Science and Religion: Different Viewpoints

The issue of science vs. religion involves the two viewpoints or paradigms of science and religion. Each viewpoint is complete within itself, in that that view can be considered the "only" paradigm. However, if the two paradigms are compared, it is obvious there are conflicts between them.

The Religious (Christian) Viewpoint

According to the religious paradigm, God created the world in six days, or as some believe, in six periods of time, as explained in the Bible and the LDS books of Moses and Abraham. Adam and Eve were created as the first human life on the new world. The various historical and spiritual events that are given in scripture actually occurred to the people inhabiting the earth. For centuries this paradigm was accepted by most Christians as the "real" world.

The Scientific Viewpoint

As the European civilization progressed through the Renaissance, some people began to realize that the religious description of the cosmos didn't agree with their observations of the universe. For example, religious leaders believed the earth was the center of the universe. Even though the religious paradigm as taught in the scriptures didn't explicitly say the earth was the center, that was the common interpretation of the scriptures. However, in the 16th century Copernicus hypothesized that the sun was the center of the universe and that the earth orbited around the sun. Then, a century later Galileo confirmed through telescopic observations that Copernicus' hypothesis was correct.

The work of these early scientists led to the formation of the "scientific method" of study. As scientists study the earth from a physical viewpoint, they form hypotheses about the earth and then conduct experiments to determine if their hypotheses are correct. The use of experiments is critical to the scientific paradigm, because it is only through experimentation that scientists learn whether their hypotheses are true or not.

Using the Viewpoints Separately

As I mentioned above, each paradigm can be considered separately, and consistent concepts and views can be developed within that paradigm. This is the approach taken by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly referred to as the Mormon or LDS church) and by many other Christians. The LDS Church uses the religious paradigm in its teachings. The purpose of the Church is to help us with our spiritual growth, to help us come unto Christ, to help us better serve each other, and to help us contribute to a more peaceful world, and the General Authorities of the LDS Church aren't overly concerned about the scientific paradigm. One of the General Authorities (I've forgotten his name) said something about leaving science to the scientists. When I attend Church meetings, I have no problem when teachers and speakers talk about religious events such as the flood and Noah taking animals into the ark. I realize the lessons are geared to the religious paradigm, and I'm happy to approach the spiritual aspect of my life from that viewpoint. In doing this, I wear my "religious hat" when I discuss spiritual things.

Similarly, when scientists do research they are focused on science and aren't very concerned about possible conflicts with religion. This allows them to approach science from a unified perspective and to share and discuss among their colleagues with no concern for the personal views of themselves or their colleagues. When I read reports about scientific research, I wear my "scientific hat" and look at the research from that viewpoint.

Conflicts Arise When the Two Viewpoints are Mixed

Currently, conflicts between science and religion arise when people attempt to combine the two viewpoints into a new paradigm that contains both viewpoints. Even though at the present time we don't have enough information about either God or science to allow us to effectively combine the two views, many people try to force-fit the paradigms together. They discover the paradigms don't fit together, and they accept one paradigm and reject the other. Many scientists reject religion. Many religious people reject science. It is much better, I believe, to accept the fact that the time has not come for the two paradigms to merge together. It is much better, I believe, to accept each paradigm for what it is, our best explanation at the present time of the world from a particular but limited viewpoint.

I personally believe the time will come when the scientific and religious views will converge into a unified view of the universe and God's dealings with us, but I believe that time will occur when we are in the Millennium. In the meantime I'll continue to wear my two hats and use each paradigm as appropriate. And, I'll continue to observe science and religion to identify new parallels and discuss them in this blog, with the hope my comments will help others enjoy each paradigm for what it is without feeling guilty or obligated to "prove" that the other paradigm is false.

