There is a mystery behind both science and religion; the fact that no matter what observations occur or what artifacts are found, religion and science can never concretely prove or disprove anything. This leaves science and religion so intertwined that no one can be religious and shun science or vice versa. Scientists naturally are dynamic thinkers and brilliant investigators so it’s no question that when studying gravity or the vastness of space they must ponder who it came to be. Therefore, though scientists might not be religious by nature, their work must overcome religious obstacles.
In Einstein’s short work, ‘On Scientific truth’, he says his possession of a brilliant mind and capability of higher thinking leave him with some sort of conviction to reduce superstition and find some tangible facts about any ‘higher spirits’. The ‘religious feeling’ Einstein developed in his pursuit of scientific knowledge is not the same as a believer in Church. His feeling is more the recognition he is finite in body and mind and will never be able to perfectly explain the anomalies of the universe. Einstein admits he could never define truth so he had to rely on some faith that his work was correct although it was not the same as a believer’s faith.
Richard Feynman, the American physicist, did not view religion in as much an intellectual was as did Einstein. Feynman stated that ‘science enables us to do all kinds of things’, conveying the message that science can be used for good or evil. His ‘religious feeling’ then would be one of moral consciousness toward keeping science in the hands of the ‘good guys’ so to speak but, Feynman agrees with Einstein in that he also is sometimes in awe of science in that even with the best tools and research we many times simply ‘don’t know’. Feynman was in awe of the beauty of scientific discovery and thinking but also respected it as ‘the key to heaven or hell’.
Sigmund Freud represents the most negative, resentful view toward religion in the scientific realm. More than likely this is due to the religious taboos of the time resulting in Freud being viewed as perverted rather than as a pioneer. Freud had no ‘religious feeling’ in his work other than his dedication to study every day or ‘religiously’. He viewed the belief in higher powers as a sign of an Oedipal complex where a patient tries to establish structure in social groups, makes wishes, and is almost delusional. In his book, ‘The Future of An Illusion’, Freud states that religion is comparable to a childhood neuroses.
I would point out that in these three vastly important and different views on religion in the world of science, no scientist believed in the God that created this world but, that does not mean that science did not bring them a ‘religious feeling’, whether morally, intellectually, or, in Freud’s case, a feeling of disgust. As science and religion are so inevitably intertwined, religion will always be a stumbling block or motivational source for scientists, present and future, as it was in the past.
Essay on Religion and Science, Christian Beck, 2010
Webb, Igor: Ideas Across Time: Classic and Contemporary Readings
Kirzer, Laurie: The Concise Wadsworth Handbook
Freud, Sigmund: The Future of an Illusion
Freud, Sigmund: Analysis of the Mind