Certainly not! Well, maybe. Perhaps! Probably! In the final analysis it will depend on who you ask, and what Science and Religion are about (I capitalize the words to indicate their status in modern Western culture as iconic institutions). Science comes from the Latin meaning knowledge (knowing) and Religion also comes from the Latin meaning piety (fear of the gods). If I were to ask my question in terms of modern Western culture it might be something like this: is Athens (ultimately the original source of the scientific spirit in the West) incompatible with Jerusalem (ultimately the original source of religious piety in the Christian West)?
Here are two helpful descriptions of Science and Religion I found on the internet. They are necessarily broad.
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.
On the other hand, Religion is a set of variously organized beliefs about the relationship between the natural and supernatural aspects of reality and the role of humans in this relationship.
Two other more narrowly framed descriptions from my own experience are these: Science raises questions about everything and answers them by experimentation; Religion provides answers to everything and discourages questions. I realize that narrow definitions are easily challengeable, but from my experience these latter two catch up the spirit of what Religion and Science seem to be about. Here are several contrasting statements about Religion and Science.
1a On the basis of observable phenomena (viz. the universe is expanding) Science attributes the origin of all things to the "Big Bang," but does not speculate about what preceded it.
1b Religion attributes the source of everything to God before the Big Bang.
2a Religion must affirm a nonphysical spiritual world, because God is intangible Spirit and hence does not "exist" in time and space.
2b Science only investigates aspects of the physical universe.
3a Religion is prone to superstition and spiritual magic.
3b Science undermines any Religion prone to superstition (from the Latin: unreasonable religious belief) and spiritual magic (viz. any manipulation of the physical by spiritual means).
4a Religion demands faith.
4b Science demands experimentation and repeatability.
5a Science proceeds on the basis of natural cause and effect.
5b Religion posits God as the ultimate cause of whatever happens in the universe.
An example of a clash between Science and Religion was occasioned by Charles Darwin's book, The Origin of the Species (1859). Darwin offered scientific evidence that plant and animal life evolve from lower life forms over time by means of natural selection. The default explanation for the origin of the species in the Christian West is that God created all things; in short human beings did not evolve from lower life forms. Darwin offered physical evidence; Christianity cited the Bible in response. What counts in Science are evidence and a logical argument. What counts in Religion in the Christian West is obedience to God, in deference to the Bible and church dogma. Christianity will eventually lose this debate, as it did the debate about the nature of the solar system (click here to read my blog, "Down the Rabbit Hole," April 26, 2014).
Christianity's belief in a spiritual world will not be engaged by Science, since Science only investigates aspects of the physical world. Christianity therefore wins this non-debate by default. Christianity's affirmation of the nature of spiritual reality is directly challenged, however, by the spiritual realities of other non-Christian religions. No scientific tests are available by which to prove which description of spiritual reality, if any, is an accurate description of the way things are in the spiritual universe. In the absence of objective evidence available to a neutral third party settling whose view of the spiritual universe is accurate turns out to be "my opinion beats yours." Spiritual realities do not "exist" in the physical world, for by definition they are spirit. Spiritual realities are mental constructs in the minds of those who hold such beliefs and in sympathetic accounts in religious literature, which originally began as mental constructs in the mind of the author. In that sense spiritual universes do exist in time and space.
Are Science and Religion incompatible?
Charles W. Hedrick
Missouri State University