Alfred North Whitehead believed that the future course of world history depends on upon people’s decision as to the relation between science and religion. In fact, the force of religious in tuitions and the force of scientific endeavors are the two must fact, powerful, forces in history. Whitehead’s solution to the conflict between science and religion was to suggest modification in both science and religion as each has been traditionally understood so that an inclusive alternative world view might be constructed. The essay begins with the genuine idea that we have to understand the type of connection which exists between the two spheres: science and religion and should draw some definite conclusions. According to him, there has always been a conflict between religion and science and both religion and science has always been in a state of continual development.
Whitehead says that the gradual development is also a common characteristic of religion. Religion has evolved from the conflicts between its own proper ideas. Thus, religion like another area of studies had gradually developed. It does not reject the change. Science is even more changeable than theology. Science also changed from Aristotle Galileo to Newton. In both areas thought additions, distinctions and modification have always been there. Whitehead does not take conflict between science and religion negatively. Rather he takes it as a chance to explore the deeper truth and finer perspective. He says the clash is a sign of a reconciliation of deeper religion and a more subtle science. According to him the clash between science and religion is the slight matter that has been over emphasized. This contradiction points out a necessary readjustment. Science is concerned with physical phenomena whereas the religion is wholly wrapped up in the contemplation of moral and aesthetics values. If science deals with the law of gravitation, religion deals with a contemplation of the beauty of holiness. One has the subject matter of external aspect whereas the other has of internal aspect. What science sees religion misses and vice versa. Hence, they are not completely opposite to each other but complimentary.
Whitehead states that the clash between doctrines of religion and science is not a disaster. Instead, it is an opportunity. He exemplifies his idea by some illustration from science. The point whitehead makes is that the clash is not a disaster but an opportunity to find out the new deeper truth. Whitehead argues that religion especially Christianity fails to accept that a contradiction marks the first step in the progress towards victory. Religion has taken the contradiction as a signal of a defeat in formal logic. The contradiction is natural in any field of knowledge. Every age produces people with intellectual and clear logical with some praise worthy knowledge of human experience. The new method opposes the older ones. The changes shape human life. The short cut methods which avoid the contradiction lead to an illusory success. According to the writer the present state of the religion among the European recess illustrates that religion has not been able to expect the contradiction.
Religion will not regain its old power until it can face change in the same way as science does. Its principle may be eternal but the expression of those principles requires continual development. According to whitehead the religion to develop more should detach its proper ideas from the borrowed ideas which have entered into the field or religion. Such a release from those imperfect ideas is all good but the various religious beliefs require some sort of modification. If the religion is a sound expression of truth, this modification will only sufficiently express its important points. This process is a gain. If religion has any contact with physical facts those facts must be modified as scientific knowledge advances. Then the relevance of those facts for religious thought will grow more and clear. The progress of science should address the religious thought to the great advantage of religions. So, his point is that religion is the expression of one type of basis expression of mankind. The religious thought develops into an increasing accuracy of expression. It should detach from borrowed ideas. The interaction between religion and science is one great factor in the promotion of religion.
The second reason for the decline of religion is the churches have forwarded the aspect of religion either to excite the emotional reaction of bygone times or to excite modern emotions interest of unreligious character. This is to say, churches have not been able to keep the true spirit of religion. Religion is the reaction of human nature to its search for a god. But this force has not been so important in modern time due to the critical reaction that is an inquiry of science to religion caused by science. The modern science has weakened the hold of old religious forms of expression. Religion has been presented as variable for the ordering of life. It claims have been rested upon its function as a sanction to right conduct. Religion has been used to formulate pleasing social relations. But in essence, religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind and within the passing flow of immediate thing. It is something which is real and yet waiting to be realized, something which is remote possibility that is not easily gained. It is something which gives meaning to everything yet not easily understood. It is something whose possession is the final good yet is beyond reach. It is the ultimate ideal, a great quest.
The immediate reaction of human nature to the religious vision is worship. Religion has emerged into human experiences mixed with the crudest fancies of barbaric imagination. Gradually, slowly, steadily the vision recurs in history under nobler form and vision. Without religion, human life is a flash of occasional enjoyment lighting up a mass of pain and misery, a momentary amusing experience.
Lohani, s. (2012). Western Intellectual Tradition.Kathmandu: M.K. Publishers.