"Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance." ~ T.S. Eliot in "Burnt Norton"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Relationship Between Science and Faith

The age-old relationship between science and religion, often characterized by conflict, is no longer just a matter for scientists and theologians. As more and more people have joined in the conversation, pop culture has caught on as well. From television to music, the search for Truth is not just found in textbooks but in media of all sorts. Today we are looking at a song by the Dublin-based band The Script, "Science and Faith," from their album of the same name. It discusses two aspects of the relationship between science and faith: conflict and discussion. Each of us has a different take on what this song means which we will be discussing individually in the comment section, but here are a few questions to get you started:

1. Is love something that can be identified or explained by science? Or does it transcend science?
2. Seeing as we use our five senses in the scientific process, and they are the basis for this process, would this imply that love transcends our senses? Is it something more than the chemical occurrences in our brain?
3. Is human emotion or intuition enough to validate something being real, such as hope or a soul, or do we need science to confirm its existence?

Happy discussing!

-Ben, Gretchen, and Molly

Video originally by
Song by The Script from Science and Faith, RCA Records 


  1. So a few things come to mind when listening to this song. First of all, while it at first appears to be about the conflict between science and faith, I think it's actually about conflict that evolves into dialogue. There's no doubt that there is true conflict at the beginning; the man sings about trying to "break love to a science" and how it breaks his lover's heart. We have the classic dichotomy here: he stands for science while she stands for faith/religion. At the end of the first verse he gets straight to the heart of the conflict: "We're just trying to find some meaning in the things that we believe in." This is what both sides of the science/faith debate, and what we as humans in general, strive to achieve (meaning). What this comes down to is the relationship between fact and truth. Facts are arrived at empirically and from a scientific standpoint, this makes facts the equivalent of truth, while from a religious standpoint, facts do not always equal truth. There are many truths in religion that cannot be arrived at empirically, such as the existence of God and the cardinal virtues.

    In the chorus we encounter limit questions, or questions that are raised by science but cannot be answered by it. In this case specifically, the questions raised are "What is love?" and "What gives humans consciousness?" The female argues that love cannot be explained by science and that the answer to human consciousness ("heart and soul") cannot be arrived at scientifically either. This is the point in the song where conflict transitions to dialogue. Though this is not explicit in the lyrics, there is a resolution in the music implying that "It's the way we feel, yeah, this is real" is an original thought of the man, not a continuation of the woman's argument. This is crucial because it is his acceptance that his own human emotion/intuition is enough to validate something's reality and truth without needing science to prove it as well.

    The second verse addresses specifically the function and reality of love. The singer argues that love is an "illusion" created by products of evolution to give themselves some meaning. Love is one of the most difficult issues to tackle with science alone. While science can explain what happens when we fall in love (bonding chemicals, why we are attracted to certain people, etc) it cannot explain love itself as a self-sacrificing choice to pursue the good of another above the good of oneself. In fact, from an evolutionary perspective, love makes no sense. Love as understood from a religious standpoint, requiring self-sacrifice, defies the survival of the fittest. It makes no sense from a Darwinian standpoint why someone would jump in front of a bullet for someone they loved or give the last bit of available food or water to a loved one instead of keeping it for him or herself. Of course, the singer can't answer these questions either and instead reverts back to the revelation from the woman he loves that love is simply something that cannot be explained by science.

    I think this song has some very interesting points about the need for dialogue regarding science and faith/religion and is a good reminder that some things simply cannot be explained away by science. I do think, however, that it does discredit the importance of science to some degree. Thoughts?

  2. Okay, I'm going to play devil's advocate, just to throw something out there, however, this is not a reflection of my own personal beliefs pertaining to religion or science.

    I see exactly where Gretchen came from in her analysis of the song, however, the lyrics that caught my attention most were in the chorus.

    'You won't find faith and hope down a telescope. You won't find heart and soul in the

    Since the Scientific Revolution, we've had numerous advances in science. These advances has caused the Catholic Church, and the Protestant churches for that matter, to change their views on religion and God. For example, previous to Darwin's Theory of Evolution, humanity still believed that it was designed, in a literal sense, by God. This concept, is held as truth in a religious sense by some institutions, however, it is no longer recognized in a literal sense.

    It's my assertion, and in contrast to The Script, that we will eventually be able to identify concepts such as love and soul through science. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that is proven to create a sense of pleasure, very similar to what we would call 'happiness.' If we can pinpoint something that creates 'happiness,' why can't we pinpoint what makes us want to 'love' someone?

    I don't want to discredit the idea of Dialogue, between religion and science, I think that's a fantastic notion, and I agree that Religion should keep up with Science, so as to not seem outdated or obsolete. However, in the future, how much are we going to use the 'God of the Gaps' notion?

