Quotes #17: The Eternal Conflict: Famous Quotes on Religion and Science
Science Versus Religion
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." - Albert Einstein
Science and religion, which have so much in common, often seem to be at "war" with one another these days. For many science has become their religion while others try to conform science to their religion. Both "heartless science" and "mindless religion" miss truths about the nature of our existence in the universe. Naturally each side is quick to point out the "errors and flaws" that are "obvious" in the other's position.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Religion "versus" Science:
Science Versus Religion: The 'Eternal' Conflict
"For the belief in a single truth is the root cause
for all evil in the world."
"A legitimate conflict between science and religion
cannot exist. Science without religion is lame, religion without science is
"It is...idle to pretend, as many do, that there
is no contradiction between religion and science. Science contradicts religion
as surely as Judaism contradicts Islam - they are absolutely and irresolvably
conflicting views. Unless, that is, science is obliged to change it's
"Science and religion are two windows that people
look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to
understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but both
look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete.
Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy
"Science can purify religion from error and
superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.
Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish…
We need each other to be what we must be, what we are called to be."
"When religion was strong and science weak, men
mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak,
men mistake medicine for magic."
"Science is an effort to understand the creation.
Biblical religion involves our relation to the Creator. Since we can learn
about the Creator from his creation, religion can learn from science."
"The vast majority of the [scientific or religious]
community are a non-risk taking group who live in a very small reality [of
their creation] and are scared of anything that seems to be outside that
"He who has Art and Science also has religion,
But those who do not have them better have Religion."
"There is more RELIGION in men's SCIENCE than
there is SCIENCE in their RELIGION."
"Science makes major contributions to minor needs.
Religion, however small its successes, is at least at work on the things that
Science: Definition of Religion and Science
"…is Truth; don't be misled by facts."
"…is the literature of truth."
"…is the search for truth."
"…is piecemeal revelation."
"…is the desire to know causes."
"…is the knowledge of consequences, and dependence of one fact upon another."
"…is not belief, but the will to find out."
"…is practical philosophy."
"…is organized knowledge."
"…is the systematic classification of experience."
"…is the labor and handicraft of the mind."
"…is an imaginative adventure of the mind seeking
truth in a world of mystery."
"…is a series of judgments, revised without ceasing."
"…is a great game. It is inspiring and refreshing.
The playing field is the universe."
"True […] teaches us to doubt and, in ignorance,
"True […] teaches, above all, to doubt and be
"Truth in […] can be defined as the working
hypothesis best suited to open the way to the next better one."
Religion: Definition of Religion and Science
"…is nothing else but the love of God and man."
"…is the opiate of the masses."
"…is a defense against the experience of God."
"…is a daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the Nature of the Unknowable."
"… means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt."
"A […] that requires persecution to sustain it is of the devil's propagation."
"…experiences which are as real as life to some may be incomprehensible to others."
"There is no […] higher than the truth."
"All […] have been made by men!"
"All […] are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few."
"Doubt is part of all […]. All the […] thinkers were doubters."
"The beginning of wisdom in […] is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth."
"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition […] one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology."
"The most heinous and the most cruel crimes of which history has record have been committed under the cover of […] or equally noble motives."
"All human beings have an innate need to hear and tell stories and to have a story to live by... […] whatever else it has done, has provided one of the main ways of meeting this abiding need."
Sentence First - Verdict Afterwards
"No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first - verdict
About Scientific "Verdicts":
"Alas, many revolutionary discoveries turn out to be
wrong. Error is a normal part of science, and uncovering flaws in scientific
observations or reasoning is the everyday work of scientists. Scientists try
to guard against attributing significance to spurious results by repeating
measurements and designing control experiments. But even eminent scientists
have had their careers tarnished by misinterpreting unremarkable events in
a way that is so compelling that they are thereafter unable to free themselves
of the conviction that they have made a great discovery. Moreover, scientists,
no less than others, are inclined to see what they expect to see, and an
erroneous conclusion by a respected colleague often carries other scientists
along on the road to ignominy. This is
pathological science, in
which scientists manage to fool themselves. If scientists can fool themselves,
how much easier is it to craft arguments deliberately intended to befuddle
jurists or lawmakers with little or no scientific background? This is junk
science. It typically consists of tortured theories of what could be so, with
little supporting evidence to prove that it is so."
