How are REAL wellness, religion and science alike - or different? Can a person be guided by all three or, or does one subject conflict with the others? Or, are all three incompatible or otherwise in conflict in significant ways?
The latter question is easiest to answer. REAL wellness and science do not conflict - there is no incompatibly. A REAL wellness mindset and lifestyle, interpreted at this website and in other contexts by the author (I originated the phrase), is informed by science and shaped as an art form. R - standing for reason/evidence/rationality, is one of the four dimensions of REAL wellness. (The others are exuberance, athleticism and liberty, as in R-E-A-L.)
Understanding vital differences between science and religion should be beneficial for wellness enthusiasts and the faithful alike. Let’s start with science.
Science and Religion - The Basics
Eugenie Scott, an anthropologist and former executive director of the National Center for Science Education, recently explained that “virtually all religions are concerned with meaning, purpose, and how people relate to one another, and to God.” Dr. Scott believes most people who understand and embrace either religion or science, or both, do not want to replace one with the other, nor do they think either makes the other obsolete. Yes, there are people who want to replace religion with science or vice versa. Fundamentalist Christians, for instance, think one must choose - “you can have science or religion, not both,” according to Dr. Scott. This, she explains, “is a mistaken view of what science is and what science does, and it’s also an incomplete understanding of what religion is and what religion does.” (See “Digging in the Ideological Garden, American Humanist Magazine, October 21, 2014.)
Science is a way of knowing—an epistemology, a rational system for understanding the natural world based upon independent assessments of what it posits as facts concerning matter and energy; religion makes claims based upon faith in what religious officials assert are “revealed truths” found in “holy” books. Both science and religion offer explanations of the origin and dynamics of the natural world. Religion goes one giant leap further - it explains the supernatural, the things we cannot know from evidence, testing or other aspects of science.
An example of the latter is this question: What happens, other than physical oblivion, after death? Other questions only religions, never science, attempt to answer are:
Is there a god or many gods?
What does he/she/it or they want from us, if anything?
Is there a devil (s) and what does he/she/it or they want from us? Why?
Is there life after death for the being/spirit/soul or consciousness that exists as part of every living being?
Is there a heaven or some kind of paradise in an “afterlife?”
Are there virgins there? If so, how many?
These are but a few examples of the countless questions that science would not attempt to address that religions of one kind or another have boldly, thoroughly and definitely “answered” over the course of human history.
Religions make stuff up and expect belief in their “truths;” further investigations are of no interest and are often expressly forbidden and even punished. Science, as Ingersoll, noted in “My Creed,” “receives new truths with gladness.” Provided they are supported by ample evidence using accepted scientific protocols.
These examples are but a few of many significant differences between science and religions.
Science made great strides in the 19th and 20th centuries and dazzling discoveries so far in this, the still very young 21st century. Science is still just beginning to reveal how little is known about the cosmos from the grandest to the most minuscule of scales, but it is absolutely the most reliable of approaches to glimpsing the true nature of the natural world.
Limits of Science
The scientific method does not apply to normative, value questions whereas opinions about such matters is the speciality of religions. In the article referenced above, Dr. Scott notes that “science can inform an individual’s worldview or lifestyle, but it is not a philosophy or way of life. Likewise, it would not attempt not could it determine who is “better” - Madonna or Mozart.” (Religions generally would not weigh in on such a topic.)
In explaining the natural world, science restricts itself to natural causes, things that can be tested while holding constant key or independent variables; religions “use gods, ancestor spirits and/or the supernatural - and does no testing.” (What’s the point of testing that which you think is a revealed, unquestionable ultimate truth?)
Finally, science sets gods aside; religion makes them the center of everything.
Reason (i.e., critical thinking) is a foundation of science and an ideal basis for REAL wellness choices. Scott explains the scientific process as “collecting and evaluating information, logically relating elements to come up with some sort of a conclusion about the topic of interest.”
Reason is valued by all manner of disciplines - history, philosophy, psychology, economics, art and so on - including theology. As Scott put it: “Yes, there is crummy history. There is crummy theology and there is crummy science. Critical thinking isn’t always employed as well as we might like it to be, but it does distinguish us from lower organisms. Everyone needs science.”
To which I would add: Especially those associated with or practicing a religion and a REAL wellness mindset/philosophy and lifestyle.