If we go back to the time of ancient Greece, the first glimmerings of science began as "Natural Philosophy" with Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Archimedes, Pythagoras, and Eratosthenes, among others. This was the beginnings of a different approach to understanding the world around us, built on logic and empirical evidence, rather than superstition, mythology, and blind faith. Greek natural philosophers were something very new!
During and after the Renaissance, in fact, the increasingly empirical science being done ran headlong into those entrenched followers of superstition. Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Bruno, and many other scientists in Europe suffered persecution and even death at the hands of the Catholic Church because their findings were seen as heretical -- they were incompatible with biblical scriptures. Of course, many famous scientists of the time were faithful christians, as well, including such luminaries and Newton, Leibniz, and Kepler.
Today, we see the same conflicts wherever science offers an interpretation of the way the world works that contradicts cherished scriptural superstitions (and no conflicts where science fails to intersect with scripture). Fortunately, the power of the church (in nontheocracies) has declined to the point where it can't enforce its teaching with torture, imprisonment, and death! Wherever religion and politics are deeply intertwined, of course, the church continues to show its claws when it comes to doubters and unbelievers!
Evolution, deep geological time, modern cosmology -- they all clash with various religious writings and teachings, so we have the growth of a profoundly anti-science movement that coincides with the growing acceptance of religious beliefs here in the USA. That this religious revival is associated with an anti-science movement is not an accident of history. And, as in the past, we have scientists who somehow manage to embrace both science and religion (although they represent a minority among scientists), which I maintain are so diametrically opposed as to deny any rational acceptance of both. I take it as a given that as the stature of the scientist grows, the fraction accepting deistic religious belief declines. The question becomes -- how to explain those scientists who do embrace belief in a deity!
Many aspects of science seem mysterious to non-scientists -- in particular, some say that science requires the same sort of faith that is embodied in religion. This is nothing less than a profound misunderstanding of science. Science offers hypotheses about the natural world that can be tested against evidence, not unsubstantiated claims. The acceptance of a hypothesis requires that it be consistent with the evidence, but its acceptance is always provisional, never final. New evidence may require a revision of the hypothesis, or it may re-affirm the acceptability of an existing hypothesis. The more tests a scientific idea can pass, the more highly regarded that idea becomes, but never to the point of becoming dogma, to be accepted on faith. And, contrary to the claims of some believers, science is never arrogant in its claims to understanding -- good science always is associated with humility in the face of all that scientists have learned we don't yet understand in the very process of gaining new understanding! We labor long and hard to learn the limits to our understanding, and typically resent those who come by their ignorance the easy way!
Religion (at least the major monotheistic faiths that dominate the western and middle eastern world) demands blind faith. Its highest ideal is absolute, child-like obedience and unquestioning faith. Doubt is not permitted, and considered heretical, to say nothing of pointing out religious contradictions with reality. Religion claims sole possession of truth for itself and its self-appointed leaders. When science and religion happen to clash on a subject, the faithful are required to reject science.
Consider what science has given us:
- We now know that stars are suns, powered by thermonuclear fusion
- We now know that all the matter of the Universe is the condensed energy from the 14 billion year-old "Big Bang" and that the Universe is not at all static and unchanging
- We now know that our solar system, with the Sun at its heart, is about 5 billion years old, and includes a host of objects besides the Earth: planets (that are not stars at all, but other worlds), asteroids, comets. etc.
- We now know that life has evolved from its earliest beginnings (as yet unexplained) into complex life forms, including we humans, during the existence of the Earth
- We now know that volcanoes and earthquakes result from plate tectonics and the processes driven by the heat within the Earth's interior
- We now know that storms are the result of processes associated with unequal heating
Many of the gaps in our scientific understanding have been filled, no longer requiring a role for a deity as an "explanation" for that phenomenon. At points in the past, all these things (and more) were not known, and various myths were proposed to "explain" such things, many of which revolved around some deity (many have been postulated!) whose wrath at our lack of belief was responsible for these natural events. Most human beings over the history of our species have lived out their entire lives with only superstition and mythology to explain what they saw around them. They never knew what stars are, they had no idea how we humans came to be here on Earth, and they had no clue as to why they experienced geological and meteorological hazards. Myths were an early, unscientific way, to try to explain things, but science has no place for the "God Hypothesis" as it offers no explanation at all. Gods are the ultimate deus ex machina.
It seems very strange to me to embrace both science and religion, since they involve such contradictory methods regarding knowledge of the world around us. It's at best a monument to the ability of humans to compartmentalize their thinking. The lifelong habits of successful science should disallow the very notion of accepting someone's ideas on faith, without question or doubt.