"It is theory that decides what can be observed."
"An important scientific innovation rarely makes its
way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents… What does happen
is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is
familiarized with the ideas from the beginning."
About Religious "Verdicts":
"I, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzo Galilei of
Florence, being 70 years old... swear that I have always believed, believe
now and, with God's help, will in the future believe all that the Holy
Catholic and Apostolic Church doth hold, preach and teach. But since, after
having been admonished by this Holy Office entirely to abandon the false
opinion that the sun is the center of the Universe and immovable, and that
the Earth is not the center of the same and that it moves. That I was neither
to hold, defend, nor teach in any manner whatsoever, either orally or in
writing, the said false doctrine. After having received a notification that
the said doctrine is contrary to Holy Writ, I wrote and published a book in
which I treat this condemned doctrine and bring forward very persuasive
arguments in its favor without answering them.
I have been judged vehemently suspected of heresy,
that is of having held and believed that the Sun is at the center of the Universe
and immovable, and that the Earth is not at the center and that it moves.
Therefore, wishing to remove from the minds of your Eminences and all faithful
Christians this vehement suspicion reasonably conceived against me, I abjure
with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith these errors and heresies. I curse
and detest them as well as any other error, heresy or sect contrary to the
Holy Catholic Church. And I swear that for the future I shall neither say
nor assert orally or in writing such things as may bring upon me similar
suspicions. And if I know any heretic, or one suspected of heresy, I will
denounce him to this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor or Ordinary of the
place in which I may be."
"We can learn by the example of the [Roman] Catholic
Church. Though its doctrinal edifice… comes into collision with exact science
and research, it is none the less unwilling to sacrifice so much as one little
syllable of its dogmas. It has recognized quite correctly that its power of
resistance does not lie in its lesser or greater adaptation to the scientific
findings of the moment, which in reality are always fluctuating, but rather in
rigidly holding to dogmas once established. For it is only such dogmas which
lend to the whole body the character of faith. And so it stands today more
firmly than ever."
"Some might say 'pure science' taught without a
spiritual context is a philosophy."
"Brought to you by the miracle of modern science in
the 20th Century:
The "scientist… will spend thirty years in building
up a mountain range of facts with the intent to prove a certain theory; then
he is so happy in his achievement that as a rule he overlooks the main chief
fact of all--that his accumulation proves an entirely different thing. When
you point out this miscarriage to him he does not answer your letters;
when you call to convince him, the servant (lies) and you do not get in.
Scientists have odious manners, except when you prop up their theory;
then you can borrow money (from) them."
"The good Christian should beware of mathematicians
and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that
mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and
confine man in the bonds of Hell."
"Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart
from the heavenly science of Christ."
"To say that a man is made up of certain chemical
elements is a satisfactory description only for those who intend to use him
as a fertilizer."
"The heart has its reason, which the reason can not
"Credo ut Intelligam." (I believe in order to
"One Galileo in two thousand years is enough."
"His Holiness decreed that the said Galileo is to
be interrogated with regard to his intention, even with the threat of torture.
And, if he sustains [ie. answers satisfactorily], he is to abjure de vehementi
[ie. renounce a vehement suspicion of heresy] in a plenary assembly of
the Congregation of the Holy Office, then is to be condemned to imprisonment
as the Holy Congregation thinks best. And ordered not to treat further,
in any way at all, either verbally or in writing, of the mobility of the
earth and the stability of the sun; otherwise he will incur the penalties
for relapse. The book entitled Dialogo de Galileo Galilei is to be prohibited.
So that these things may be known by all, he ordered that copies of the
sentence be sent to all Apostolic Nuncios, to all Inquisitors against
heretical pravity, and especially the Inquisitor in Florence. He shall
read publicly the sentence in the presence of as many as possible of
those who profess the mathematical art."
