The West and Elimination of Alleged Contradiction between Science and Religion
By: Ayatullah Professor Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi
In a bid to eliminate the alleged contradiction between science and religion, Western religious figures, doubtful of their religion, said that the real jurisdiction of religion is distinct from that of science and philosophy. A philosophical, moral, or human value is compatible or incompatible depending on whether they both meet at a certain point, because when we assume one line to be inclined toward another line, the two lines will meet at a certain point. However, if the two lines are parallel, they will never meet nor oppose each other because each of them ends up at a point which is distinct from that of the other.
In explaining and justifying the relationship between science and religion, they say that there should be reconciliation between religion and science, religion and philosophy, religion and reason, religion and moral values, and two distinct realms created for them. That is, separating the realm of religion from other subjects. The realm of religion is man’s connection with God such as, praising God, prayer, supplication, and a set of issues which are totally personal and have nothing to do with others.
In this realm, there is no room for science, philosophy or any other subject; it is only related to the heart. If there is anything associated with religion in this realm, it is mysticism [‘irfan], because religion and mysticism are of the same class and share the same goal. Thus, science, philosophy and rationality have no place in the realm of religion. In fact, the realm of each of them is distinct, each having its specific function.
Ethics, values, praying, and do’s and don’ts related to God, is related to religion, and in this realm it does not conflict with science. However, if these dos and don’ts are related to man’s social life, like the proper treatment of a thief, traitor or any other criminal—to punish him or not—they say that whoever commits a crime or offence is sick, and thus, he must be cured. He should be nursed and treated with kindness and understanding in a suitable place so that he desists from committing crime!
We do not know any country or place in the world where a criminal or offender is treated like a patient and not punished. But in presenting a theory, they say: “The criminal should not be punished because punishment is neither appropriate for man nor consistent with human dignity.” As a general principle, they advance the proposition that man, even if he commits the most horrendous of crimes, should not be punished at all because this kind of approach is repugnant to the dignity and station of man. Contrary to this idea, we Muslims believe that religion has jurisdiction over all aspects and dimensions of life and has promulgated relevant laws. Regarding the thief, for example, it says:
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“As for the thief, man and woman, cut off their hands...”
Those who have separated social matters from the realm of religion say that religion has no right to interfere in such domains. Religion can only urge you to pray or teach you how to praise God. But treating a criminal has nothing to do with religion. Certainly, empirical science has also nothing to do with such cases because empirical science describes the laws that govern phenomena.
In other words, science expresses “being” and it cannot determine the “dos and don’ts”. Moral laws cannot be derived from science. So, in the context of moral and social values, including legal, civil and penal laws and purely ethical issues in which moral dos and don’ts are involved, religion and “empirical science” cannot interfere.