The relationship between science and religion

The friction between science and religion goes back centuries. While the conflict often lies in beliefs and research, the common ground between the two is sometimes left unexplored. Researchers dive deeper into this debate.


The friction between science and religion goes back centuries.

While the conflict often lies in beliefs and research, the common ground between the two is sometimes left unexplored.

Join us as researchers dive deeper into this debate.

Cornell University was founded in 1865 as a nondenominational, science-centric university.

At the end of the 19th century, the predominantly Christian religious and social hierarchy was being challenged on a number of fronts by new scientific discoveries, and fields like evolutionary biology, geology, and physics questioned the biblical creation story.

Cornell University cofounder and president Andrew White entered the fray with an 1896 book that was widely read and had far-reaching consequences.

White himself always said that he was a believer, but he was concerned about the conflict -- the struggle between religion and reason.

He put together a book, published first in 1896.

I think it's very important to understand the context of that book, a lengthy period in which some of the fundamentals of religious belief were challenged.

White was blasted by Roman Catholic and fundamentalist Protestants for essentially destroying of Scripture.

But he was also embraced by secularists, by atheists.

The friction between science and religion is seen most clearly among fundamentalists who see the Bible as a literal creation story.

You can't impose religious belief upon the Bible.

You have to let religious belief come out of the Bible as an exquisite literary document.

I came here from many, many years working at the Vatican Observatory.

It has the Vatican name because it's the Pope's observatory, but it's not a religious institute at all.

Galileo said what the church said 300 years later, and, essentially, he said the Bible was written to tell us how to go to heaven and not how the heavens go.

The church did not officially accept that notion of Scripture, and many church men of various denominations today still do not understand that nature of Scripture.

It was difficult, I think, for White to accomplish what he had set out to accomplish, and that is a reconciliation of religion and science, which was his fundamental aim.

White was taken to believe that the domain of science was and should be larger and larger: the domain of religion, smaller and smaller.

And that, to people of faith, is wrong and dangerous.

I mean, the difference between scientific pursuits and religious pursuits is -- One of the issues is the way of knowing, epistemology, how do you come to knowledge?

Through the sciences, it's pretty clear.

In general, it's to collect data -- empirical observations, laboratory experiments, et cetera -- and gather that data and try and see if there is a way of explaining that data.

So science never possesses the truth.

It's in search of the truth.

It's always in search of the truth.

The way of knowing in, you know, religious belief -- first of all, it's not a way of knowing, primarily.

It's a way of loving.

Human culture is so rich: history, philosophy, theology, drama, sculpture, science.

Science is a very important part of our human culture, but it's not the only part.

Science is a way of knowing, and whether it can describe the totality of human experience is an open question.

But is it possible to be both a person of faith and a person of science?

The father of the argument seemed to think so.

White was responsible for the construction of Sage Chapel on Cornell campus, where he is interred.