Will science replace religion?

It so happened that on my eighth birthday I was given a children’s encyclopedia about everything in the world and a children’s Bible. I read both books, but I liked the encyclopedia better because it had dinosaurs in it, and the Bible doesn’t. Just at that time, I almost never parted with my favorite toy – a little TyRex, so I was not clear where Adam and eve lived when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth (which then also died out). In fact, such questions are asked by almost all children when they learn about the giant lizards that inhabited our planet 65 million years ago. Adults, of course, also want to know the answers to these and other questions, but for more than a century, the best minds on the planet have been trying to come to a consensus about whether science can replace religion and, if so, why this is not happening. It is not surprising that the” eternal ” conflict between science and religion has generated many disputes not only among scientists, theologians and priests, but also between them. Given the sensitivity of the topic, in this article we consider the question of replacing science with religion… from the point of view of science. Let’s go, shall we?”

In 1966, just over 50 years ago, the eminent canadian anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global demise of religion at the hands of emerging science:

The belief in supernatural powers is doomed to extinction worldwide as a result of the growing adequacy and spread of scientific knowledge.

Wallace’s opinion was not exclusive. On the contrary, the modern social Sciences that were formed in the Western Europe of the XIX century took as a universal model their own recent historical experience of secularization. Let me remind you that secularization is a process in which the role of religion in society is gradually reduced. In the past, the social Sciences were based on the idea that all cultures would eventually come to something similar to a secular, Western, liberal democracy. But then something close to the opposite happened.Secularism has not been able to continue its global March around the world, and various countries such as Iran, India, Israel, Algeria, and Turkey have either changed their secular governments to religious ones, or witnessed the rise of religious nationalist movements. Secularization has failed. But why?

As Peter Harrison, author of The Territories of Science and Religion and editor of the journal Narratives of Secularization, writes in his article on Aeon, the reason probably lies in the active inculcation of secularism, as for example happened in India and Turkey, where secularism has harmed science.

Read also: Superstitions from the point of view of science: why do we believe in the supernatural?

India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, championed secular and scientific ideals and included scientific education in the modernization project. Nehru was sure that Hindu ideas about the Vedic past and Muslim dreams of an Islamic theocracy would inevitably lead to secularization. “There is only one-way traffic in time” ” he said. But as the subsequent rise of Hindu and Islamic fundamentalism amply demonstrates, Nehru was wrong. Moreover, the combination of science and secularization has backfired and science has become a “collateral victim” of resistance to secularism.

Turkey is an even more telling example. Like most pioneers, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, was a staunch secularist. Atatürk believed that science was destined to supplant religion. To make sure that Turkey is on the right historical path, he gave science, in particular evolutionary biology, a Central place in the state education system of the young Turkish Republic. As a result, evolution became associated with the entire political program of Ataturk, including secularism.

Islamist parties in Turkey, seeking to counter the secularist ideals of the nation’s founders, also attacked the doctrine of evolution. For them, evolution is associated with secular humanism. This sentiment culminated in the decision taken in June 2019 to remove the teaching of evolution from the school curriculum. Does it remind you of anything?

Secular humanism is opposed to the religious worldview, does not recognize the existence of supernatural forces above man and nature.

Science versus religion
Contrary to the expectations of scientists and intellectuals, the spread of modern science did not lead to secularization, and science and the scientific method did not take the lead in most societies. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in the future that many have warned against. So, in 1997, the astronomer Carl Sagan in his book “a World full of demons, science as a candle in the dark” wrote that at first glance seemingly innocent Hobbies religious, esoteric, astrological and other practices and trends, is a danger to the future of humanity.

What is consciousness and how it appeared, how schizophrenia and belief in conspiracy theories are related, and what happens to us after death, read on our channel in Yandex. Zen. There are articles that are not available on the site.

At the same time, religious beliefs continue to decline in many Western countries. For example, the latest data from the Australian census showed that 30% of the population does not identify themselves with any of the existing religions, and this percentage continues to grow. In 2018, the Guardian published a stunning article entitled ” Christianity is no more?” , which contains data from sociological surveys on the religiosity of European residents. The results showed that the number of young people who do not practice any of the existing religions continues to grow.