    Assuming someone wants to use that as an excuse for religion, how often are they going to be able to use it? In a hypothetical situation in which humanity discovers all there is to know, would there be room for 'God of the Gaps'? Or even room for religion?

  3. Hey all! I just wanted to start out by saying that I LOVE what Gretch and Ben have had to say, and I completely agree with points that they've both made. I actually found that a lot of what I wanted to say, Gretchen already had.. hahaha. So instead of repeating her, I'm going to share a few of the things that I came up with that were different.

    My original plans for my response were shaken up a little when I discovered that this was a love song the first time Gretchen played it for Ben and me and not a song purely about the relationship between science and faith like I had been expecting. However, I decided to go with my original intentions anyways, and decided to factor the love out of the love song completely and look only at the relationship between science and faith that the song uses to tell the love story.

    As stated in our introduction, it is common knowledge that the relationship between science and faith is often fraught with conflict. But the interesting thing about this song is that it seems to suggest a sort of "yin and yang" relationship between science and faith in that neither side has all the answers. Science and faith can be complements to each other rather than enemies. This idea is best represented in the chorus, I think, in the "You won't find faith or hope down a telescope/You won't find heart and soul in the stars/You can break everything down to chemicals...". I'm aware that these lyrics seem to "side" with faith rather than science, but I believe that due the fact that, generally science seems to be the more "credible" of the two, these lyrics even out the playing field a bit.


  4. Practically everyone at some point in their life will say that they are in love. But how do we know that we are in love? In the first line of the song the man says that he "tried to break love into a science." The woman later contradicts him by saying "you can break everything down to the chemical but you can't explain a love like ours." In the case of love I would personally have to say that the woman is right in this instance. We don't know what causes that "spark" to happen but we know that it's there when love hits us.

    We can't explain it with science. I mean sure we can take two people who are in love and see how their brains behave when they are together and when they are apart. But that only shows what being in love does to us not where it comes from or how it lasts.

    Any thoughts?

  5. In response to Bob, is it possible that we can trace the chemicals in the brain and such, so that we can find the source of love? I see what your saying, with that we can't always find the source of things such as love. But for instance, when a woman has intercourse for the first time, her brain releases chemicals that creates a bond with her partner.

    Those chemicals are a by-product of love, but they serve to preserve this love through the bond that the couple share. Could a source, or at least a clue of said source, of love be found there?

  6. Hey guys!

    Like Ben, the lyrics that stuck out the most to me were,

    ‘You won't find faith and hope down a telescope. You won't find heart and soul in the 

    These lyrics obviously express the debate between religion and science as previously discussed, but they also spark a connection with the “Introduction” to A Case for God by Karen Armstrong. The “Introduction” states,

    ‘Because ‘God’ is infinite, nobody can have the last word. I am concerned that many people are confused about the nature of religious truth, a perplexity exacerbated by the contentious nature of so much religious discussion at the moment.’

    Armstrong is stating that because God is infinite, there is a mystery to religion that leads us in endless debate of truth. Part of the debate includes trying to explain God by scientific means (like how the lyrics are trying to find “faith and hope” by scientific means), which is not entirely possible. God, faith, hope, and even love all require more than science to find its truth. It requires experience, and feeling which is why we need “mythos” for seeking truth.

    1. I think this is a really interesting discussion. I'd like to expand upon the he idea that Ben brought up about emotion being partly explainable by science. A recent study has suggested that the emotion of love originates in the neocortex, an area of the brain close to the amygdala which is responsible for controlling emotion. Animals that are incapable of love lack this part of the brain, and are therefore incapable of love. Interestingly enough, this same area of the brain is stimulated in cases of drug addiction. If the superficial emotions of drug use can be linked to those of genuine love than perhaps science does have a chance at explaining love as a biological response. Ofcourse, it may never be able to explain the complexities of love in terms of the intricate feelings and emotions of which it consists, this type of study does suggest that love has biological origins.

    2. This discussion reminds me of the Big Bang Theory episode where Penny is upset and Amy attaches electrodes to her when she starts crying, then later announces that she made a rhesus monkey cry by stimulating the same areas of his brain as she saw when Penny was crying. We can study where our brains are stimulated at certain times (physical science) and we can study psychology (how we react to the stimulation) but neither of those are the actual emotions. I feel that, although faith is not based on emotion (or shouldn't be, rather), faith is for all intents and purposes a synonym for emotion. We can study the physical aspects of faith in the recesses of our brains as well as the external reactions to the driving force of faith, but I don't think faith can ever be fully pinpointed in the same manner. If it could, would divine revelation be necessary?

