Religion In A Scientific And Technology Era: The Nigerian Experience

Project and Seminar Material for Theology and Biblical Studies

Religion In A Scientific And Technology Era: The Nigerian Experience


Abstract


There is no known society the world over without religion. This shows that religion is an indispensable element in any human society. Throughout the ages religion has offered solutions to man’s problems, and explanations to the mysteries of the world. The desire for man to know and conquer his environment led to the advancement of science and technology. Consequently man has always longed and had a human and environmental transition from one region of development to another through science and technology. The relationship between science and religion has been a thing of debate. This work therefore, addresses itself to the relationship between religion, science and technology, bringing into focus the relevance of science and technology to religious beliefs and practices. In doing this, we adopted analytical and descriptive method of approach. Collection of data was mainly through secondary sources. The data collected were critically analyzed and descriptively presented. Findings show that both are concerned with the desire to know; and improve the living conditions of man and his environment. The dividing wall between science and religion has always been on methodology; and the moral implications of scientific enquiries and discoveries. The advancement of science and technology has tremendously affected religious beliefs and practices ranging from man’s better understanding of the universe to its contribution to the dissemination of religious doctrines and practices. Its negative effects such as threat to human life, dignity of human person and increase in moral decadence were also noted. The belief of the researcher, following his findings, is that this work will spur the theologians and scientists to explore and harness the complimentary roles of science and religion for the good of the two disciplines, and for mankind in general.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Man is notoriously a religious animal. There is no other phenomenon which moulds and controls man’s life as much as religion. Wherever we find man, we find him with his religious beliefs and practices. This goes to show that religion is very vital in every organized human society. It has made recognizable impacts on the political, physical, social, moral, spiritual and economic life of the people. Thus, religion is one of the most popular institutions that has greatly influenced man and his environment, and cannot be done away with in human society.

In the course of human history, man’s search for God has led to enormous diversity of religious expression found worldwide. Most religions teach the existence of one or more deities who created the universe (and continue to play major role in managing it sometimes bypassing the laws of nature to effect miracles), moral principles, mankind’s relationship to the deity/ies, behaviour towards fellow humans, spiritual masters etc.

Science on the other hand, deals with the study of nature, its forces, processes and development. A realistic patrol down the memory lane through historic ages to our time, will bring us in contact with the fact that science and technology have a primordial undertone. Ab initio, after the creation of man (according to


1.5 Scope of Study

This work tries to study the place of religion in a scientific and technological era with special reference to Nigeria. Nigeria, it is noteworthy, is a pluralistic society with three dominant religious groups. In this work, attempts will be made at exploring the struggle and challenges these religions are facing in view of the current wave of technological and concomitant innovative waves. In any case, references will be made globally if the needed arises.


1.6 Research Methodology

The basic methods employed in this study were historical and descriptive. Collection of data was mainly secondary sources, which include text, journals, dailies, periodicals, unpublished documents and internet. The data collected through secondary sources were critically analyzed, interpreted and descriptively presented. The researcher applied as much objectivity as possible.


1.7 Definitions of Key Words:

Science:

In the 13th century Europe, Christian theology was regarded as the queen of the science. “Science”, in this sense, was a systematic expression of an area of knowledge which was ideally founded on self-evident or certain first principles. The first principle of Christian theology, it was thought, provide the most certain of all principles, since they were revealed by God. Thus, theology becomes the paradigm of science. Since that time the word “science” has changed its meaning so that now most people regard science as an experimental investigation into a physical phenomenon, where precise observations can be made and measurements are repeatable and publicly testable, and where hypotheses need to be constantly tested and reassessed.

“Science” according to Eya (2007:20) comes from a Latin word Scio, meaning “to know”. It is a term used in its broadest sense to denote systematized knowledge in any field, but usually applied to the organization of objectively verifiable sense experience”. The pursuit of knowledge in this context, according to him, is known as pure science, to distinguish it from applied science, which is the search for practical uses for scientific knowledge, and from technology, through which applications are realized.