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same
God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to
forego their use."
"I'm a scientist. We don't talk about the spirit.
"The superstition of science scoffs at the
superstition of faith."
"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully
as when they do it with religious conviction."
"During many ages there were witches. The Bible
said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live.
Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters,
thumb screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She
worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned,
tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed
the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that
there was no such thing as witches, and never had been.… There are no witches.
The witch text remains; only the practice has changed."
"One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to
attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not
noticed it... You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the
religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the
greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs."
"Every great scientific truth goes through three
stages. First, people say it conflicts with the Bible. Next they say it had
been discovered before. Lastly they say they always believed it."
"The Church has opposed every innovation and
discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of
anesthetics in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the
biblical curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and
geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition. The Greeks
surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five hundred years
before Christian religion was born."
"Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly
upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said,
the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you
in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing
- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the
parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion
have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two
things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things,
and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its
way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches,
and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us
to get over this craven fear in which man has lived for so many
generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach
us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent
allies in the sky. But rather to look to our own efforts here below to
make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place
that the churches in all these centuries have made it."
"The great tragedy of science - the slaying of a
beautiful theory by an ugly fact."
"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly
one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit
"We want the facts to fit the preconceptions. When
they don't, it is easier to ignore the facts than to change the preconceptions."
"[Those] who have an excessive faith in their
theories or in their ideas are not only poorly disposed to make discoveries,
but they also make very poor observations."
"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge in the field of
Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."
"There are always two possible outcomes: If the
result confirms the hypothesis, then you've made a measurement. If the
result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you've made a discovery."
"There ain't no rules around here! We're trying
to accomplish something!"
"No problem can stand the assault of sustained
"A great pleasure in life is doing what people
say you cannot do."
"A great frustration in life is discovering that
sometimes those who say something can't be done turn out to be right…
Nature's laws govern which things can be done, and which can't. The trouble
is, when we set out to do something, we don't always know which of these
categories it's in."
"In these days, a man who says a thing cannot be
done is quite apt to be interrupted by some idiot doing it."
"When issues of public policy are discussed in
the outward form of an argument, often the conclusions reached are
predetermined by the assumptions and definitions inherent in a particular
vision of social processes. Different visions, of course, have different
assumptions, so it is not uncommon for people who follow different visions
to find themselves in opposition to one another across a vast spectrum of
unrelated issues. (This happens) in such disparate fields as law, foreign
policy, the environment, racial policy, military defense, education, and
many others. To a remarkable extent, however, empirical evidence is neither
sought beforehand nor consulted after a policy has been instituted. Facts
may be marshaled for a position already taken, but that is very different
from systematically testing opposing theories by evidence. Momentous
questions are dealt with essentially as conflicts of vision."
"Even when her science fails right before her eyes,
she still has full confidence in it.
"Let no one enter here who does not have faith."
"Some things need to be believed to be seen."
"First you guess. Don't laugh, this is the most
important step. Then you compute the consequences. Compare the consequences
to experience. If it disagrees with experience, the guess is wrong. In that
simple statement is the key to science. It doesn't matter how beautiful your
guess is or how smart you are or what your name is. If it disagrees with
experience, it's wrong. That's all there is to it."
"Every honest researcher I know admits he's just
a professional amateur.
"But are we sure of our observational facts?
Scientific men are rather fond of saying pontifically that one ought to be
quite sure of one's observational facts before embarking on theory.
Fortunately those who give this advice do not practice what they preach.
Observation and theory get on best when they are mixed together, both
helping one another in the pursuit of truth. It is a good rule not to put
over much confidence in a theory until it has been confirmed by observation.
I hope I shall not shock the experimental physicists too much if I add
that it is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the
observational results that are put forward until they have been
confirmed by theory."
"I believe there is no philosophical high-road
in science, with epistemological signposts. No, we are in a jungle and find
our way by trial and error, building our road behind us as we proceed."