  7. What do you guys think about the ability to find the source of human consciousness through science? In many religions, consciousness is referred to as the soul which, according to The Script, cannot be found "in the stars." Do you think we will one day be able to pinpoint the source of human consciousness that differentiates us from other animals?

  8. I agree with Bob, that we cannot explain love with science. Yes, science can explain how our brain functions differently when we are in love, and show the different chemicals that it releases, but it cannot explain why we fall in love. There is "love at first sight" and there are the relationships that evolve from life-long friends. I don't think love is the same for everyone. I think that each love is different and special. For example, some people may find the love of their life the first time around, and others may fall in love more than once. Each love is unique. "You can break everything down to the chemical but you can't explain a love like ours." I don't think people who are in love can really even put a definition on love. It just is.

    I have a question to raise. Can people fall out of love as easily as they fall in love? Or will they remain in love with someone forever, that love just fades over time (for example, after a breakup) After a breakup, will their next love be as strong as their first?

  9. Science tries to explain or places a foundation for how love works. As Ben stated, the brain releases chemicals that give humans pleasure and comfort in which they love. However, this foundation isn’t a solid answer to explain love. Science can’t necessarily explain the human soul; it can however explain the components of what makes a human being. The five senses are tools for us to feel emotions, but the soul allows us to articulate feeling of love, happiness, etc. Love is not tangible; it requires a certain amount of faith.

    “You won't find faith or hope down a telescope
    You won't find heart and soul in the stars
    You can break everything, down to chemicals
    But you can't explain a love like ours.”

    I think he concludes that both have to coexist, and you can’t explain love just through science, or faith. Love is a powerful emotion that transcends both.

  10. As for pinpointing the source of human consciousness that differentiates from animals, it is almost impossible. We know what differentiates us from animals on a physical level, and to some extent, on an emotional level, however, both the human and animal mind is so obscure, to study and to completely understand would be impossible.

  11. Hey everyone! I really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses and found them all quite interesting. This topic is tricky because it is discussing love between couples versus familial love. So this is going to be difficult, but here I go anyway!

    I have decided to share some information about my feelings on love based on personal experiences. Love can often be a difficult subject to talk about because it is often confused with infatuation. Infatuation typically occurs in to the first six months of a relationship before it begins to fade. After infatuation fades, you are left with the same partner but a lack of the extreme obsession that used to be there. This is really where I get stuck. You see…I believe that infatuation and our sexual attraction can be completely explained by science. However, I cannot simply stand to think that love is just a chemical bond that attracts us to one another.

    I have been dating the same girl for just less than two years now, and everything is going great. However, it was difficult after the infatuation faded. We were left arguing and disagreeing a lot, and I thought that our relationship was doomed. After about two months of what seemed liked constant arguing we sat down and talked about what was wrong and why things were not working the way they used to. What we found was that we both were not getting what we wanted. We would never compromise, and as a result neither of us would be happy. For example, we would argue over where we wanted to go to dinner, I would want pizza and she would want McDonalds. What would end up happening is (obviously) one of us would not get our way and that would make us miserable. Now when two people are hanging out and one person is miserable that is not going to be a fun time for anyone. After our discussion we found that compromise is what keeps our relationship going strong and keeps “love working”.

    This is why I believe love cannot be explained by a science. As corny as it sounds I would still give anything for her if she needed me to. This is different than the infatuation that we experienced before, that is love. I know it may sound ridiculous to be in love at the age of twenty, but I know it can work. I have personally spoken with couples that have been together for over sixty years, and they all have mentioned that compromise is the most important aspect to love. In my most knowledgeable opinion it is not a chemical reaction that draws us to protect our companion, it is more than that. I do not think science is responsible for all things in this world, and I certainly don’t think it will ever be able to answer all of our questions about love and faith.

    Well sorry if it was too long, I hope you enjoyed!

  12. Hey everyone,

    Im going to focus on the question that RAulis proposed where they ask

    " Can people fall out of love as easily as they fall in love? Or will they remain in love with someone forever, that love just fades over time (for example, after a breakup) After a breakup, will their next love be as strong as their first?"

    I do not believe that people can fall out of love as easily as they fall into love. Love, not talking about middle school one-month relationship 'love' here, is something that is built on a solid foundation of memories and emotions that cannot be destroyed by a single event. Love roots itself deep into the mind, constantly there, wether the lovers are together or not. Though a break-up can occur and anger can be the initial emotion, deep down there will still be love, and that love will never leave the mind. Even after they find someone else, some memories will still remain from the previous relationship. This may cause problems with the new relationship and could even drive someone back to the old relationship where they had love they were sure of. However, the love of a second relationship could very well be as strong as the initial love, the same root and strong base will again manifest itself in the mind of the couple, and will always remain in memories.