Live Science for February 8, 2008 contained an article entitled How a Lunar Eclipse Saved Columbus that illustrates the scientific and religious paradigms.
Columbus was beginning to understand and follow the scientific paradigm, while the Native Americans of Jamaica were living a religious paradigm (not the religious paradigm I referred to in this post). Columbus had an almanac that was published by a German mathematician. The almanac said a full eclipse of the moon would occur, and Columbus told the Native Americans that that event would be a sign from the Christian god that he was displeased with the Native Americans not giving food to the Spaniards.

10 Comments (click to add your comment):

Daniel said...

Hi, Allen.

It looks like from your examples, the scientific paradigm does a much better job of explaining things than the religious one.

I was wondering why you've decided that the religious paradigm is worth keeping, since is doesn't seem based in fact. Couldn't we say rather that the scientific paradigm is better, and shows us where the religious paradigm gets it wrong? We can't really say in any factual sense that there actually was an ark full of animals.

You say that perhaps it's not time to integrate the two paradigms, but why will that be any easier down the road? I wonder if this isn't your way of hanging on to a false paradigm that you happen to like. Your 'two hats' approach, while it might be comforting, would actually be a way of not dealing with reality.

And as James might have said, A double-hatted man is unstable in all his ways.

What do you think?

Allen said...

Hi Daniel,

I agree that the scientific paradigm does a better job in explaining how our world "works". That is the purpose of that paradigm. I'm not a scientist but am an engineer. I recently retired from a 44-year career as an Electrical Engineer and later a Computer Software Engineer. I've had enough math and physics to have a general understanding of science, and I enjoy learning about new discoveries of science.

My religious beliefs are faith-based not science based. I study and practice religion to learn more about God and to become more like Jesus Christ. Science can't do much to help me learn about God, because scientists have no way of obtaining information from God. No telescopes can see God. No radio receivers can hear the word of God. Religion fills an important need in my life that science can't fill, and vice versa.

Because of historical and cultural reasons, the Christian religion, including Mormonism, uses a different paradigm than the scientists use. Rather than continually fight between the two viewpoints, I accept each for what it is and use it appropriately.

If I want to learn about the cosmos, I put on my science hat. If I want to learn about God, I put on my religious hat. If I attend a class that talks about the flood and the ark being full of animals, it doesn't bother me. I'm not attending that class to learn about the world. I'm attending that class to learn about God and the wisdom of being obedient to Him.

A double-hatted man can be at peace in all his ways.

Daniel said...

With that in mind, then, what is the convergence of science and religion?

Your blog title suggests that they converge, but you seem to be saying that they only work when you keep them in their own compartments, away from each other. Not much convergence there at all.

Allen said...

You've asked an important question, Daniel. When I said I'm keeping the two paradigms in their own compartments, I was referring to the present time. Presently, the scientific paradigm helps me learn about the cosmos, our earth, sickness, health, our bodies, etc. The religious paradigm helps me learn of God, His dealings with humankind, and His commandments that will help us become like Him if we follow them. There are, however, concepts taught in the religious paradigm that are similar in some aspects to the scientific paradigm. I refer to these similarities as "parallels", and the convergence of science and religion refers to these parallels. An example of a parallel is the statement given in the LDS Book of Abraham that God has created worlds without number as homes for his children. Twenty five years ago, scientists had good reasons to believe planets outside our solar system existed, but they had no actual evidence of such planets. Now, scientists know of over 250 planets orbiting around stars.

As I say in my Welcome statement in the left side-bar of my blog, I believe that truth in science can't disagree with truth in religion and that eventually the two paradigms will converge. In the meantime, I'm keeping the two paradigms separate to avoid emotional and intellectual conflicts that would force me to choose one over the other. Currently, my interest in science is based on fact, and my interest in religion is based on faith.

In the left side bar, I have a list of keywords under the title of Categories of Posts. Click on the keyword "parallels" and you'll get 32 posts that give my comments about the parallels that I've discovered so far between the two paradigms. As I say in my Welcome, the similarities between the two paradigms are, in most cases, quite general.

Badger said...

