Humanity moves along trippingly from one gravestone to the next.

The Angel of Revelation painted by William Blake

The Angel of Revelation, giving the Truth. by William Blake

Religion and science compared

The important difference between religion and science is that science progresses from its prophets’ findings and and religion regresses from theirs. Religious prophets did their best to explain the world as they knew it — where it came from, why it was here, where it was going and the why of it all. They offered what seemed to them to be reasonable assertions and offered interesting stories as proofs for their discoveries. The advantage of their method was that it gave easily understood reasons for things being as they were and how people should behave if they believed the stories. The stories fit the needs of the people at that time and place where the prophet lived and taught. We are now at a distant time and place and a very different culture from what the prophets were relating to, and their revelatory stories have become increasingly unrelated to our needs.

Science can acquire new wisdom

Science is different from religion. It improves as more discoveries are made about how nature works, and each improvement is added to humanity’s accumulating knowledge. This gives us more power to interact effectively with the world around us. The method requires independently testable proofs of assertions. That creates a serious problem for the discoverers of the existing theories, because those who follow them try very hard to find flaws with those existing ideas, and then to create a better theory which answers all the previous theories’ failings and opens up new opportunities. The previous researcher usually tries to his utmost to prove that his earlier theory was correct and that his status, earnings and prizes were properly given. He is loath to admit his errors, even in the face of new facts, and frequently scientists go to their grave proclaiming the truth of their moribund discoveries. They need not worry about their reputation if they did careful research and published their findings accurately. Accurate findings will stand forevermore, but their interpretation of how their discoveries relate to other things is what will change.The new understandings of the previous findings will permit the followers to see reality more clearly and to improve humanity’s relationship with the universe. This is at the expense of tarnishing the reputation of the earlier scientists, and only a tiny dimming of their luster.

Adam Smith's grave

Standing on the shoulders of the intellectual giant - Adam Smith

Scientific success can impede progress

Scientists gain great reputation and power within their field of expertise and for another person to challenge them requires great courage, even foolish courage, because these young seekers may lose their access to the tools of discovery. In some fields, like sub-atomic physics, the research tools are incredibly expensive and only the insiders even have a chance of being allowed to use the tools. The directors of who gets to use these tools are the successful researchers of the previous generation, and they don’t want challenges to their ideas which will destroy their reputations. Thus it is that science is impeded by its own success and sometimes a new idea can not emerge until the old successful scientists retire, or die. However, even great scientists don’t live forever so progress beyond their proclamations is eventually made.

Charles Darwins grave stone

Standing on Charles Robert Darwin's grave stone

Religious success prevents progress

With religious prophets there isn’t any way to improve upon their works, even when they are dead and out of power, because their works stand as complete and crystalline wholes. Their followers must accept the ideas as they exist or totally abandon them and run away. Thus there is no improvement in the original ideas over time and as situations change the religious prophets’ ideas become increasingly irrelevant.

With science humanity moves along trippingly from one gravestone to the next. With a religion it doesn’t move at all, except to slowly sink into obscurity.