    Focusing on the song now, a line that stood out to me not too many people have mentioned yet (Gretchen mentioned it however) is when they sing “It’s the way we feel, yeah this is real.” The reason this made me think was the way both the guy and the girl are stating they almost don’t care about why their love is existent, as long as it’s there (their love) and they’re together, they don’t have a care in the world. This is my favorite line because personally I don’t wish to over-think and question phenomena. Just the fact that it occurred and produced positive benefits is fine with me.

  13. Just adding as probably one of the last comments to this post. Since reading E. Gollup's post, I want to comment on the idea of relationships in general. Not necessarily a "relationship," but in relationships that human beings share between each other in general.

    What would you call a friend that had once been the center of your life, but has since been absent from it for years? Would you call it an acquaintance? Possibly, but would that also discredit the depth of that once strong relationship? People use the term 'long-lost friend' to try and describe someone who had once been a major part of their lives. In reference to this whole conversation about relationships, love, science. I'd like to agree with E. Gollup, that love can't simply be lost.

    There's another word in the English language that, I feel, is a good equivalent to love. And that is 'fellowship.' There is a sense of loyalty or kindred to those people in which we have separated from on good terms. This idea of fellowship encompasses these two words quite nicely. And I think that they serve as some degree of proof that love can hang around for quite awhile.

    One can fall 'head over heals' for another person and become infatuated upon first sight, but at the same time, it could take months to get over a person if a relationship ends. Love is just funny like that, I suppose.

  14. After listening to the song I found there to be many points that held true about the conflict of science and religion. Addressing question one, I do believe that love is something that transcends science. Relating it back to The Case for God there was an interesting line that discussed how myth, which dealt with complex human affairs, could not be solved through basic logos.
    "Were really focused on the more elusive, puzzling, and tragic aspects of the human predicament that lay outside the remit of logos"(xi). Thus showing that love which is a difficult human emotion to understand could not be solved with sheer logos. When answering question two, I particularly used the song to confirm that there is something that transcends our five senses. By looking at the lyrics of the song he says that regardless of how much he broke love down to a science, she would still always say something that knocks him dead.
    Demonstrating that although he used science to calculate and break down love to the perfect it was still never enough to make their love work in the end.

  15. I thought the lines in the song highlighted a common theme that sees to occur in science and spirituality. It's sometimes mentioned in science that there is a paradox called "the ghost in the machine." We can explain how things operate, but we cannot say why; our knowledge of how the universe works is literally limited to the technicality with almost no deeper understanding. In math, art, geometry, physics, biology, and almost every other discipline, there exists a common theme of a transcendental element, in this case mathematical perfection, that cannot be explained past merely its existence. Similarly I guess, on the subject of love, we can say how the brain reacts when in a state of love, but we have yet to be able to explain what spurred it to feel love in the first place, especially if the instance heavily defies evolutionary logic in an instances of extreme altruism or self-sacrifice. I think that the fact that we can study occurrences through science and not find a tangible, solid answer to the question proves at least that the idea of love in particular is a non-physical thing that transcends reality.

    On another note, I would like to say that I found the lines "you won't find faith or hope down a telescope; you won't find heart and soul in the stars" kind of funny when thinking about it in regards to something like this picture:


    In ancient times, civilized cultures regarded the sciences as sacred because they were not only some of the highest but the most concrete and abstract forms of reasoning. For example, the Ancient Greeks in particular had an incredibly high reverence for science; to them the study of the astounding mathematical ratios in music theory, art, astronomy, geometry, and the general shapes and behaviors of the natural world were considered evidence of a form of some sort of intelligent design. It was even rumored that Pythagoras (our old friend from high school geometry class behind a^2 + b^2 = c^2) was the founder of a monotheistic cult devoted to the worship of a God called "Number," the original inventor of behind their calculations. (Lol)