"…part of me too is my relation to all life, my
religion. And this is not so easy to talk about. Religious experience is
highly intimate and, for me, ready words are not at hand."
"Never make a calculation until you know the answer:
make an estimate before every calculation, try a simple physical argument
(symmetry! invariance! conservation!) before every derivation, guess the
answer to every puzzle. Courage: no one else needs to know what the guess
is. Therefore make it quickly, by instinct. A right guess reinforces this
instinct. A wrong guess brings a refreshing surprise."
"In 1650 Bishop Ussher dated the creation from the
genealogy given in the Bible at 4004 B.C.; for a long time (even for some
people today) this was accepted as "gospel truth." However, if you accept a
miracle such as this, what's wrong with creation 5 minutes ago? It would be
scarcely more difficult for the Creator to create all of us sitting
here, with our memories of events that never really happened, with our
worn shoes that were never really new, with spots of soup that were
never really spilled on our ties, and so on. Such a beginning is
logically possible, but extremely hard to believe!"
"Only one thing is certain--that is, nothing is
"The only source of knowledge is experience."
"Basic research is what I am doing when I don't
know what I am doing."
"A thing is not necessarily true because a man
dies for it."
"The gods did not reveal from the beginning,
"We know nothing in reality; for truth lies in an
"This only is certain, there is nothing certain;
and nothing more miserable and yet more arrogant than man."
"None of us knows anything, not even whether we
know or do not know, nor do we know whether not knowing and knowing exist,
nor in general whether there is anything or not."
"All we know of the truth is that the absolute truth,
"When truth is evident, it is impossible for parties
and factions to rise. There never has been a dispute as to whether there is
daylight at noon."
"Whenever truth stands in the mind unaccompanied
by the evidence upon which it depends, it cannot properly be said to be
apprehended at all."
"There is an anecdote from the occasion of Russell's
ninetieth birthday that best serves to summarize his attitude toward God and
religion. A London lady sat next to him at this party, and over the soup she
suggested to him that he was not only the world's most famous atheist but,
by this time, very probably the world's oldest atheist. 'What will you do,
Bertie, if it turns out you're wrong?' she asked. 'I mean, what if--uh--when
the time comes, you should meet Him? What will you say?' Russell was delighted
with the question. His bright, birdlike eyes grew even brighter as he
contemplated this possible future dialogue, and then he pointed a finger
upward and cried, 'Why, I should say, 'God, you gave us insufficient
"... they are ill discoverers that think there is
no land when they can see nothing but sea."
"Life is BOTH STRUCTURED LOGIC (logos, left brain)
"Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night,
"The religion that is afraid of science dishonors
God and commits suicide."
"The science that is afraid of religion denies it's
Creator and discredits itself."
"But he who has been earnest in the love of
knowledge and of true wisdom, and has exercised his intellect more than
any other part of him, must have thoughts immortal and divine. If he
attain truth, and in so far as human nature is capable of sharing in
immortality, he must altogether be immortal."
"The most beautiful and profound emotion we
can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the foundation
of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no
longer stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is
inconceivable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest
wisdom, as the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend
only in their most primitive form - this knowledge, this feeling, is at
the center of true religiousness."
"All religions, arts, and sciences are branches
of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's
life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading
the individual towards freedom."
"Culture (science) is the form of religion;
"One thing I have learned in a long life: that
all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike and
yet it is the most precious thing we have."
"Traditional religious creation stories and
evolution are complementary. Science and religion together can weave a
rich tapestry of new meaning for our age."
"The scientist is a practical man and his are
practical (ie, practically attainable) aims. He does not seek the ultimate
but the proximate. He does not speak of the last analysis but rather of
the next approximation. His are not those beautiful structures so delicately
designed that a single flaw may cause the collapse of the whole. The
scientist builds slowly and with a gross but solid kind of masonry. If
dissatisfied with any of his work, even if it be near the very foundations,
he can replace that part without damage to the remainder. On the whole he
is satisfied with his work, for while science may never be wholly right it
certainly is never wholly wrong; and it seems to be improving from decade
"You must have faith… that the universe will
unfold as it should…"
The Paradox of Science and Religion:
"The chess-board is the world; the pieces are the
phenomena of the universe; the rules of the game are what we call the laws
of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his
play is always fair, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never
overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance."