Moreover, the survey found that the least religious country in Europe is the Czech Republic – 91% of respondents in the age group of 16-29 years do not consider themselves to any of the religions. 70% and 80% of the young population of Estonia, Sweden and the Netherlands also describe themselves as non-religious. And the most religious country in Europe was Poland, where only 17% of young people declared that they were not religious, followed by Lithuania, where 25% adhere to an atheistic worldview.

But there are many possible scenarios. So, according to Stephen Bullivant from St Mary’s University in London, countries that are close to each other, with similar cultural characteristics and history, have different religious profiles. Yet globally, the total number of people who consider themselves religious remains high, and demographic trends suggest that the world will face an increase in religiosity in the near future.

For example, Christians will remain the largest religious group for another four decades, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. According to the Pew Research Center, these trends will last until 2050. Moreover, there will be more atheists, agnostics, and all those who do not identify themselves with any of the existing faiths in countries such as the United States and France, but their number will decrease in the total number of inhabitants of the Earth. All forecasts are based on the coverage and geographical distribution of the world’s major religions, data on birth and death rates, age differences, migration, and so on.

The Pew Research Center predicts that by 2050, the number of Muslims (2.8 billion or 30% of the population) will be almost equal to the number of Christians (2.9 billion or 31%), perhaps for the first time in history.

Roots of religion
When you think about it, each of us has a favorite theory about how religion came to be, where it came from, and why it is present in all human societies. Of course, religion unites, soothes, satisfies the thirst for knowledge and gives life meaning. However, it would be wrong to consider religion as something separate from the evolution of Homo Sapiens.

As the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writes in his book God as an illusion, religious rituals are as conspicuous as a peacock’s tail in a sunlit meadow from an evolutionist’s point of view. At first glance, the peacock’s tail appears to be an empty amusement that does not increase its chances of survival. However, it is the owner of the most magnificent tail among peacocks that spreads its genes, unlike competitors. The tail is an advertisement, its existence is evolutionarily justified, since it attracts females.

The same can be said about the time and effort spent by hut-birds on the construction of a hut.; the building is a kind of ” tail”, which is made of twigs, bright flowers, beads and trinkets that were found. The main purpose of this construction is to attract a female. In both cases, if the birds did not behave this way, their chances of passing on their genes would be reduced.

Religious behavior, Dawkins writes, is the human equivalent of building a shelter. It takes a lot of time and energy, and its manifestations are no less bizarre than the plumage of a bird of Paradise. Because of religion, the lives of believers and others may be in danger. History shows that thousands of people were persecuted and tortured, and in General, the resources consumed by religion can be enormous.

However, religion is more than a kind of” guarantee ” of gene transfer. From the point of view of evolution, the benefit of religion is to protect people from stress-related diseases. This is similar to the placebo effect, which I wrote about in a previous article.

Pascal Boyer, a French evolutionary psychologist, social and cultural anthropologist, describes a more detailed picture of the causes of the emergence and spread of religions in his book“”. He examines in detail every generally accepted (and not only) hypothesis about the necessity of religion, its appearance and spread. If you try to convey the main idea in three words, then religion – or rather, magical thinking-has accompanied humanity throughout its history. Our brain is supposedly ” programmed” to believe in the supernatural and look for simple answers to complex questions.

It is also important to understand that you can’t just “get rid” of religion and religious practices. According to Stanford University neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky, ritual practices, from ceremonial ceremonies to the sign of the cross, are similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Agree, not such an unexpected comparison.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder – unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to the emergence of obsessive (compulsive) behavior. OCD sufferers develop rituals, such as constantly washing their hands or rearranging things in a certain order.

