to science vs. theology.
By definition, science is an endeavor that seeks an understanding of the universe – and/or systems within it – based on an objective and methodical analysis of the available data at the time. It’s most fundamental processes are the proposing and rejecting of testable hypotheses – called the Scientific Method – and the independent examination of derived theories by knowledgeable people through the processes of Repetition and Peer Review. Thus, at the most basic level, science is about rejection – rejection of hypotheses, rejection of theories, rejection of proofs – such that the only thing that can survive through all this negative analysis is some glimmer of the truth. And even that can change, as scientific access and understanding of available data changes.
Theology, on the other hand, is an endeavor that seeks to promote a specific, subjective understanding of the universe, rational or not, based on a systematic acceptance of supporting data and rejection of non-supporting data. Its most basic processes are the confusion and destruction of any viewpoints contrary to the proposed theology, such that the only thing that can survive is the “accepted” theory of the truth. And that seeks to never change, as acceptance of change would undermine the essential recognition of the proposed theory as the one, true understanding of the universe.
In other words, science is existentially about the rejection of anything masquerading as the truth, while theology is existentially about the rejection of anything masquerading as another truth. Hence, the first reason why science and theology can never peacefully coexist: science is profoundly bound by its nature to reject any theory proposing to be The Truth, and theology is profoundly bound by its nature to reject anything that seeks to disprove that it is The Truth.
The second foundational difference between science and theology has to do with the ends for which they exist. Science exists to enhance understanding through the systematic analysis and reanalysis of data, period. It has (ideally) no other agenda. Theology, on the other hand, seeks to assert control through the systematic destruction of anything that challenges its authorized theory of “how things work.” Thus, while science is simply about understanding, theology is about the control of understanding, because if a theologian can control understanding, then a theologian can control the people who seek it.
Hence, the second reason why science and theology can never peacefully coexist: only a theologian can excommunicate someone from The Truth, and only someone who believes in theology over science can be excommunicated. A scientist, by definition, can never be excommunicated and thus, in theory, controlled in this manner. Theology will always seek to destroy anything that undermines its controlled access to The Truth, and science will always seek to destroy anything that stands in its way of pursuing it.
Which brings me to my final point. Scientists and theologians (and their respective supporters) operate by diametrically different world views. For a theologian, belief is inviolate, and anything that challenges that belief – or even the very concept of belief itself – is suspect. A scientist, on the other hand, may have a belief, but that belief must always be held secondary to the inviolateness of the scientific process. A scientist that starts off a logical analysis with the words “I believe” is the one who is suspect. And that is the transcendent point that theologians (and even some scientists) cannot ever profoundly understand: science, by design, believes in nothing.
From a theological standpoint, to believe in nothing is the most dangerous belief of all, and why science must die. From a scientific standpoint, to be forced to believe is what cannot be tolerated, and thus why theology must die. And it is a very rare person, indeed, that can keep those two conflicts in his or her head at the same time without mudding one or the other. Very rare, indeed.
That’s my belief, anyway, and I will continue to believe that until proven otherwise!