"If I have seen farther than other men,
"The more I learn of physics, the more I am drawn
"It is the business of the future to be dangerous....
The major advances in civilization are processes that all but wreck the
societies in which they occur."
"Creating a new theory is not like destroying an
old barn and erecting a skyscraper in its place. It is rather like climbing
a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections
between our starting points and its rich environment. But the point from
which we started out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller
and forms a tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the
obstacles on our adventurous way up."
The "presumption of understanding everything can
have no other basis than never understanding anything. For anyone who had
experienced just once the perfect understanding of one single thing and had
truly tasted how knowledge is earned would recognize that infinity of
other truths of which he understands nothing."
"The greater our knowledge increases, the greater
our ignorance unfolds."
"The most exciting phrase to hear in science,
the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it)
but 'That's funny...'"
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world;
the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.
Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
"God will reveal to us things He never revealed
before if we put our hands in His…The thing I am to do and the way of doing
it are revealed to me. I never have to grope for methods. The method is
revealed to me the moment I am inspired to create something new. Without
God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless."
"The point of any religion should be this: how
to open your heart to love."
"It's knowledge has reached the limits of this
universe and it must evolve. What is requires of it's God is the answer
to it's question. 'Is there nothing more?'"
"Metaphysics is a dark ocean without shores
or lighthouse, strewn with many a philosophic wreck."
"The mind likes a strange idea as little as the
body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. It would
not perhaps be too fanciful to say that a new idea is the most quickly
acting antigen known to science. If we watch ourselves honestly we shall
often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it
has been completely stated."
"Certainly science has moved forward. But when
science progresses, it often opens vaster mysteries to our gaze. Moreover,
science frequently discovers that it must abandon or modify what it once
believed. Sometimes it ends by accepting what it has previously scorned."
"As a blind man has no idea of colors, so we have
no idea of the manner by which the all-wise God perceives and understands
"It is not the possession of truth, but the success
which attends the seeking after it, that enriches the seeker and brings
happiness to him."
"We are a scientific civilization. That means a
civilization in which knowledge and its integrity are crucial. Science is
only a Latin word for knowledge... Knowledge is our destiny."
"The further the spiritual evolution of mankind
advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity
does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith,
but through striving after rational knowledge… My religion consists
of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals
himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail
and feeble mind."
"This is *our* Universe, our museum of wonder and
beauty, our cathedral."
"Scientists are human. We have our blind spots
and prejudices. Science is a mechanism designed to ferret them out. Problem
is we aren’t always faithful to the core values of science."
"Science is the religion of the 21st century.
Traditional religions have faltered because they failed to live up to
their core value of love by promoting Inquisitions and abetting
Holocausts. So too will science falter because it fails to live up
to its core value of truth by turning its back on scientific
evidence about reincarnation and archaeology that tells many
inconvenient truths about the actual nature of our existence.
Remember 'Truth is the daughter of Time'."
"The past is another planet."
"I reveal myself in my true colors, as a
stick-in-the-mud. I hold a number of beliefs that have been repudiated
by the liveliest intellects of our time. I believe order is better than
chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence,
forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole I think that knowledge is preferable
to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than
ideology. I believe that in spite of the recent triumphs of science, men
have not changed much in the last two thousand years; and in consequence
we must still try to learn from history. History is ourselves. I also
hold one or two beliefs that are more difficult to put shortly. For example,
I believe in courtesy, the ritual by which we avoid hurting other people's
feelings by satisfying our own egos. I think we should remember that we
are part of a great whole, which for convenience we call nature. All living
things are our brothers and sisters. Above all, I believe in the God-given
genius of certain individuals, and I value a society that makes their
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