  16. Even though some of the lyrics are not the greatest, the sentiment of this song is right on.

  17. This song makes me thing on a couple of different levels. I’m going to take a page out of Patrick’s book and share a personal experience.
    Over the summer I started to date a guy who said he loved me since we met. I was very skeptical as I had just got out of a relationship with a person who took advantage of my love. I told this guy that I didn’t know if I loved him and he accepted that. I did a lot of thinking about what love is and how we know we are in love and concluded that I do love him. Still I wanted a definition for his love. I asked him why he loved me and he said, “I could tell you all the facets of your personality that I love but I don’t think that would do it justice. I just know that I love you.”
    This didn’t sit well with me as I am an engineer and constantly need things to be defined. I kept asking until finally he asked me why I love him. Well of course I had an answer ready but as I said it I realized I was doing the same thing he was trying to avoid: Breaking love down to a ridiculous laundry list of his personality traits.
    We decided it was better if we didn’t define it and simply accept the way we feel even if we can’t say exactly why. Even though I’m a scientist I can accept that there are things that don’t have definitions. Sometimes we just need to accept what is instead of breaking something as big as love into little pieces that don’t equal love. The equation with never be equal.
    Love is not something that can be defined with words or chemicals. I feel like this is the same thing we do with God. We don’t know exactly how to describe why we know he is there but we do. Well some of us do. God’s existence can’t be explained through science just like love. Some forces of the universe are just accepted as truth. You don’t have to believe in them by any means but I believe they are there.

  18. In my humble opinion:

    The male in the song is forcing the female in the song to accept his views on their relationship. The lyrics suggest that he's using solid 'scientific' facts to hold his argument, however the motive for the argument remains unclear. Perhaps he is seeking the end the relationship with his partner or is going through a heavy mood-swing-- merely speculating at this point. Nonetheless, it appears that he is putting up a parallel argument with his partner about the welfare and existence of their relationship and why it should persist.

    The second stanza "We're just trying to find some meaning, In the things that we believe in" suggests that maybe the couple has come across a controversial hang-up in their relationship or some sort of conflicting belief that puts their relationship at stake. The male's argument (for whatever reason is against their relationship) is backed up by 'science' (suggested by the beginning part of the third stanza i.e. "evolution").

    What I find difficult is that there is no clear origin of conflict to drive the couple to have such a heated argument. It would seem that the song could be a tale about the female consoling the male in a time of depression or misery (as said before concerning the 'mood swing').

    Regarding the word play...

    Sort of humorous how the female states an obvious logical fallacy (no soul in a telescope) to deliver her message to the male while appealing to an emotional side of him that seems to want to believe in their relationship.Maybe the female is arguing that love can't be explained by science alone and that there must be a greater unseen force at work. It could also be that the lyrics of the song go beyond the relationship between science and faith and indirectly tells the tale of someone who wants to believe, but is unable to, is convinced otherwise. Perhaps a sort of mythos is to be seen in motion within the female's words: that which is left for us to decide among ourselves what her words really mean. It's so vague, it could really mean a lot of things.

    As for the song itself: I didn't like it.

  19. Looking at the song and the other songs performed by the band I feel that science and religion were used as a spin to give it a certain character. The science that the band uses to show the different aspects of their relationship isn't very well thought out in my opinion. Lines such as "Having heavy conversations
    About the furthest constellations of our souls" and "I tried pushing evolution
    As the obvious conclusion of the start." merely reference science and lack contextual significance. This can be said for most if not all of the song's scientific references, the chorus for instance:

    You won't find faith or hope down a telescope
    You won't find heart and soul in the stars

    When left to interpretation, which the song leaves us with, these lyrics are false. The first time someone observed cells in a telescope did that not provide some semblance of faith in observational abilities or even just scientific progression. On the other hand, I as well as other people I'm sure have had a moving experience from looking into the sky. Seeing constellations, planets, and stars can and has evoked a feeling of reflection. Wondering about the universe and my own place in it. Through this reaction the "stars" as the band puts it have in fact reflected my own should through reflection.

    I've heard a few of this band's songs and though their work can be catchy and even have poetic significance I feel that there is little real critical thought between science and faith in this song, nor even on the subject of love being explanable through science.

  20. I feel like the overall question is both "why is" and "how is" "emotion"...if that makes sense to anyone. Particularly, what is love and how do we get there. And I don't think that you can find the answer within the realm of only science, nor can you put it in the realm of only faith. Yet, at the same time, you cannot assertively say that it is completely separate from both categories. It is similar to the arguments we made in class by classifying science and religion into the "how" versus the "why" question.

    I think this song is equally proposing both questions. Obviously, they don't [fully] know why they love each other in stating that they are searching for some deeper meaning. At the same time, they aren't disregarding the how question. Yes, they are conveying that we cannot reduce love into science; however, through the following lyrics, they are also asserting that you cannot break love down into solely faith.

    "You can break everything down to chemicals
    But you can't explain a love like ours."

  21. I think Grace brings up the most important point. While some of the lyrics may be simple, lack foundation and context, etc, the main point can be found in these lyrics: "You can break everything down to chemicals but you can't explain a love like ours." Some things cannot be explained by science or broken down detail by detail. Some things transcend science.