Given the genetic, cultural, and evolutionary prerequisites for the emergence and survival of religions throughout human history, it is not possible to simply exclude religion from society. By the way, the Soviet Union demonstrated this better than others by outlawing religion and the Church. The Communist ideology and personality cult of Lenin and Stalin were to take the place of religion. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country seemed to be seized by obscurantism: faith in God (as well as disbelief) was successfully combined with astrology, magic and water “charged” from Kashpirovsky’s sessions on TV. We see what happened today: the Union of Church and state led to the creation of the law on the protection of the feelings of believers.

But what does science contrast with religious magical thinking? Given that using the scientific method, we sent a man to the moon, invented the computer, the Internet, and built a real civilization, it may seem that religion really should retreat and in some countries this is really happening. Moreover, many scientists and intellectuals are still convinced that the development of society will sooner or later lead all countries to a secular state system. Among them is Stephen Hawking, who believed that ” science will win because it works»; Sam Harris believes that “science should destroy religion”; Steven Weinberg believes that science has weakened religious confidence and many other figures in science and the arts predict that science will eventually make religion unnecessary.

The future of science and religion
But why do science and religion conflict? Can’t we separate the two and not mix them up? After all, objective truth exists regardless of our religious beliefs. You may “not believe” in the theory of evolution, but it still does not change the fact that man is descended from apes. Anyway, religious beliefs are a very difficult topic, both from the point of view of society, and from the point of view of science, evolutionary biology and brain development.

I think that each person should decide for himself what and how to believe and whether to believe at all. At the same time, a very important point is the right to choose: people should know that you can believe in Yahweh, Buddha, Zeus, Odin and more than 2000 other gods known to mankind, or you can not believe in any of them at all. Maybe you don’t need to be afraid of the unknown. Yes, a huge number of questions today have no answers, but this does not mean that they do not need to be searched for or replaced with false ones. What do you think about this? Will the world become more religious over time, or Vice versa? Share your answer in the comments to this article and join the participants of our Telegram chat to discuss this and other equally interesting topics.

Also, the experience of some countries, such as Finland, the Czech Republic and Sweden, shows that the key to secularization is several factors: the education system (Finland has the best education system in the world), access to information, freedom of speech, conscience and religion lead society to prosperity. It is not for nothing that representatives of various faiths in these countries behave well, visit churches and mosques and live in their own pleasure. I think this is largely the result of education – no one in Finland, the Czech Republic, or Sweden has ever thought to prohibit the study of the theory of evolution in school. And I want to finish this article with quotes that reflect different points of view about the ” eternal conflict»:

With John Lennon, imagine a world without religion. Imagine: there were no suicide bombers, the September 11 bombings in new York, the July 7 bombings in London, the Crusades, the witch hunts, the “gunpowder plot”, the partition of India, the Israeli-Palestinian wars, the extermination of Serbs, Croats, Muslims, the persecution of Jews for “Christ murder”, the Northern Irish “conflict”, “honor killings”, no glittering suits, shaking manes of TV evangelists, emptying the pockets of gullible simpletons (“Give it all up threads to please the Lord”). Imagine: there were no Taliban blowing up ancient statues, public beheading of blasphemers, whips slashing women’s flesh because a narrow strip of it was exposed to someone else’s gaze.

Richard Dawkins, God as an illusion

We suffer from spiritual and cultural paralysis, we are unable to face the infinite, accept our peripheral position, and find our true place in the structure of nature. We treat our planet as if we have somewhere to go. The very practice of science is already a glimmer of sanity. However, it is not enough for us to accept these ideas with our minds as long as we cling to a spiritual ideology that is not only detached from nature, but in many ways despises everything natural and natural. We can only preserve the artfully woven fabric of life by passing scientific discoveries through the heart.

Carl Sagan, Science in search of God

In the course of the development of natural science, beginning with the famous trial against Galileo, the view has been expressed again and again that the truth of natural science cannot be brought into harmony with the religious interpretation of the world. But I must say that, although I am convinced of the indisputability of natural scientific truth in my sphere, it has never been possible for me to dismiss the content of religious thought simply as part of a transcended stage of human consciousness — a part that in the future will still have to be abandoned. So throughout my life I have constantly had to think about the relationship of these two spiritual worlds, for I have never had any doubt about the reality of what they indicate.

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