"Science takes things apart to see how they work, religion puts things together to see what they mean"
There has been a long and fascinating relationship between religion and science. During the Islamic/Arabic intellectual movement of the 8th and 9th Centuries, referred to by many as the Islamic (Arabic) Enlightenment, there was a symbiotic relationship between the two and they frequently complimented and supported each other.
However this seems not always to be the case in the West, neither historically nor in the present day.
By the 18th Century, a new understanding was forcing the West to question its traditional view of the world as they knew it. As Western Enlightenment developed, much of it became opposed to religious belief. Arabic enlightenment, on the other hand, combined belief and science, religion and reason with an acceptable balance between the two.
In the West, the conditions that allowed the scientific/social enlightenment of the 18th Century started to develop ideas that claimed an expansion of our knowledge would bring about a rational understanding of our old superstitions and beliefs. That God Himself would be explained away in the reasoning that followed.
European Christianity up until the Renaissance, with its dependence on revelation and miracles became involved a conflict between religion and science. The Enlightenment ultimately rejected traditions and values that had previously been the very foundation of society. “At its heart [enlightenment] became a conflict between religion and the inquiring mind that wanted to know and understand through reason based on evidence and proof.”1
But the irony is so true of science that many of the greatest advances were, and continue to be made possible by an audacity of imagination: a leap of faith. I think therefore we can question this totally scientific view, saying that intuition and faith are as essential as logic and reason. Einstein, then, was fairly close to the mark when he said "religion without science is lame, science without religion is blind".
Most would accept that there is a balance to be found between science and religion. They are different ways of expressing different aspects of the same universe and our place within it. "What is a scientist after all?" asked Jacques-Yves Cousteau. "It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what's going on." If that is the case then what is religion? It is when a curious man is looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of experience, trying to know what's going on. "Science takes things apart to see how they work, religion puts things together to see what they mean." 2
Yet we continue to see the rise of extreme views that refuse to tolerate anything other than their own narrow mind sets. "The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion." 3 The clash between religion and science has to be seen as indicative of a wider, interconnected conflict of ideologies, religions and geopolitical power struggles.
You've perhaps heard it said that "We don't inherit the world from our parents, we borrow it from our children". And if we have borrowed this world from our children, then what kind of a world are we going to give back to them and to future generations?
"Given events in New York last week [9/11] Stuart Duffin’s exhibition Sacred Science has a terrible timeliness about it. In several of the works a time bomb in the form of a miniature planet earth has just been lit. Thanks to continued instability in the Middle East, this exhibition of work, inspired by trips to Jerusalem takes on a deadly accuracy.
The world he depicts in these mezzotints, etchings and paintings is one in deep conflict, on the brink of chaos from which there may be no turning back.
Though these are difficult works, they are not without hope hence the fragile promise of the egg shells. What they seem to speak of is being balanced on a precipice, an historical and political moment that might move towards apocalypse or some form of resolution. This is work that feels like now and speaks to us about the new world order." 4
All this despite the fact that, as one negotiators' maxim puts it, there is probably more that unites us than divides us.
1. Lewis Hackett, Author. The European dream of progress and enlightenment.
2. Jonathan Sacks. British rabbi, philosopher, theologian and politician.
3. Arnold H. Glasow. 20th century American businessman.
4. Elizabeth Mahoney. Art Critic, UK Business Today.