In the book "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" Ken Wilber outlines a few ways in which science and religion can be integrated. He discusses the battle for supremacy between the two apparently opposed forces, and shows how the apparent conflict can be reconciled while doing no damage to the truth claims of either. It's a very compelling read and I highly recommend it.

My personal views of the matter have been greatly influenced by this and other similar writings by Ken. It's fascinating stuff. In one of the books he analyzes the components of reality, which is an education in and of itself. Then in another (A Theory of Everything) he discusses a model of literally everything. It's a perspective on the cosmos, (or rather Kosmos, which is inclusive of EVERYTHING you can think of, really) and shows how everything relates to everything else. Anyway, enough blabbing for now. I like this topic a lot.

Blogging The Gap Between Science and Religion said...

Two paradigms, but I would maintain truth is a single, undivided entity? That is the question that I see lies at the heart of your discussion. This comes to mind because when presenting seminars on the book “Exploring the Gap between Science and Religion” ( ) I pose the following question to kick off a discussion on what science does: “Is science able to reveal the truth?” Consistently the answer is “It depends on how you define ‘the truth.’”
I use this question to engage the audience before examining the nature of the observation process. I hold that one cannot examine the observation process without also understanding the observer, which I propose is that of “definer”. We also cannot separate the “believer” from the belief. These kinds of insights lead us to the question: “Shall I worship the God I created or the God that created me?” And this then is the common question all religions must ask, whether LDS, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, or Muslim. After asking this question, the next logical question to ask is: “How do I know whether I am worshipping the God I created?” In “Exploring the Gap between Science and Religion”, I submit for the reader’s consideration that the nature of G_d is the antithesis of science and region, both of which engage in dividing their respective areas of focus through the use language and modeling. The nature of G_d is instead best understood as “unity” or lack of separation. So, I maintain that there is a single truth that underlies it all: G_d is that which cannot be divided. I humbly submit this as an alternative the perspective put forward of by “Science & Religion: Two Paradigms.”

Allen said...

I like the sentence, "So, I maintain that there is a single truth that underlies it all". I would characterize that single truth as TRUTH. We currently have various paradigms, because we don't understand the big picture. We see part of the picture and call that a scientific paradigm. We see another part and call that a religious paradigm. Eventually, as the paradigms converge, we will see more of the picture. After all of the paradigms have converged, we will see all of the picture, the single truth that underlies it all.

Steve said...


Came poking around here after doing a google search of the importance of the fall back weeks in marathon training. My daughter is insisting we do a marathon 14 weeks down the road and that would require a shift of my comfortable 16 week schedule. Anyway, I live in Dallas and am LDS, so I guess once I read your "about me" information it wast such a huge leap to end up here.
I m not a scientist, but a realist. My personal juggling of my "two hats" consists of faith and science as well, with my personal "what makes sense?" thrown in too.
I like reading your posts and blogs- and the responses. Why? Well, for one thing, I feel somehow smarter after reading. How about that? :)

Allen said...

Hi Steve,

I'm glad you found my blog, and I hope you'll return as you have time.

Good luck on your marathon. I ran marathons in the early 1980s. Now, I just run shorter distances. My personal running blog is and my training blog is

Allen said...


Your personal "what makes sense?" is a good filter that applies to both hats.

A literal reading of the Bible leads to the belief that Adam lived approximately 6000 years ago and that there were no humans before him. That doesn't make sense to me in light of scientific evidence of humans being here for hundreds of thousands of years.

As I explain in my essay about evolution and the Fall of Adam, I believe Adam was the first person to make covenants with God but not the first person in mortality. This makes a lot more sense to me than the belief that Adam was the first person, period. The 6000 figure is OK with me. The scriptures say Adam was the first person but don't say first of what. Many LDS and other Christians say first to live in mortality. I say first to make covenants with God.

Of course, this is all speculation, and I keep it as such in my mind so I won't focus my energy on things that don't directly pertain to my salvation. Someday, we'll know the answers.