Chapter Five


Summary and Conclusion

Summary

Religion is a binding relationship between man and supernatural forces which man feels dependent upon. It represents the coming together of a group which is bound by a common feeling of dependence on a particular supreme Being/ Beings. The question of the origin of religion still remains one of the insoluble mysteries confronting man. Men have attempted to solve this problem through scientific research, but the results are mere educated guesses. This is because there was never any historical evidence or proof that any of the theories is true.
Religion is one of the most popular institutions that has greatly influenced man and his society. The high regards given to religion has led to diversity of religious expressions found worldwide; from the endless variety of Hinduism to the monotheism of Judaism, Islam and Christianity and to the Oriental philosophies of Shinto, Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

Nigeria is a pluralistic society with three dominant religions – African Traditional Religion, Islam and Christianity. These religions contribute a lot to the development of the Nigerian society.

Science, on the other hand, “is the study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world and society, especially through observation and experiment” (Odumuyiwa, 2003:210). It is concerned with the material universe, seeking to discover facts about it. Man through science and technology has made his environment more pleasurable and less precipitous. The effects of science and technology on our society and on religious beliefs and practices cannot be overemphasized. Scientific discoveries have revolutionized religious beliefs and practices. It has also contributed in no small measure to the dissemination of religious doctrines and practices; and has made man not to depend on God in areas where God has given him enough to stand on his own.


Way Forward

Religion and science are concerned with the welfare of mankind. Religion in a scientific and technological era is acutely calling for a thorough discussion. Its timing too is most desperate. This is because both realms have a critical bearing on human existence and the development of our society.

To correct the warped relationship between science and religion; and for both to compliment each other properly, the understanding of the following are necessary:

  1. Religion and science are partners in progress: both in their noblest forms involve the search for truth. Science discovers a world of magnificent order, a universe that contains distinctive marks of intelligent design. Religion makes these discoveries meaningful by teaching that the mind of the creator lies behind the design manifest in the physical world.
  2. The limits of science: It is fitting to have proper respect for scientific knowledge and achievements. However, many will agree that while science involves a way of knowing, it is not the only source of knowledge. The purpose of science is to describe phenomena in the natural world and assist in answering how these phenomena occur. Science provides us with insights into the physical universe, but no matter how far scientific investigation goes, it can never answer the question of purpose – why the universe exists in the first place. There are some questions that scientists can never answer. It may be that the Big Bang happened 12 billion years ago. But why did it happen? How did the particles get there in the first place? It seems clearer than ever that science will never satisfy the human hunger for answers.
  3. Faith has reality: If there is a creator behind the universe, we cannot expect to comprehend him or his purpose by using telescopes,
    microscopes, or other scientific instruments. No amount of examination of vase itself can give an answer to why it was made. For that, we must ask the potter himself.
  4. The need for theologians to integrate the insights of science into theology: There is need for theologians to integrate the insights of science into theology. As we stress the need for theologians to integrate the insights of science into theology, we also need to add that the scientist can also benefit from the insights of theology. By so doing, theologians and scientists can channel our insatiable inquisitiveness to serve the common good.
  5. Need for dialogue: There is need for dialogue between scientists and theologians. That dialogue will bring mutual benefits to the two disciplines and to mankind in general.

Conclusion

Religion and science are two phenomena which exist in every society; and both are very useful to human existence. Science responds to a felt need to understand the world, while religion responds to a felt need for the world to have meaning. Both, in the noblest forms, involve the search for truth. The dividing wall between religion, science and technology has been on different methodologies. Religion relies on revelation while science relies on observable, repeatable experiences.

The relationship between science and religion is characterized by different theories ranging from hostility theory, which consists in the conviction that religion and science are irreconcilable; independent theory, which claims that science and religion make declarations that are completely unrelated to each other; to complimentary theory, which sees the two as partners in progress.

The responsibility of conquering the world rests on man but not without numerous odds. The invention of science and technology was an obvious response to the human natural desire to know. Without this knowledge man is doomed, for as Francis Bacon already stated, knowledge is power. Indeed, science and technology have fostered great and marvelous development in our society; and religion is not left out. Its impact on religious beliefs and practices has led to better understanding of the universe, causes and cure of some diseases, control of nature to satisfy human needs, dissemination of religious beliefs and practices and so forth.

The impact of science and technology on religious beliefs and practices does not mean that religion has been relegated to the background. Scientists with ‘faith’ often feel that science is a way to get closer to God, by studying the universe God made with the minds and curiosity God gave them. It is on this note that the writer concludes by saying that there is no conflict between science and religion because wisdom, health and technology came from God.


Religion In A Scientific And Technology Era: The Nigerian Experience


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