|Pillars of Creation|
Courtesy: National Geographic
At that time most of the people chose to believe in the religious truths, but slowly they began to realize that the scientific truths were more convincing. The major factor that made the scientific findings more convincing was that the modern science had gradually adopted empiricism and had largely abandoned rationalism. Before the Copernicus revolution, most of the philosophers and thinkers believed in rationalism and used to base their study of the universe on their intellectual prowess. Modern science developed its methods of studying the universe on the power of observation. It is certainly more convincing for a man to believe in the existence of the sun if he is made to see it, instead of being offered logical reasoning while sitting inside a dark cave. That’s why people found the scientific discoveries far more convincing than the religious theories about the universe, which in many cases were not even based on rationalism.
Should religion have created theories about the nature of universe? Is nature within the scope of religion? Does the failure of religious theories about the nature in the wake of empirical discoveries means that a person who believes that the religion is from God should abandon his faith?
First of all, religion should not have been used to form theories about the nature of universe. Religion is supposed to be about the spiritual needs of the humans. Using religion to discover the material universe is as absurd as using science to discover spirituality.
Secondly, the theories that the Christians believed to be based on their religion were either adopted from the works of earlier philosophers or were the result of literal interpretation of their religious texts. Same goes for the Muslims who try to interpret their religious texts in literal sense and then end up with theories about the universe which stand in stark contrast with the scientific discoveries.
So, the case against religion based theories about the universe is not essentially a case against the religion itself. It is against those who believe that the religious texts are supposed to deliver literal meaning. If God says that He created man from clay, it doesn't necessarily mean that God literally took some clay in His hands and carved it into a sculpture and then breathed into it to make it alive. If someone believes that, he is interpreting God’s words from the limited point of view of man. But are the scientific discoveries ‘objective truths’? Is everyone supposed to ‘believe’ in them? Science has its limitations. Laymen still believe that science is working solely on the principles of empiricism and is thus irrefutable. The fact is that not only can empiricism be refuted, it has already hit its limits. The discovery of subatomic particles and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle has ended the undisputed reign of empiricism over modern science. Scientists have once again gone back to the thought experiments; the ancient tool of rationalism. Similarly, the Chaos theory put Reductionism on death bed, another philosophy on which modern science had relied for a long time. While the very bedrock of science, the mother of all the philosophies which science has adopted to date; Materialism, is under the threat of extinction at the hands of ‘the hard problem of Consciousness’. Modern science has even reached the point where some theories are supposed to be taken entirely on faith, since empirically proving or disproving them is impossible. For example, the Copenhagen Interpretation and Many Worlds Interpretation, two competing concepts that attempt to explain the wave function collapse, can't be proved or disproved because in both cases the alternate state of the quantum particle is not observable. Scientists have recently started to prefer latter over the former mainly because it is more inline with Determinism, another basic philosophy of science which escaped its fate despite being bruised by the Free Will Theorem, thanks to the Many Worlds Interpretation. So, it's not like scientists are actually looking for objective truths. They are just looking for the simplest explanation. Occam's Razor has often been used by the scientists to shave off any metaphysical interpretations or corollaries of scientific discoveries. It simply states that "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better." In Newton's words, "we are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances." and according to Stephen Hawking, "we could still imagine that there is a set of laws that determines events completely for some Supernatural Being, Who could observe the present state of the universe without disturbing it. However, such models of the universe are not of much interest to us mortals. It seems better to employ the principle known as Occam's razor and cut out all the features of the theory that cannot be observed."  The point is, at every given time people have held different ‘scientific beliefs’. There were times when they believed in the indivisibility of atom, absolute space and time, circular orbits of the planets, spherical earth, infinite speed of light and so on. Science, throughout the course of its history, has adopted various philosophies and discarded them later on. But in all those points of time, people who wouldn't believe in the popular science were ridiculed and deemed unreasonable, including scientists. There exists a dogma which seeks to destroy any belief contrary to those which have been established by the contemporary science. People in every era have declared that the discoveries of their ‘science’ are objective truths. The problem however is, what kind of ‘objective truths’ change with time? It is perfectly reasonable to believe in the scientific facts while acknowledging their limitations, but it is utterly absurd to dogmatize them as objective truths.
“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” ~ Stephen Hawking