Religion and Science – The Blind and the Lame

What is common between science and religion?

Perhaps nothing.

Several wise men in the past to create a synthesis between science and religion, yet the difference between science and religion seem to be irreconcilable. Brian Appleyard , the writer of, “Understanding the Present-Science and the Soul of Modern Man expressed the contradiction unequivocally as following:-

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 its fundamental nature.

There is no doubt that religion and science are based on different premises yet their goal is same i.e. the knowledge of Truth. However, science and religion use different faculties of the person to arrive at the truth. While religion uses intuition to know the truth, science attempts to know the truth by material evidences and reason.  Yet intuition and reason are not contradictory but complementary.

Instead of fighting over the differences, one can intelligently use the same to enhance the capability of each branch of knowledge as the story of blind and lame men demonstrates.

The Blind and the Lame

A CERTAIN king made a great feast, and invited many guests to it. There was to be much eating and drinking, and every one besides was to have a present. The servants of the king gave the bidding to one and another, and in jest bade two men to the feast, one of whom was strong but stone blind, while the other had good sight but was dead lame.

“What a pity it is,” said the blind man, “that we cannot go to the feast, for we should have enough to eat and drink, and a present beside. But I am blind and cannot see the way, and you are lame and cannot walk.”

“Take my counsel,” said the lame man, “and we can both go to the feast.”

“Why, how may that be?”

“It is easily done,” said the lame man. “You are strong and I can see. Let me mount your back. You can carry me, and I will show you the way.”

“Well said,” said the blind man. So he took the lame man on his back and trudged along, and both sat down at the king’s feast.

[Horace E. Scudder:  The Book of Legends]

This small story is known to different people in different form. It demonstrates the importance of the complementary role that people can play in achieving a common goal. If the blind and the lame men would not have collaborated, they would not have enjoyed the feast.

Einstein perhaps had this story in his mind when he made a famous quote about the mutual dependence of religion and science in the following words

“Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

Doubt: The Foundation of Science

Science requires people to question everything that has ever been said or believed. Claude Bernard, the French physiologist said,

“True science teaches us to doubt and, in ignorance, to refrain”.

Pierre Abelard, the French scholastic philosopher, theologian explained the role of doubting in the development of scientific wisdom.

“The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth”.

Asking question is considered to be a virtue in science. Albert Einstein, the greatest scientist of all time stated, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” He explained the importance of doubting in the following words

“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”

Faith: The Foundation of Religion

Religion on the contrary, relies on faith and expects the followers not to doubt or raise any question as every single word of the scripture is treated as Gospel Truth been spoken by God Himself and can never be doubted. In Bible Jesus Christ stated the importance of faith in the following words:

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. (Matthew 17:20)

Faith is the foundation of all religion. Every word in a scripture is considered to be the words of God representing nothing but the truth. Therefore, scriptures are called the Gospel Truth whose validity can not be questioned. Religions require unconditional devotion and faith in God.

The need of faith is also explained in the Holiest Scripture of Bhagwat Gita as Lord Krishna says (to devotee)

Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Lord, and engage all your intelligence in Me, Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt. (Gita, 12:8)

Faith makes a person blind to reason. Hence, often faith is also said to be blind.  

Science without Faith

Research is the very foundation of science which means “systematic investigation to establish facts”. In every research paper, there are a number of citations or references of earlier research. When a common man reads a research paper, he accepts it to be true due to his faith in such investigations.

A typical research involves finding the relationship between the cause and effect over a small sample of people. The findings can always be a manipulated by choosing the sample of the choice of the researcher and also even by falsely recording the findings. The reader can not know the truth of the scientific research. Yet he poses his faith in the scientific researches.

However, due to subjectivity in the scientific methodologies, often the truth is distorted and people are confused.

For example, a major report by the World Cancer Research Fund on nutrition and cancer revealed that cancer is preventable and eating less meat and more fruits and vegetables could reduce cases of diseases by up to 40 p.c. a year.  

Yet the previous research finding were proven wrong by a study published in Feb. 8, 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association that indicates that a diet low in fat, but high in fruit, vegetables and grains, does not significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer or cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women

This new finding was good news for those who enjoyed their life and did not sacrifice their favourite food based on earlier scientific findings. Many people are confused because if this study is true than they have no method to prevent cancer and heart attack. The Hindustan Times, one of the leading newspapers in India captured the frustration of the common man in the editorial “Eat this dieticians” of its 10th Feb 2006 as following

After years of reading news from the terrible exciting world of science, one healthy conclusion can be drawn: studies that confidently tells us what is good for our body and what’s not are predictably volatile and worth disregarding as weekly tarot card readings and sex quizzes, For if one year carbohydrates/proteins are proven to be good/bad for our hearts, the worst thing we could possibly do is to believe it and deprive ourselves of the luscious fat-rimmed streak or oil-drenched mutton biryani. One can munch on, reassured that a year or so later, there will be another study conclusively proving that it was Diet Coke that was killing us softly… Faith in the dietary research will be sparse after this recent find.

Religion without Reason

It is also not possible to follow a religion blindly. Scriptures too need truth to last.

Galileo was first to propose the heliocentric theory of the solar system which stated that sun is at the center of the solar system and earth moves around it. This contradicted the geocentric theory of Bible which believed that Earth is at the center of the universe.

He was prosecuted by Church.

When he was taken out of the court Galileo looked down to the earth and whispered softly, “It still moves.”


Yet, only truth survives. Today, even the most devout Christian can not believe that Sun moves around earth. There are many such statements of the Scriptures which are no more believed by the people as they were found to be factually incorrect.

However, even today, despite of all advances of science, there is no scientific method to influence the thoughts of a person and motivate him to do good for the society by sacrificing their self interest. It is only religion which inculcate moral in the people and brings billions of people together to create love and peace in the society.

All scientific theories of societies like Communism, Capitalism, and Imperialism have failed with time. Yet religions continue to influence the people due to their true knowledge of human soul, the very essence of man, which is eternal and never changing.

Science with Religion

It is only when a person develops the capability of synthesizing the religion and science; he may acquire complete understanding of the truth. Reason and faith are connected with each other like body and soul. One can not live without other. Science like body belongs to material aspect of the world while Religion like Soul represents the spiritual aspect of the world. They are part of the same body of knowledge as Einstein said, “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree”. A scientist can not walk without intuition and earlier research which is same as having faith on the self and fellow scientists. Similarly, a religious person can not see the world without the eyes of the reason.

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