Quotes #17: The Eternal Conflict: Famous Quotes on Religion and Science
Science Versus Religion
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
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:
"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 blind."
"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 reality."
"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
"Science makes major contributions to minor needs. Religion, however
small its successes, is at least at work on the things that matter most."
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, to refrain."
"True […] teaches, above all, to doubt and be ignorant."
"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 afterwards."
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
"The heart has its reason, which the reason can not know."
"Credo ut Intelligam." (I believe in order to understand.)
"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
"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
"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 thinking."
"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 certain.
"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 abyss."
"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) and
"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
"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
"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 to 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 to metaphysics."
"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
"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
"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 all things."
"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
"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 existence possible."
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