Darwin may have poked a hole in the Christian creation myth. But historically speaking, the relationship between science and religion has been far more nuanced than most people imagine.
By Chitra Kannabiran leads research on molecular genetics at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad.
The realms of science and religion are opposite poles of the human experience. One deals with the material, the other the spiritual, and scholars have long debated the relationship between the two realms, with a particular emphasis their apparent conflict.
The idea that science and religion are essentially contradictory originated largely in Western society, in response to scientific discoveries that were radical in their time and threatening to overturn prevalent views of the natural world. As a result, they questioned the basic tenets of Christianity.
And yet, despite the continuous advancement of science over the centuries (especially in last few decades), this narrative has changed. People and institutions have instead adopted worldviews that interpret both religion and science in ways that are not necessarily antagonistic to each other.
For starters, how is science distinguished from other realms of human experience and knowledge, including religion? There are many philosophies of science that attempt to explain its processes and the nature of its demarcation from pre-science (alchemy, magic, etc.) and pseudoscience (such as astrology).
Science itself, and scientific knowledge in general, began with the study of nature, of directly observable phenomena, and scientists could explain these phenomena by refining theories and conducting experiments.